Effective reform and development in education is informed contextually relevant research. This is specifically the case when reform is introducing a dimension to education that is not an existing feature. As a team of experienced researchers with contextually knowledge of education in China, the IoL has a proven record of utilising research activity to inform policy and practice that has supported the effective implementation of reform.
The IoL leads research in two dimensions:


  1. Internal projects focused on elucidating education within Wellington College China schools
    In partnership with education institutions in China, lead research projects designed to direction on for effective implementation of education reform
  2. A team of experienced researchers from China and England provide the capacity for the IoL to lead projects that operate with the rigour typically associated with world leading universities.


Enhancing language acquisition in young Chinese students learning English


It is widely established that effective listening and speaking is an essential precursor to successful reading and writing. This is especially important when acquiring an additional language. A Huili Nursery identified that their pupils often began to read and mark-make in English in a mechanical way, but their speaking skills often lagged behind. A similar observation was made in a Wellington College China international school among pupils for whom English was an additional language.


A team of teachers, with input from a researcher at Durham University, developed a story talk programme specifically designed for pupils in the nursery. The programme uses a book-based approach to promote listening and speaking by linking it to concrete activities. The programme was initiated in the 2018-19 academic year and its impact was evaluated using a comparative analysis to the preceding academic year. After one year of implementation, analysis revealed that pupils experiencing story-talk in EY2 and 4 displayed significantly higher levels of communication and language (effect size 0.8).


By equipping teachers with the knowledge and skills required to implement research in a school context, a Huili Nursery team of teachers are leading the strategic development of pedagogy and practice that has deep implications for learning across the Wellington College China group. This project was supported by the Institute of Learning, and these findings will be published in Journals in China and internationally.



Application of formative assessment practices in primary schools in Pudong 


Assessment strongly underpins education in China, although it is recognised that current practices are predominantly summative in nature. The Pudong-Wellington Curriculum and Research Alliance was established to facilitate the exchange of ideas and practices between Chinese and international education systems. One project comprised introducing formative assessment practices to Grade 4 mathematics classes across a wide range of primary schools in Pudong. The research was led by Dr Zhao from the Pudong Institute of Education Development and International Exchange, with research and support provided by the Institute of Learning.


The study intended to explore whether incorporating assessment practices that are typical of a successful international school would have an impact on pupil learning in Pudong. A team of primary mathematics teachers received focused support and demonstrated sustained application of specific features of formative assessment. Evaluation after a semester of implementation revealed that not only did pupils who experienced formative assessment practices perform significantly better in tests, (effect size 0.36), they also displayed:
  • Elevated levels of motivation
  • Increased self-efficacy
  • Higher levels of self-regulation


These findings are directly aligned with the desired impact of education reform in China, and accurately reflect how bringing together strong practices from the Chinese and international approaches to assessment can improve pupil outcomes and promote learning approaches that are widely viewed as underpinning current and future success for learners. All findings will be published in journals in China and internationally.


Implementing effective distributed leadership: A focus on CTE
Excellent schools are founded on a community with authority and agency to maximise learning. To achieve this, a model of distributed leadership is used to cascade authority to teachers is employed. and. The challenge in distributing leadership is ensuring that teachers have the necessary agency. This concept is referred to as collective teacher efficacy (CTE).
The Huili Institute of Learning (IoL) has undertaken research into conditions that promote CTE. This included testing the hypothesis that professional learning approaches undertaken collectively will enhance CTE. This work was undertaken with two groups of teachers from a bilingual nursery and an international school. CTE was determined through teacher interviews and questionnaires before and after undertaking the professional learning.Research findings indicated that not only did CTE significantly increase significantly after undertaking the professional learning but teachers were also cognise the link between the learning opportunities they provide and the impact on learners. This suggests that research projects and lesson study are an effective means of promoting CTE in schools in China. Therefore, it can be concluded that a focus on CTE is an important aspect of ensuring effective distributed leadership.

Comparative analysis of leadership in Chinese, bilingual and international schools
All leaders in education strive to run great schools. This can be challenging, as each and every school is unique with its own composition of staff, students, curriculum, and geographical context.
A study by the Huili Institute of Learning involved a comparative analysis of leadership in public, bilingual, and international schools in China. Through interviews and questionnaires, a leadership framework was developed as a reference to analyse leadership across the three types of schools. The framework was based around six elements of leadership; culture and vision, leadership structure, monitoring of teaching quality, curriculum, professional development opportunities, and interaction with the wider school community. Findings identified differences in leadership structure and function, although the highest performing schools in each sector displayed similar leadership approaches wi to the reference the framework.
Wellbeing and Involvement
There exists a convincing school of thought that emotion and self-efficacy play a more significant role in learning than curriculum or indeed pedagogical approach. This is most pronounced in work with young learners when levels of wellbeing and involvement are stronger indicators of future success than vocabulary or other measures typically reported. This work has been replicated for all age groups in multiple forms. Hence the emphasis Wellington College and Wellington College China place on wellbeing.
IoL will lead a collaborative project with Prof Ferre Laevers, University of Leuven, to take a systematic analysis of whether, in our context, we can develop a means of not just scanning and screening for wellbeing and involvement but explicitly offer learning opportunities that enhance it.
This will comprise:
Ferre Laevers providing an input to key staff across the group
Volunteer staff trialling the scanning for wellbeing and involvement
Ongoing support to targeted staff
Begin collating data on wellbeing and involvement
A systematic study of the impact explicitly teaching for wellbeing and involvement
Findings from the study will be shared more broadly and implications for wider practice evaluated. The intention is that school involvement helps develop our understanding of wellbeing and involvement in our context and together we determine the impact of practice at a school and or group level.