Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Adult, Career, and Higher Education

Major Professor

James A. Eison, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jeffrey D. Kromrey, Ph.D.

Committee Member

W. Robert Sullins, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Donald Dellow, Ed.D.


active learning, leadership studies, significant learning, signature pedagogy, higher education


Leadership education has been integral to the undergraduate curriculum since the early 1990's. Today, more than 1,000 colleges and universities in the United States offer undergraduate courses in leadership studies and many offer academic credit in the form of a bachelor's degree, academic minor, or certificate. Yet, little is known about those who teach leadership studies courses to undergraduates, the instructional strategies they employ, or the learning goals they set. The purpose of this study was to identify the instructional strategies that are most frequently used by instructors when they teach academic credit-bearing undergraduate leadership studies courses, identify signature pedagogies within the leadership discipline, and assess the learning goals instructors believe are of the greatest importance in their courses. Schulman's framework of Signature Pedagogies provided the framework for the portion of this study which identified the instructional strategies used most frequently. An exploratory factor analysis was performed to identify patterns of instructional strategies most often used. Fink's Model of Significant Learning and Integrated Course Design provided the framework for the portion of this study that assessed the learning goals instructors believe are of the greatest importance in their courses.

Results of a unique web-based survey of 303 instructors that taught academic credit-bearing undergraduate leaderships studies courses between 2008 and 2010 were analyzed using quantitative methods to identify the instructional strategies used most frequently by instructors within the leadership discipline and assess the learning goals instructors believe are of the greatest importance. Participants were solicited through the membership of the International leadership Association, National Clearinghouse for Leadership Programs, and NASPA Student Affairs Professionals in Higher Education. Data from 303 survey participants were analyzed and results indicated that instructors teaching undergraduate leadership studies courses prefer discussion-based pedagogies (such as class discussion) and instructional strategies that prioritize conceptual understanding and personal growth far more than traditional teaching and learning strategies like quizzes, exams, and lecture or skill-building activities such as role play, simulation, or games. Findings from this study suggest that class discussion--whether in the form of true class discussion or a variation of interactive lecture and discussion--is the signature pedagogy for undergraduate leadership education. While group and individual projects and presentations, self-assessments and instruments, and reflective journaling were also used frequently, overall, discussion-based pedagogies were used most frequently. Survey results also indicated that instructors place the greatest importance on learning goals that emphasize application, integration, and the human dimensions of significant learning more so than the learning goals of promoting foundational knowledge, caring, and metacognition (learning how to learn). These findings offer attributes that a variety of leadership educators have shared as effective for teaching and learning within the discipline and may facilitate the development of new leadership programming policies, provide direction for future research, and contribute to the existing body of literature.