Systematic reviews may inform public policies and contribute to the building of a knowledge base. However, reviews of school leadership research are relatively rare in Taiwan. This study conducted a bibliometric review to analyze journal papers by Taiwanese scholars in the Scopus database published in the previous 20 years. The focus was to examine the connection between Taiwanese and global research on school leadership.
2. Research questions
On the basis of the research background, four research questions were proposed: (1) What is the volume and growth trajectory of Taiwanese school leadership research? (2) What is the international visibility of Taiwanese school leadership research as revealed through citation analysis? (3) What are the main topics covered by Taiwanese school leadership research and how do they correspond to the global trend? (4) What is the intellectual structure of Taiwanese school leadership research and how do it connect with the global literature?
3. Theoretical framework
(1) Intellectual development of school leadership research
The theory movement in the 1950s and 1960s highlighted the development of educational administration research. Griffiths (1959) categorized these theories into four groups: social system and role theory, leadership theory, decision theory, and organizational theory. In the 1970s, contingency theory, which emphasizes the influence of context on leadership, was proposed. With the growing interest in school effectiveness and school reform, the organizational perspective was applied to investigate school leadership. Instructional leadership was also emphasized from then on. In the 1990s, other leadership approaches such as transformational leadership, moral leadership, and distributed leadership became popular in school leadership research. With the power paradigm shifting from a heroic view of leaders to a more dispersed view of power, distributed leadership and teacher leadership were also highly recognized. In response to the international context, leadership for learning, which includes elements of instructional leadership, transformational leadership, and shared leadership, has gained global attention in the new millennium.
(2) Retrospective view of school leadership research
Systematic reviews did not appear in the field of educational administration until the 1980s. EPPI-Centre (2012) indicated the four key features of systematic reviews. First, a high quality systematic review is explicit and is conducted using transparent methods. Second, it follows a standard set of stages. Third, the review is accountable, replicable, and updateable. Fourth, users should be involved to ensure reports are relevant and useful. The elements of reviews include the central topics of interest, guiding questions, and goals; a conceptual perspective for guiding the review’s selection, evaluation, and interpretation of the studies; sources and types of data; data evaluation and analysis; and the major results of the review (Hallinger, 2014). However, according to Hallinger’s study in 2014, only eight reviews met these criteria. Of the eight studies, some used critical synthesis, some adopted meta-analysis, and some employed both. In recent years, network analysis, data mining, and bibliometric analysis are increasingly being applied in systematic reviews.
In addition to a greater diversity in methods, the regions under review have expanded from the United States and United Kingdom to many other regions. This development can be attributed to Hallinger’s effort to initiate international collaboration to build the knowledge base of educational leadership in Asia. Because of the growing interest in the academic development in non-Western countries, he promoted the use of systematic reviews to examine studies in Asia, Africa, Saudi Arabia, and Central and South America, which resulted in more than 30 systematic reviews on educational leadership and management.
A wide range of research topics is a prominent feature of educational leadership and management research. Five topics that have gained frequent attention are social justice, female leadership, school leadership preparation and development, trust, and instruction and instructional leadership. The following are the topics of frontier research in this field: principal, school leadership, and student achievement; distributed leadership, instructional leadership, teacher learning, accountability, school improvement, school reform, and leadership development; and race, justice, and urban education.
In Taiwan, research reviews on educational leadership are scant. According to Lin’s (2000) review, only a few studies have focused on the impact of principals on students. Pan’s (2010) review indicated that of all the educational leadership studies in government-funded projects and journals, 70% of the topics were related to principals’ leadership styles and behaviors. The distribution of the research topics was not sufficiently diversified to reflect global academic development.
4. Research method
This study used bibliometric analysis on the Scopus database to analyze Taiwanese school leadership research. The review process was based on the steps of the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) developed by Moher et al. (2009). After the process of screening, identification, eligibility determination, and inclusion, 95 papers were included for analysis. Descriptive analysis, citation analysis, co-occurrence analysis of keywords, and co-citation analysis were conducted to address the research questions.
5. Research findings
The study had the following three key findings: (1) Concerning the volume of publication in journals, the first English paper on Taiwanese school leadership research did not appear until 2001. Although the promotion of the world university rankings and the launch of the Top University Project have changed the trend of solely using Chinese for academic writing, the number of English studies on school leadership remains limited. Moreover, only 14.7% of papers are published in the core journals of education leadership and management. (2) A citation analysis revealed that the international visibility of Taiwanese school leadership research is low. The average number of papers of the 10 most cited Taiwanese scholars is 3.5, and they have been cited an average of 45.2 times. The number of citations of Taiwanese scholars is 3.33 times less than that of African educational leadership research and 11.78 times less than that of research on three emerging regions. (3) The research topics selected by Taiwanese scholars may highlight international academic development; however, some underdeveloped topics remain such as social justice leadership, organizational theory, institutional theory, and social capital. The current co-citation analysis revealed the four schools of thought of Taiwanese school leadership, namely leadership for learning, distributed forms of leadership, leadership behavior and its impact, and social network.
Systematic reviews on school leadership are scarce in Taiwan. The present study conducted a bibliometric analysis to examine the development and features of Taiwanese school leadership literature which is innovative in the research method. The connection between Taiwanese studies on school leadership research and global scholarship has seldom been addressed in relevant research. The current analysis presents the development of Taiwanese school leadership and its connection with global trends, providing critical insights and directions for future research on school leadership in Taiwan.
The present findings indicate the future direction of Taiwanese academic development in the field of educational administration. First, publishing more research in English can help increase the international impact of Taiwanese scholars. Greater exposure in English publications can highlight the fruitful outcome of Taiwanese school leadership research internationally. Building the academic connections between Taiwan and other countries will also be beneficial. Second, the current study identified a gap between Taiwanese school leadership research and the global trend. Including more diversified topics may help broaden the scope of research. Some topics recommended for future study include social justice leadership, organizational theory, institutional theory, social capital theory, social justice theory, and critical racialism. Third, conducting periodic replication studies using bibliometric analysis may help track the development of Taiwanese school leadership research. In particular, this method allows for a comparison of the distinguishing features of research among different periods. Fourth, a bibliometric analysis on Taiwanese school leadership research published in Chinese would be of considerable value. Taiwan has several literature databases that collect domestic research. However, the data structure provides insufficient information for an effective bibliometric analysis. To maximize the usefulness of these databases, their data structure design merits special consideration.