Date of Award

2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

Program

Leadership PhD

First Advisor

Shirley A. Freed

Second Advisor

Janet Ledesma

Third Advisor

Erich Baumgartner

Abstract

Problem. Christian schools are an environment that intentionally works to bring coherence to a student’s moral and ethical development, which is a critical component of leadership development. It is then important to understand how the effect of that educational experience has carried over into the later development of leadership. However, there is very little study on the influence of Christian Kindergarten through 12th-grade education, let alone the influence of Christian education on leadership. Therefore the purpose of this study is to explore the influence of Christian education on leadership development as perceived by people in leadership positions.

Research Design. This qualitative study is an initial exploration and therefore was conducted by the selection of a small purposive sample. It was conducted through the use of in-depth interviews involving the selection of individuals who are in some position of leadership and who received a Christian elementary and secondary education. The sample involved 10 individuals who were interviewed regarding their educational experiences and their perceptions about those experiences specifically related to the development of their leadership. The responses were transcribed and organized into themes to best assist with an understanding of how the combination of stories provided research data.

Findings. The responses of the participants indicated that those experiences which were part of their educational background did have an influence on leadership development. As their experiences were described, they revealed four predominant themes relevant to the purpose of the study: integration of Christian worldview, influence of teachers and coaches, academic experience, and activities. The theme of “integration of Christian worldview” revealed the importance of the overall spiritual environment within the Christian school experience, but was unique in that it was also woven throughout the other three themes. Participants indicated that the establishment of their biblical worldview was excellent preparation for leadership by providing a strong background belief system that developed confidence and strength of leadership. It also helped them to be prepared to answer ethical questions and dilemmas and to appropriately challenge and question, important to shaping their character in leadership and preparing them to address problems they face today. The theme of “teachers and coaches” indicated the influence of teachers and coaches, either as a group or individually, on the development of the interviewees. The participants indicated that they learned much by what was modeled from these influential individuals, particularly in their relational methods, learning to imitate the care and example they received. They pointed to critical events and experiences that happened with teachers and coaches as turning points, or as specific life lessons, and to the importance of relationship in leadership for components such as building trust, communicating effectively, resolving conflict, impacting perceptions, and effecting change. The theme of “academic experience” reflected the importance of a strong academic program and biblical integration within that program. The participants believe that a challenging academic experience was important for developing critical thinking skills that are important to leadership. Several also suggested that they learned lessons about leadership from the academic content of courses that provided examples of leadership from people in such subject areas as history or Bible. But with regard specifically to leadership development, they placed the highest value on their Bible classes. The theme of “activities” communicated the value of involvement in a variety of activities that delivered important growth experiences for their emerging leadership. Interviewees spoke most frequently about athletic opportunities and leadership opportunities, but they also spoke of other spiritual life activities and other extracurricular activities, primarily in the areas of fine arts. They believe that often their teachers were intentional about providing these types of leadership development opportunities, even if just in a classroom setting. The findings of this study also affirmed the importance of educational experience as a life experience, which is a process and component of leadership development. Additionally, Clinton’s Leadership Emergence Theory also suggests a connection between its components and a person’s educational experience, from a broad, introductory perspective, and in components of both Phase I and Phase II of the theory, and through the identification and application of patterns, principles, and process items.

Recommendations. Two important recommendations emerge from this study for Christian schools, and for Christian school administrators, in order to more effectively influence the development of leadership in students through their educational experience. First, schools and administrators should intentionally pursue the fostering of a strong relational environment. Second, schools and administrators should intentionally pursue strong biblical integration and multiple means of biblical integration throughout the overall program.

Subject Area

Leadership, Christian education, Christian leadership, Education, Elementary, Education, Secondary.

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