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The Role of Social, Civic and Political Responsibility in Educational Leadership Preparation Programs

Module by: Amy Burkman. E-mail the author

Summary: The purpose of this study is to discuss the importance of social, civic and political responsibility in educational leadership preparation programs. First year students in a doctoral program that emphasizes K-16 leadership were surveyed for information related to the level of civic, political and social emphasis in their current doctoral program and within their experiences in a master’s level program, as well as strategies to increase civic and political engagement at the graduate level. Student responses are discussed and suggestions are given on how to improve the educational foundation for social, civic and political responsibilities for graduate students in educational leadership programs.  



This manuscript has been peer-reviewed, accepted, and endorsed by the National Council of Professors of Educational Administration (NCPEA) as a significant contribution to the scholarship and practice of education administration. In addition to publication in the Connexions Content Commons, this module is published in the International Journal of Educational Leadership Preparation, Volume 5, Number 1 (January – March 2010). Formatted and edited in Connexions by Theodore Creighton, Virginia Tech.


Educational leadership programs are designed to use theoretical learning as well as field experience to develop strong administrators. Unfortunately, these programs often ignore the social, civic and political responsibilities of administrators once they have left the classroom and entered the workforce. Seeing educational leadership as a service to society provides quality to the educational experience. Social responsibility is important to integrate as educational institutions stretch services and provide programs to include civic engagement and social participation on the local and national levels.

This study discusses the social responsibilities of educational leadership in the political and civil structures outside of instructional and managerial educational responsibilities. Additionally, this study focuses on the quality of the educational enterprise as the focus of educational leadership is expanded to include social responsibility. Once these responsibilities are understood and defined, implications for educational leadership preparation programs will be discussed.

Theoretical Framework

The role of civic and political responsibility in educational leadership is an area that needs to be probed more deeply. Programs that prepare these leaders need to know how to encourage a strong sense of social responsibility with the framework of theoretical administrative curriculum. Encouraging new leaders to combine the attitude of civic, social and political responsibility with active community involvement is one key to the evolution of educational leadership. The purpose of this study is to determine the current emphasis of social, civic and political responsibilities, if any, in educational preparation programs based on student perceptions and to find practical suggestions for improvement in this area.

Leadership and Civic and Social Responsibilities

The role of civic and political responsibility in educational leadership is an area that needs to be probed more deeply. Programs that prepare these leaders need to know how to encourage a strong sense of social responsibility with the framework of theoretical administrative curriculum. Encouraging new leaders to combine the attitude of civic, social and political responsibility with active community involvement is one key to the evolution of educational leadership. The purpose of this study is to determine the current emphasis of social, civic and political responsibilities, if any, in educational preparation programs based on student perceptions and to find practical suggestions for improvement in this area.

Constituents in the business environment are similar to that of education; customers (parents and students), shareholders (parents, community and educators), and leadership (superintendent, central office staff, and principals). These constituents perceive social and civic responsibility to equate with moral or ethical behavior if implemented without looking strategic and formulated (Donaldson & Preston, 1995; Freeman, 1994), thus providing a connection that encourages participation and support. However, Rollinson (2002) observes "it is always difficult to tell whether behaving ethically towards external stakeholders is prompted by altruism or self-preservation" (p. 44).

Managerial values are reflected through civic and social engagement (Hemingway & Macglan, 2004; Stanley, 2002). Decision-making rationale should mirror societal expectations and should focus on values rather than strict performance. The manager must eliminate strategic problems while balancing the social and civic needs of all constituents (Hemingway & Macglan, 2002). This creates a need for stakeholders to see an organization, i.e. leadership, as an ethical reflection of community beliefs (Hillman & Keim, 2002). Philanthropic values and actions further this positive perception and allow organizations to engage in community based initiatives (Wood, 1991).

Institutional theory suggests that organizations adopt societal values in order to gain legitimacy while the cultural beliefs of constituents can influence the values and beliefs relevant to the function of the organization (Javidan et al., 2005). Additionally, Waldman’s research (2006) found that countries with higher per capita gross domestic product have leaders that are more in tune with society needs and norms; however, this research also shows that leaders within these countries are less likely to consider the welfare of the entire community, or greater good, in decision-making.

