Review of conceptual models and methodologies in research on principal instructional leadership in Malaysia: A case of knowledge construction in a developing society

Phil Hallinger, Donnie Adams, Alma Harris, Michelle Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (SciVal)


Purpose – Over the past several decades,instructional leadership has gradually gained increasing currency as a key role of school principals throughout much of the world. This is also the case in Malaysia where educational research, policy and practice have brought the instructional leadership role of the principal front and center. The purpose of this paper is to assess the conceptual models, research methods, and foci of scholars in the study of principal instructional leadership in Malaysia over the past 30 years.

Design/methodology/approach – Systematic methods were used to identify all studies conducted in Malaysia that had used the Principal Instructional Management Rating Scale (PIMRS) (Hallinger, 1982/1990/ 2015) as the data collection instrument. This search yielded a database of 120 studies completed between 1989 and 2016 written in both English and Bahasa Malay. Common data were extracted from the 120 research reports,coded and entered into a MS Excel spreadsheet for analysis. Quantitative methods were employed to analyze modal trends and synthesize patterns in the data across the studies.

Findings – The search identified 120 PIMRS studies, 90 percent of which had been conducted since 2005. This represented a surprisingly large corpus of studies. Over 75 percent of the Malaysian studies of principal instructional leadership had been conducted as graduate (master and doctoral) theses, relatively few of which had achieved publication in journals. The authors’ analysis found that most studies had used lower order (i.e. bivariate, direct effects) conceptual models and relied heavily on descriptive and simple correlational statistical tests. The lack of consistent results within the database of studies was attributed largely to limitations in research design and quality.

Research limitations/implications – The 120 PIMRS studies conducted in Malaysia comprise a surprisingly large corpus of research on principal instructional leadership. Indeed, the Malaysian corpus is second only to the USA in terms of the number of PIMRS studies of principal instructional leadership. Nonetheless, limitations in the research models and methods employed in these studies suggest a need for stronger methodological training before Malaysian scholars can achieve the goal of contributing useful knowledge to the local and global knowledge base. Specific recommendations are offered for strengthening the quality of research.

Social implications - The recent expansion of higher education in Malaysia – like other developing societies – has yielded progress in the scope of research production. However, numerous challenges remain in transforming the potential for useful knowledge production from graduate research into reality.

Originality/value - This is the first review of research on principal leadership conducted in Malaysia. The review follows efforts by scholars to systematically identify the boundaries of knowledge in educational leadership and management within East Asian societies (e.g. China, Singapore, Vietnam, Taiwan and Hong Kong). Moreover, this is the first review of research that examines the use of the PIMRS in a single society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Educational Administration
Early online dateNov 2017
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017


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