40 High Impact Student Leadership Program Practices

These 40 research grounded high impact practices of student leadership programs can enhance leadership development and education efforts:

Cluster I: Participants Engaged in Building and Sustaining a Learning Community

1. Utilize an application and selection procedure to select students who are invested in their own and others’ development and are committed to engaging fully in the program.
2. Recruit from many sources and bring together a mix of students from a variety of backgrounds to create a diverse learning community.
3. Hire student-centered educational practitioners as teachers and administrators to facilitate students’ leadership development.
4. Create opportunities for leadership practitioners from a variety of fields and careers to serve as guest leaders, sharing their experiences through panels, discussions, and conversations with students.
5. Reduce status differences, be open and accessible, empower students, demonstrate integrity, care, and model exemplary leadership practice through your interactions with students.
6. Tell your stories, share real experiences, and ask thought-provoking questions.
7. Mentor and support students outside of program meetings.
8. Make the large learning community enrollment smaller through a structure that places students within smaller groups in the program.
9. Allow students to shape and share in a group identity and work together to develop the small group, cluster, or team to which they belong.
10. Utilize the small group as a laboratory to learn about leadership where students teach each other, engage in activities, work on projects, overcome challenges, and bond through developing as a team.
11. Challenge participants to risk and learn from mistakes, ask difficult questions, and think for themselves all within a safe encouraging atmosphere.
12. Set community standards and encourage participants to be approachable, encouraging, and willing to help fellow participants outside of the program as well as within.
13. Facilitate participants giving and receiving feedback to one another in critical instances after they have had time observing each others’ leadership style.
14. Utilize a wide variety of teambuilding activities and structures at the beginning of the program and throughout to allow participants to meet and connect on a one to one basis.

Cluster II: Student Centered Experiential Learning Experiences
15. Engage students in practicing the leadership skills and concepts they are learning through group development processes within the program, in class projects, and with individual leadership plans.
16. Engage students in practicing leadership in various out of class projects in the community and on campus.
17. Engage students in practicing leadership through assuming positions and roles within the program to share responsibility in operating the program and teaching fellow students.
18. Create opportunities for students to become involved in tangible ways outside of the program in the community, campus, and within other organizations.
19. Engage students in written reflection activities in the form of journals, essays about readings, and other projects.
20. Engage students in verbal reflection in reaction to discussions, questions posed, and current events.
21. Formally engage students in completing vision and goal setting activities and other projects to personalize the concepts to the individual.
22. Engage students in a variety of curricular activities designed to help them gain a greater understanding of themselves, including personality, strengths, style, skills, and values assessments.
23. Engage students in simulations to give them practice with specific leadership skills, including strategic planning, ethics, and decision making.
24. Engage students in group discussions, debriefings, and dialogues stimulated by events, activities, readings, and presentations.
25. Engage students in making meaning and connections to readings through discussing their out-of-program experiences.
26. Expose students to different situations, contexts, cultures, groups, and people through their stories and program activities.
27. Give students opportunities to practice different ways of leading, leadership roles, and engage with others with different leadership styles.
28. Provide opportunities for students to practice leadership and learn through service learning in groups and individually.
29. Expose students early to a wide breadth of multiple service sites, people, and organizations.
30. Allow students to have increasing responsibility and devote significant time for in-depth service to the site in which they are most interested or the cause about which they are most passionate.
31. Bring groups of students away from the routine of the campus for an accelerated and in depth exploration of themselves, their fellow participants and leadership.
32. Use alternative, group based, and experiential teaching methods such as a ropes courses, challenges, or intense exploration into a particular theme or issue.

Cluster III: Research Grounded Continuous Program Development

33. Offer a variety of themes, service sites, group & individual project choices, and team memberships to allow students to choose their leadership context and skills to develop.
34. Incorporate a wide variety of delivery methods to appeal to different student learning styles.
35. Integrate the various components students can choose into a common, coherent, larger whole curriculum that students experience in unique ways.
36. Develop and offer program content based on previously established desired leadership development outcomes for the students.
37. Explicitly state the mission and values of the program and model the values through the curriculum and participant action.
38. Develop content that infuses student leadership and college student specific issues to make the curriculum real and have utility for the individual student.
39. Create programs utilizing current leadership, student development, leadership development, curriculum, teaching & learning, quality program development, and education research and models.
40. Improve programs continually led by both practitioners and students, involving multiple assessment and feedback systems.

Additional articles:

Eich, D. (2008). A grounded theory of high-quality leadership programs: Perspectives from student leadership development programs in higher education. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 15(2), 176-187.

Eich, D. (2009). Using leadership education research and assessment to positively impact leadership program outcomes. Concepts & Connections: A Publication for Leadership Educators, 16(3), 7-10.

Eich, D. (2008). 40 practices that enhance student leadership development. Student Affairs Leader. 36(16), 1-3.

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