The bulk of corporate research involving leadership has deliberately excluded educational organizations (Waldman et al., 2006). Due to this particular decision it is difficult to generalize leadership information gathered from corporate research. However, corporate leadership studies disseminate information regarding specific leadership styles or societal norms that reflect the educational system as a whole, thus making this information more equitable.

Social Responsibility in Educational Leadership

Social responsibility is crucial to educational leadership. One challenge to social responsibility within education is the perception of power. According to Carl (2004) power distance is the extent to which constituents believe power should be concentrated in the hands of leadership, and the extent to which they believe that leaders should be obeyed without question. Waldman’s research (2004) found that leaders within higher power distance cultures devalued all aspects of social responsibility, indicating that lower power distance cultures embrace social responsibility.

Education has a lower power distance than corporate organizations. This low power distance indicates that constituents see power as situational and feel that decisions should be questioned, discussed and agreed upon. Societies with a low power distance have less social, economic and political stratification, which translates into a need for relational leadership skills with a focus on social and civic responsibility in reflection to the community’s needs (Begley et al., 2001;Carl et al., 2004;Holfstede, 2001; House et al, 2004; Javidan et al., 2006).

Effective educational leaders have an ethical obligation to provide a socially responsible learning environment to meet the needs within a specific school culture while fighting the cynical expectations of the community (Duignan, 2006). Duignan et. al (2005) found that with the increasing need for students to learn civic and social responsibility within the school day, educational leaders are looked upon to exemplify the best example of social responsibility (as cited in Duignan, 2006). This social obligation extends from the campus culture into the community where an educational leader faces high expectations of civic and social responsibility.

Civic and Political Roles of Educational Leaders

Educational leadership has become increasingly political in recent years. Schools are a microcosm of social change. “The role of the principal has transitioned again from school manager to the school catalyst for success…the role of the principal becomes that of school liaison for all community resources including parents and other caregivers, neighbors, businesses, churches, civic clubs, and other community service agencies” (Wilmore, 2004, p. 5). While administrators need not be identical to the members of the educational community, there must be “an alignment of philosophy, priorities, power and personality that will enable the principal to lead the community and school to a higher level” (Owen, 2007, p. 46). With this shift in emphasis pressure is increasing on future and experienced administrators to become socially, politically and civically engaged and to keep in touch with the political and social climate of the community (Owen, 2007).

The Educational Leadership Constituent Council (ELCC) Standards state that “a school administrator is an educational leader who promotes the success of all students by understanding, responding to, and influencing the larger political, social, economic, legal, and cultural context” (Council of Chief State School Officers, 1996). This charge to educational leaders is also a charge for educational leadership preparation programs. The larger context referred to in this standard charges leaders with more than knowledge of the various contexts, but also charges leaders to have awareness and understanding. This includes “political, social, economic, legal and cultural theories and concepts…the principal must stay abreast of current and potential local, state, and federal law and policy development” (Wilmore, 2002, p. 93). Baxter (2008) and Owen (2007) both agree that the interaction between power and politics adds to the pressures of administration. This requires active participation in current events, economic issues, and societal norms. The need for this is most evident in administrator preparation programs.

Educational Leadership Curriculum and Civic, Social and Political Roles

Lynch (2000) states that many professional schools and colleges, including schools of education, have been socially active and committed to progressive social change…during most of the 20th century” (p. 241); however, he also found that social leadership at the university level has diminished. Baxter (2008) agrees stating that “many university-based principal preparation programs now emphasize a curriculum focused on the development of school leaders as data-driven business managers rather than as public servants and community leaders” (p. 18). This is one weakness of educational leadership preparation programs.

Universities should have a desire to play a significant role in public policy and, despite economic challenges, should prepare educational leaders that do the same. Unfortunately, “the ascension of superior ideas based on reason and evidence no longer appears to be the goal for our society…Idealism has been replaced by strategic politics, rationality has been replaced by ideology, and accountability has been replaced by expediency” (Lynch, 2000, p. 242). When the goals of the individual compete with the goals of the larger social framework the tendency is to sacrifice one’s self for the greater good or to become captivated by self-concern. Either extreme is detrimental to the development of educational leadership (Baxter, 2008) and universities must create programs that teach future leaders how to effectively balance the two. Baxter (2008) calls this the emancipator communitarian approach to leadership. With this approach, administrators are taught to work collaboratively within the social, educational, and political context while raising awareness of specific needs.

