Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Education Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Jayson W. Richardson

Second Advisor

Dr. John B. Nash


The goal of this study was to explore how administrators build social capital among expatriate teachers to foster informal teacher leadership in type C international schools. The researcher employed a single-site case study in an international school in Vietnam. A theoretical framework based on Bourdieu’s (1986) social capital theory was used to design the research instruments and analyze the data.

In phase one, the researcher collected survey data with the participants being the teaching staff at the international school. The data were used to conduct a social network analysis to identify informal teacher leaders (ITLs), identify subgroups, and compare network density among expatriates and host country nationals. In phase two, expatriate teachers, expatriate ITLs identified in the social network analysis, and administrators took part in semi-structured interviews. The interviews and researcher-generated memos were coded, categorized, and themed.

Host country nationals and expatriates were not stratified into different subgroups. However, stratification did occur based on culture. Western teachers comprised one subgroup, and Asian teachers comprised another subgroup. Density among host country nationals was higher than expatriates, suggesting more interactions among host country nationals. Five host country national ITLs and eighteen expatriate ITLs were identified.

To build social capital, administrators shared their knowledge of expatriate ITLs with expatriate teachers and created time to connect within the schedule. As a result, expatriate ITLs influenced their colleagues within groups. To build trust, administrators respected teachers’ profession and perspective and effectively managed crises. As a result, colleagues felt like a family and helped each other without judgment. The international school context affected desirable skills for expatriate ITLs: (1) adapting the curriculum, (2) sharing strategies for English language learners, and (3) length of time working at the international school. Expatriate ITLs used these skills to help first-year international teachers.

Findings suggest administrators have a critical impact on the preconditions for distributed leadership, and followers play a critical role for ITLs. Findings confirm the importance of social capital for ITLs but building social capital between cultures presents challenges. Administrators in international schools may need to build human capital, decisional capital, and social capital, known collectively as professional capital. Expatriate ITLs can help with two issues with international teachers: (1) adjusting to new places, and (2) retention. Expatriate ITLs build strong relationships that exist outside the international school, help colleagues acclimate to a new environment, and act as group representatives. Expatriate ITLs’ actions influence colleagues and administrators to meet the unique needs of their student population.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)