Exploring the need for improvement in a student leadership program.
Journal of Catholic School Studies, 84 (1), 12-22.
Despite the importance of adolescent leadership development, little research has examined how to improve such programs within a school context. The intention of this article is to explore how one Catholic secondary school developed leadership potential in young adolescents, and how such efforts can be refned and improved in the future. The primary methods for collecting data included focus groups interviews, researcher field notes, and researcher reflective journaling. Based upon these data, the author conceptualised the strengths and shortcomings of the program of leadership being pursued consciously or implicitly by the school, by examining the perspectives held by those students who had been elected to a position of leadership in Year Twelve. Specifically, the elected student leaders asserted strengths of the current program including: opportunities to participate in leadership activities, working with staff and fellow student leaders, and learning important skills. Conversely, students raised several shortcomings: the apparent non-involvement of the younger, elected leaders, a perceived ‘popularity’ contest, and determining a balance between leadership duties and studies. The findings of this research will serve to improve and strengthen the functioning student leadership programs, and to assist professionals closely involved with student leadership programs to avoid foreseeable problems regarding the planning and facilitation of future leadership activities. Additionally, this research highlights the importance of conducting research into student leadership programs for the wider education community.