Universities have an ideological conflict between competing moral principles, the vision and values of the individual and professional and organizational goals (Bogue, 2006). Aronowitz (2000) asks, “Can universities maintain their role as political unifiers of increasingly diverse populations by providing the basic guidelines for what constitutes citizenship in the contemporary social world” (p. 3)? According to Bogue (2006):

“ It is indeed the work of higher education to nurture an educated person, a hungry spirit in search of meaning, a mind equipped with knowledge and skill to do good work but first and foremost a mind equipped to go inward in the journey of self discovery, to explore both outer and inner space, to participate in the life of our community and democracy and to ask uncomfortable questions of policy and practice in our society” (p. 317).

By cultivating diversity, promoting integrity, and serving as a civilizing function, universities can support the demand for a higher social functioning through the avenue of debate and open-forum argumentation (Postman, 1996). Universities must be the forum for expanding the role of educational leadership, as untenured administrators do not always feel the freedom to create a social agenda within the contexts of their positions although they are expected to reflect the social needs of the community in which they work.

Baxter (2008) distinguishes several areas to be considered when developing a comprehensive educational leadership program:

  1. Program accreditation and state licensure standards for school leadership.
  2. Faculty and staff selection.
  3. Curriculum design and implementation
  4. Student recruitment and selection
  5. Program evaluation

Each area requires specific planning and is supported by educational, sociological and philosophical frameworks designed to increase social responsibility. A greater understanding of Baxter’s concept of a comprehensive educational leadership program is necessary to identify areas of strength and weakness within specific educational leadership programs and to develop an understanding of how each area should reflect a higher level of social participation. Additionally, educational leadership programs need to be able to justify the addition of social learning to leadership programs through a through explanation of each element of the program.

Program accreditation and licensure standards

Standards set forth by the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC), the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), and the Education Leadership Constituent Council (ELCC) are the national model of leadership standards and create a common vocabulary and standard across state policies (Sanders & Simpson, 2005; Wilmore, 2002). Each system describes a leader capable of balancing the needs of the individual and the needs of the community. The use of active language and specific performance indicators illustrate that educational preparation programs need to balance all philosophical, theoretical and practical aspects of school leadership, including social responsibility (Baxter, 2008).

Faculty and staff selection

The importance of employing a racially and ethnically diverse faculty and ways for achieving that diversity have been well documented in the literature in recent years (Allen, Epps, Guillory, Suh, Bonous-Hammarth, & Stassen, 2000; Antonio, 2002; Baxter, 2008; Gordon, 2004; Milem, Chang, & Antonio, 2005; Moody, 2004; Smith, Turner, Osei-Kofi, & Richards, 2004). Specifically, Baxter (2008) believes that the diversity of perspectives, experiences, and opinions within the faculty is one key to creating a balanced program. A wide variety of political and social perspectives create a multi-cultural approach to teaching leadership. Each faculty and staff member must bring a unique piece of the educational puzzle to the table to create a well-rounded leader (Baxter, 2008; Weinberg, 2008) that is able to cope with the varied social, civic and political structures within education.

Unfortunately, there is a trend among universities to use contingent, or adjunct, faculty to fill the tenure-track faculty positions left vacant due to a decrease in junior professors entering the profession and an increase in retirement of current professors. Nealy (2008) believes that this trend is caused by societal factors such as delaying graduate school for career experience, female academics taking time off to raise children, and fall-out from economic issues as more and more universities are facing hiring freezes for new faculty. This increases the number of untenured faculty not eligible for grants, travel money or benefits and reduces the applicant pool for the few tenure-track positions that do become available (Nealy, 2008).

Curriculum design and implementation

While much of the curriculum provided in an educational leadership program is standardized based on state and national competencies, students should still be exposed to a variety of instructional methods and authentic collaborative activities (Baxter, 2008). Hess & Kelly (2007) also advocate for a wide variety of texts to be used within each program. Not only should texts encompass fundamental, modern, progressive and conservative educational theories, social theories, business models of leadership, and cultural and political texts should be utilized.

