The development and initial testing of a model of student leadership in high schools: An exploratory study
Coulter, Nelson W.
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Leadership is a construct that has many facets, attributes, and nuances. In the gestalt of school leadership roles, the student leadership component is part of the overall leadership culture. The significance of the role student leaders play on a high school campus, and their consequent impact on the effectiveness of the school as an organization, was the focus of this study. The purpose of this study was to explore how, through the eyes of high school principals, student leaders impact organizational behavior and effectiveness both favorably and unfavorably. This study addressed the following research questions: How do high school principals view student leaders in the context of the campus leadership culture? How do high school principals develop/engage/enlist the student leadership component on high school campuses? In what ways do student leaders have an impact on school culture and organizational effectiveness? A conceptual model was developed for the purposes of the study. The Student Leadership Culture (SLC) Model was developed to provide a conceptual framework through which to view the impact of student leaders on the effectiveness of the campus as an organization. Using mixed methods, this study first examined, by use of surveys, the level of commitment to the development and enlistment of student leaders on public high school campus in Texas by 105 campus principals. Follow-up qualitative interviews were conducted with 14 principals whose survey responses or whose campus performance as determined by elements of the Academic Excellence Indicator System proved well outside the norm. The study provides a first step in the development of the Student Leadership Culture Model as a useful tool for study of the impact of student leaders on the effectiveness of high school campuses as organizations. Other conclusions of the study indicate that principal tenure and the type of schedule used have an impact on the development of student leaders. Also, the recursive interplay of campus context, culture, and performance was identified as an important factor in the development of student leaders. Finally, the theme of student voice emerged as significant in the level of commitment principals and campuses exhibit toward student leadership.