EFFECT OF POLITICAL EDUCATION ON STUDENT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

EFFECT OF POLITICAL EDUCATION ON STUDENT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

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Abstract

Research in higher education on leadership development and attributes has primarily concentrated on students currently engaged in campus experiences and programs (e.g., student government, volunteerism) that emulate leadership positions and opportunities that carry over to societal equivalencies. Thus, students who are not active in leadership activities are rarely assessed regarding their leadership-related development, perspectives, or preferences. The central purpose of this study is to explore students’ disposition regarding leadership etiquette, behavior, and method in the context of leadership process theory. Using the Leadership Attitudes and Beliefs Scale III, how students think about leadership, irrespective of their perceived experience in leadership-based activities or positions, will be examined within the context of contributing university resources.

INTRODUCTION

BACKGROUND TO STUDY

Student engagement with various institutional-related activities and interactions has been noted for decades as a significant influence on the differential patterns of student learning and growth one important outcome from these engagements is the impact on students’ attitudes and beliefs concerning leadership, which continues to be a prominent theme and objective in higher education.

The majority of research on student leadership development has focused on corporate-related models, which emphasize the impact of institutional experiences that parallel roles found in business or politics. Political Education Other commonly examined attributes include entering students’ predisposition to leadership development, available institutional-related leadership resources, activities and opportunities, and the effects of formal leadership development programs.

 Attempting to capture and examine students’ cognitive development towards leadership, without dependence on predispositions towards leadership-based activities or positions, Wielkiewicz developed the Leadership Attitudes and Beliefs Scale-III (LABS-III). The LABS-III instrument consists of two scales representing divergent patterns of leadership attitudes and beliefs. One scale is based on a hierarchical pattern of thinking, which is characteristic of the traditional top-down leadership structure.

The Hierarchical Thinking scale emphasizes a tightly controlled decision-making process, with an authoritarian mode of operation and communication. A leader’s effectiveness and efficiency are paramount to the success of the organization, which in turn, is strongly associated with one’s maintenance and preservation of rank within that organization. The second scale derives from Allen, Stelzner, & Wielkiewicz’s leadership process theory, which is based on a systemic pattern of thinking.

The Systemic Thinking scale strongly emphasizes an organization’s ability to adapt quickly to ever-changing environments. Employing the knowledge and wisdom of organizational members through high levels of communication and cooperation is paramount to a successful organization. In this manner, the effectiveness of a leader is dependent on one’s ability to successfully facilitate and utilize a participative decision-making process. Allen et al.’s theory asserts that the adoption of Systemic Thinking by individuals and organizations will yield greater levels of overall adaptability, cooperation, sustainability and success.

Although not extensive, there has been research exploring the development of students‟ leadership attitudes and beliefs within the context of Allen, et al.‟s[1] theory, as well as its relationship to the differential patterns of student learning and growth. A study conducted by Wielkiewicz, et al.‟s[28] in 2005 examined the uniqueness of the LABS-III as compared to Astin‟s[2] Student Leader type, a characterization based on attributes similar to traditional hierarchical-based roles or positions. Wielkiewicz found that students scoring highly on either the Hierarchical or Systemic Thinking scales on the LABS-III scored higher on Astin‟s Student Leader type.

However, the majority of information gleaned from the LABS-III was significantly distinctive from traditional position-based attributes and roles, which provided strong evidence concerning its utility in assessing student leadership development from a non-predisposed perspective. In addition, the relationship between the Systemic Thinking scale and students‟ academic engagement and development was also investigated. Wielkiewicz found that student engagement (e.g., class participation, reading outside of class), behavior (e.g., intellectual curiosity, study habits), and Systemic Thinking were interrelated, which provided evidence that an assortment of academic and co-curricular activities may facilitate student leadership development. Higher grade point averages, however, were not associated with Systemic Thinking, but they were associated with students who reported a lower preference towards Hierarchical Thinking leadership beliefs and values.

STATEMENT OF PROBLEM

Several studies utilized the Hierarchical and Systemic Thinking scales (LABS-III) to examine students‟ leadership attitudes and beliefs within the context of contributing institutional resources, entering standardized test scores and academic achievement[25]. Faculty, staff and peer interactions, as well as coursework experiences were identified as the strongest contributing resources, with internships and intercollegiate athletics making significant contributions as well. Group differences were also observed within the context of varying levels of Hierarchical and Systemic Thinking (high and low) based on students‟ scores above and below the mean scores respective to each scale. Of the contributing institutional resources noted above, students reporting high preferences for both Hierarchical and Systemic Thinking also reported significantly higher contributions towards those attitudes and beliefs from faculty, staff and peer interactions than those scoring below the mean of one or both scales. In contrast with Wielkiewicz, et al.‟s[28] findings previously noted, the study also found that students who perceived themselves exclusively as high Systemic Thinkers tended to have higher college grade point averages. No significant differences were noted concerning the students‟ standardized test scores.

The present study will contribute to the above research on student leadership development within the context of Allen, et al.‟s[1] leadership process theory. Similar to Wielkiewicz, et al.‟s[28] and Thompson‟s[25] studies, attributed contributions from various institutional resources, as well as students‟ standardized test scores and grade point averages will be examined in relation to differences in leadership behavioral preferences. The present study will differ from previous research by examining students‟ leadership behavioral preferences based on the emphasis placed on multiple leadership behavioral values and beliefs (e.g., Hierarchical and Systemic Thinking). A number of studies in the leadership development literature have asserted that effective leadership requires the ability to utilize different orientations of leadership style which efficient political education is said to provide[5][6][12][19][24].

OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY

The central purpose of this study is to explore students’ disposition regarding leadership etiquette, behavior, and method in the context of leadership process theory based on the political education they have received. Specifically the study objective is:

1)    To examine students perspective on leadership based  activities or positions Using the Leadership Attitudes and Beliefs Scale III, how students think about leadership, irrespective of their perceived experience in leadership-based, will be examined within the context of contributing university resources

2)    To examine the extent to which students are developing multiple perspectives of leadership-related attributes.

3)    To determine if there is a significant difference within the context of the student leadership behavioral preference groups.

4)    To examine the level of engagement of students with resources   attributed   to   the   arts,   politics,   Cultural Organizations, athletics, internships, off-campus study volunteering, and peer interactions.

RESEARCH QUESTIONS

The research questions to guide the study are:

1)    What are student’s perspectives on leadership based activities or positions?

2)    What is the extent to which students are developing multiple perspectives of leadership-related attributes?

3)    Is there a significant difference within the context of the student leadership behavioral preference groups?

4)       What is the level of engagement of students with resources attributed to the arts, politics, Cultural Organizations, athletics, internships, off-campus study volunteering, and peer interactions?

SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY

The findings of this study will be theoretically significant as the data provided will hopefully help leadership and political educational in propounding leadership related behaviors and process. The findings of this study will also be found useful by the teachers, students and curriculum planners.

SCOPE OF THE STUDY

The content scope of this study will be limited to by examining students‟ leadership behavioral preferences based on the emphasis placed on multiple leadership behavioral values and beliefs (e.g., Hierarchical and Systemic Thinking. This study was based on a sample of political science education students in university of Uyo.


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