Individual learning should be balanced with collaborative learning to increase communal learning experiences and to provide a varied perspective (Prilletensky, 1997). While students should be encouraged to take individualized electives Baxter (2008) advocates for a cohort system of learning. Assessment and projects should be varied as well. Students should develop projects both independently and within a group to encourage a unique learning experience that focuses on the needs of the individual while expanding the cultural viewpoint of the learner.

Field experiences are also an important aspect of curriculum. Many states require field experience prior to certification and this provides an opportunity for students to observe educational settings within diverse social contexts. However, field experience is not enough. Explicit goals should be set, expectations should be outlined and a reflective piece must be part of the field experience for true learning to take place (Baxter, 2008; David, 2009).

Student recruitment and selection

When utilizing a model of leadership that encourages diversity within the curriculum and the staff, student recruitment is as important as faculty selection. Baxter (2008) states:

“membership should be ideologically, culturally, racially, sexually, and generationally diverse. Selection committees should use a variety of criteria, no limited to standardized test scores. Letters of recommendation, statements of reflection on professional and personal experience, creative writing samples, and non-traditional interviews give a better impression of commitment and purpose” (p. 25).

Todd and Crofton (2001) also believe in a “more strategic approach to enrollment. Enrollment management can be characterized as an organizational concept and a systematic set of activities designed to enable educational institutions to exert more influence over their student enrollments.” Enrollment management activities “need to be compatible with local campus issues, management styles, and traditions and culture" (Hossler, Bean, & Associates 1990, p. 45).

To understand the strategic approach to student recruitment, there must be an understanding of indicators of academic success. Eddey and Baumann’s research (2009) showed a significant association between English proficiency and academic performance and that “students who do not meet the required level of English proficiency at application date tend to complete their postgraduate degree with a lower GPAoutcome than do those who are English proficient at application date” (p. 165). However, diversity within student selection is important as students from other countries that do not have a language barrier tend to find success in the classroom. By marketing and recruiting in a variety of countries and regions student diversity and success increase in the classroom (Eddey & Baumann, 2009; Feast, 2002).

Eddey and Baumann’s (2009) research did not show any significant indicators related to previous areas of study or performance on graduate entrance exams but others believe that the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), the most common standardized assessment required for entrance into postgraduate educational programs (Norcross,Hanych & Terranova, 1996), reflects intelligence or the capacity to learn (Larsen & Buss, 2004). Larsen and Buss (2004) show through meta-analysis that GRE scores predict success in graduate school, while other researchers feel that it is simply one indicator to consider in a larger context (Mupinga & Mupinga, 2005). In particular Sampson and Boyer (2004) believe that schools should focus on factors other than traditional criteria when admitting minority students to graduate programs.

Creating programs with diverse student populations takes considerable time, effort and consistency. This element of educational leadership programs cannot be ignored or the value of the program can be diminished (Baxter, 2008).

Program evaluation

Etzioni (1993) believes that program evaluation is not a final conclusion but creates ideas for discussion. Evaluative reflection from all constituents including students, professors, administrators, and field experience hosts is critical for program analysis and should take a variety of forms (Baxter, 2008; Etzioni, 1993). Baxter (2008) also believes that themed focus groups, formal evaluations and assessments should be used in conjunction with reflection. All evaluation data should be seen by and discussed with program administrators, professors and students periodically.

Purpose Statement

After examining the literature, and defining the role of civic, social and political responsibility within leadership as a whole, an understanding of the current status of educational leadership programs is necessary to continue positive progress within the field. The purpose of this study is to determine the current emphasis of social, civic and political responsibilities, if any, in educational preparation programs based on student perceptions and to find practical suggestions for improvement in this area.



Sixteen doctoral level students participating in an educational leadership program were identified to participate in this study. None of these students received their master’s degree from the same university but all had received their master’s degree in Educational Administration. This number of students encompassed approximately half of the students enrolled in the program and all of them were within their first year of study. Fifteen students were eliminated from the study because they did not have a master’s degree in educational administration. The students were told that the answers on the survey would be confidential and they were not given the opportunity to discuss any questions or answers with others taking the survey.

