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The Role of Leadership Educators: Transforming Learning

reviewed by Brett Geier - December 06, 2018

coverTitle: The Role of Leadership Educators: Transforming Learning
Author(s): Kathy L. Guthrie & Daniel M. Jenkins
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1641130997, Pages: 378, Year: 2018
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In The Role of Leadership Educators: Transforming Learning, the authors contend that leadership education as an academic discipline is relatively young and that higher education needs to expand the leadership education field and the role of leadership educators. The authors argue that leadership education is not just for those in leadership positions; it has multiple definitions and models, and means different things to different people. In the introduction, they provide a review of leadership education beginning in the 1970s and concluding in the 2010s, and they describe how leadership education has matured to the point of having several peer-reviewed journals as well as many professional associations and conferences.

The authors assert that leadership education development occurs at all levels of secondary and college education; The term leadership educator refers to all educators who intentionally design and foster leadership development (p. 19). They argue that all educators who interact with students should consider leadership education and how it enhances their role as an educator. Harding (2011) noted that as educators, we need to remember how our identity is at the core of our teaching leadership journey (as cited in Guthrie & Jenkins, 2018, p. 31). Research regarding professional identities of leadership educators is limited, but it does show that people entering leadership education come from multiple disciplines, contexts, and experiences as students and educators. Developing identity in leadership education assists the students as well as the educator and is supported by a community of learners devoted to this discipline. This academic community has increased in pragmatic resources, yet according to the authors, only a small percentage of leadership educators take advantage of these resources. To address this, Chapter Three includes a detailed compilation of associations, journals, textbooks, and reports that would be extremely useful as a resource for a leadership educator.

Section Two discusses how leadership educators can design an effective leadership education program. Determining the effectiveness of leadership education programs is measured by the students ability to apply their learning to the challenges they will face after program completion (p. 55). In creating dynamic and effective leadership programs, instructors must place their students at the center of education. Understanding the background of the students is critical in order for the instructor to adapt pedagogy and curricular content to different learning styles. For example, leadership engagement refers to the experiential, relational, interactional, and interpersonal aspects of leadership learning. However, in leadership engagement, the learner is an active participant, and educators need to be prepared to adjust their instructional and assessment strategies when students need something different.

The authors argue that recognizing various frameworks, naming them, and intentionally discussing the challenges and assets of various contexts will provide a more solid foundation for developing and delivering leadership programs. After conducting an extensive literature review, they also determine that understanding context is only one variable, and that there are five major characteristics for a distinctive leadership program. They define a distinctive program as one that has a positive influence on student leadership learning. These five characteristics build from Eichs (2008) work: (a) Intentionally Designed Programs, (b) Authentic Leadership Learning Environments, (c) Application of Knowledge, Skills and Values, (d) Meaning-Making through Reflection, and (e) Continuous Program Improvement. Intentionally designed distinctive programs create opportunities to help students learn, practice, and better understand what they are doing. Designing a program includes developing learning outcomes, connecting learning environment, implementing opportunities for theory-to-practice, structuring reflection opportunities, and developing assessment for program improvement.

The authors contend that experiential learning is the foundation for leadership education. They cite Wisniewski (2010), who states that the role of the leadership educator is not to deliver or transmit information but instead to actively engage the learners in constructing personal theories and philosophies of leadership by creating a learning environment that builds upon learners existing knowledge and experiential base (p. 65). The process of leadership education is transformative because if it is done correctly, leadership educators alter students ways of thinking about and practicing leadership. Oscillating between theory and experiential learning makes the process active, which the authors state is the correct model of implementation. Multiple pedagogical techniques such as discussion frameworks, case studies, personal reflection, peer assessment, observation techniques, and simulations are amplified in individual chapters based on quality literature reviews and utilizing best practices and research. Practical application exercises are also detailed to effectively and efficiently embed in leadership education coursework.

The concluding chapter is a synthesis between leadership education pedagogy and the arts. This topic trends toward the theory of multiple intelligences, recognizing that individuals have a spectrum of learning intelligences that may result in students learning in different ways. If leadership educators can diversify pedagogical approaches, they will provide information in ways that more students are able to comprehend and ultimately use in practical application. Because leadership education is often process-oriented, using diverse approaches for content delivery may seem anathema to more traditional instructors. For example, the authors demonstrate how various forms of artistic expression can be employed in leadership education in order to ensure that all learning styles are addressed.

This book will benefit instructors whose field encompasses leadership education at the higher education level but who have limited exposure to or experience with pedagogical best practices. This book is suitable for a practitioner looking for a one-stop shop that includes summations of leadership theory and quality ideas for pedagogical dissemination of the content.



Eich, D. (2008). A grounded theory of high-quality leadership programs: Perspectives from student leadership programs in higher education. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 15(2), 176187.

Harding, H. E. (2011). A place of becoming: Leadership educators experience teaching leadership: A phenomenological approach (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/aglecdiss/19.

Wisniewski, M. A. (2010). Leadership and the millennials: Transforming todays technological teens in tomorrows leaders. Journal of Leadership Education, 9(1), 5368.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: December 06, 2018
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22594, Date Accessed: 11/27/2021 9:07:55 PM

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About the Author
  • Brett Geier
    Western Michigan University
    E-mail Author
    BRETT GEIER is an associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership, Research, and Technology in the College of Education and Human Development at Western Michigan University, specializing in pre K-12 leadership. Dr. Geier’s research focuses on public education law, specifically religious and financial litigation. His sub-research focuses on Free Exercise and Establishment Clause challenges in the public schools, public educator retirement litigation, state school finance systems.
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