Research projects

IEEQC - Improving Educational Evaluation and Quality in China ITDEQC - Improving Teacher Development & Educational Quality in China

Overview IEEQC project

Improving the quality of education is a major goal in both developed and developing countries, given the clear links drawn between better student access and outcomes and poverty reduction and stronger economic growth (EFA, 2005). In this context, school effectiveness research has stimulated and focused educational policy makers' attention on the potential to raise overall levels of educational standards and student achievement. For example, western governments such as the UK have placed a strong focus on encouraging schools and teachers to use innovative evaluation methods and data to inform their own evaluations of the education they provide as well as to feed into accountability and inspection frameworks, and these approaches have been linked to improved outcomes (Miliband, 2004). However, in developing countries such as China, raw measures of pupils' academic outcomes and entrance levels to higher education are frequently viewed as the key indicators of school quality. As a result schools with disadvantaged/rural intakes tend to be judged unfairly, while complacency is possible amongst schools with more able pupils and it is difficult to identify best practice. An alternative approach examines the relative progress of pupils during their time at school and this methodology - often referred to as value added - is widely regarded as providing more accurate measures of school effectiveness than the raw results. However, there is very little empirical research evidence on value added measures of school effectiveness in China and this research aims to fill this crucial gap.

Thus, the study is a timely investigation of the nature and extent of school effectiveness in China and the local application of innovative school evaluation methods to educational policy and practice in rural and urban senior secondary schools. It aims to enhance understanding of the complex nature of school effectiveness in China and how local context may play a key role in determining definitions of educational effectiveness and quality.

Drawing on school effectiveness and improvement research findings and practical experiences in the UK and elsewhere, the research has been conducted in collaboration with 3 LEAs and 124+ schools (thereby enhancing capacity building). Through an original application of innovative quantitative methodology (multilevel modelling) for one student cohort (2009), school effects in China have been examined (study 1). The collection and analysis of new qualitative case study data (interviews with key stakeholders) has also been conducted to explore the way UK research on school effectiveness, evaluation and self evaluation has been applied and adapted in the Chinese context (study 2). The focus of the research will be at the national/ regional level (Study 1) but also locally, in local authorities such as Baoding City (study 2).

Overview ITDEQC project

This study is linked to the IEEQC project by investigating the nature and extent of teachers’ professional development and learning in China as well as the role of teacher development in enhancing school effectiveness. The relevance and utility of the concept of professional learning communities to evaluate and enhance teacher quality and school effectiveness in rural and urban secondary schools is also examined. The study will extend previous models of school effectiveness employing innovative quantitative methodology (multilevel modelling) in two crucial ways – by examining improvement in school effectiveness over four consecutive student cohorts (2009-2012) and by investigating the impact of teacher development factors on student outcomes.

The research seeks to investigate (i) the key features of effective teacher development and learning in China, taking into account local contexts and priorities (ii) the value, relevance and utility of the concept of professional learning communities in Chinese schools and how this approach may be potentially applied or adapted in rural and urban areas to improve teacher quality and methods of teacher evaluation (iii) the impact of teacher characteristics and development factors, in addition to pupil, school and contextual factors, on students attainment and progress at school. Building on the same three LEA partnerships developed in the IEEQC project, the ITDEQC project involves further in depth case studies, data collection and analysis to enhance understanding of the complex nature of teacher quality, development and professional learning and how these aspects relate to school effectiveness and improvement in China. Two interrelated studies, and a systematic literature review are being conducted, thereby addressing the lack of previous research on these topics. The studies are intended to lead to the development of new tools to enhance teacher evaluation and educational quality and guidelines for implementation via bottom-up and top-down dialogues involving key stakeholders (e.g. policy makers, LEA officers, teachers, students).

This research benefits from strong collaborative links: (1) between the University of Bristol (UOB), National Institute of Education Sciences (NIES, formerly known as China National Institute for Educational Research, CNIER) and LEA policy makers and practitioners (2) DFID funded EdQual consortium ( and other key UOB research centres (Multilevel Modelling (; East Asian Studies (

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