Instrument and Data Collection

The qualitative method used to collect data was an open ended survey. The goal of the survey was to get student input on social, civic, and political responsibility. The survey consisted of the following questions:

  1. What is the responsibility of higher education in the development of students as participatory citizens? How can institutions help students understand to seek social change at the local and individual level depends upon the renewal of participatory democracy at the state and national levels?
  2. Briefly discuss known initiatives that educational programs in your experiences have undertaken to promote civic engagement among students. How do you think that service-learning and civic engagement strengthens and reinforces teaching, learning and community building for faculty, students and community members?
  3. As a student in a doctoral program, what advice, ideas or recommendations would you give to university deans and program coordinators to encourage them to integrate service learning and civic engagement practices into their campuses and classrooms?
  4. How can higher education use its tradition as a forum for rigorous debate about important and timely issues to further this goal of renewing political and civic participation?

The survey was disseminated during two evening classes and was answered anonymously. The professor teaching the class was not privy to the answers on the survey and a student was responsible for collecting the handwritten surveys and returning them in a sealed envelope. Students received extra credit in the course for completing the survey during class. Confidentiality was ensured as no identifying information was recorded and the surveys were returned in an unmarked envelope.

The answers provided by the students were then recorded and analyzed within the framework of the leadership education. Commonalities based on student expectations and suggestions for improvement were identified.


Students gave input on three main areas of discussion: the responsibility of higher education institutions in developing participatory citizens, recommendations for social development, and how higher educational institutions can renew political and civic participation. The following table shows students' responses in each specific theme.

Table 1: Student Responses to Themes
Responsibility of Higher Education Programs
  • Introduce students to civic options.
  • Allow student participation in university based civic opportunities.
  • Monitor civic opportunities.
  • To educate and encourage students to participate in the civic process.
  • Model change at the group level.
  • Provide opportunities to be a participatory citizen (i.e. voter registration, supporting a candidate, etc.).
  • Practice engaging the civic leader.
  • Help students form habits of volunteering and participating in the community. Educated individuals should make it their mission to serve others.
  • Organize curriculum that will encourage unique forms of thinking and promote individuals who have the capacity to challenge thought or public policy.
  • Provide course content on citizen leadership. Students will begin to understand their personal role as a citizen leader and will be moved to action.
  • Find ways to insert students into the social context of the community in which the university sits.
  • Provide more opportunities for the students to apply their knowledge within the community.
  • Students need to be equipped with the skills and knowledge which would enable them to extend the jobs/responsibilities they are entrusted with. Students who are pursuing higher education should be taught the importance of being participative citizens. When solving problems and applying higher level thinking in various classes, students can be given case studies or scenarios to further delve into this topic.
Student Recommendations for Social Development
  • Continue to encourage faculty to create opportunities for students to apply their learning through “real life” applications that can benefit the community (and receive course credit).
  • There needs to be a more meaningful synergy between theory and practice.
  • Make sure the foundations of justice, democracy, and civic leadership are not ignored in favor servant leadership.
  • Find activities that benefit students, staff, and community.
  • Gain hands-on experience that supplements “book” knowledge.
  • The goal of the program is to produce leaders, so it would be advantageous to continue providing opportunities or the information about opportunities for being involved in civic engagement.
  • Walk the talk.
  • Encourage participation.
  • Rely on inner intuition rather than external excitement.
  • Allow students to form civic groups and engage in civic practices as part of the class.
  • University employees should be role models for the students.
  • An internship would be a perfect opportunity to integrate service learning and civic engagement. A portion of the hours could apply to these practices.
  • Assignments in leadership classes could easily be given that applied to service learning.
Renewing Political and Civic Participation
  • It is expected that university students will challenge the status quo in their search for a deeper and richer knowledge base.
  • The tradition of debate can serve as a model of the value of a democracy and the need for debate to serve as a catalyst for a more in depth inquiry about public police and its effect on community welfare.
  • I don’t think higher education really has the courage to initiate such debate. Everyone is preoccupied with being “sensitive” and there are issues in our society today that can only be resolved when this rigorous debate can take place with no subject or position being avoided.
  • Sponsor debates and discussion on campus.
  • Be more practical.
  • Be more proactive than reactive.
  • Be ready to respond to changes in the environment.
  • Political and local civic issues need to be integrated into instruction and the assessment of instruction.
  • Encourage faculty to address these issues. Often our class discussion is on topic by which everyone agrees! How can you spark debate when there is a lack of disagreement?
  • Allow and encourage discourse on controversial and/or secular ideas.
  • Teach and encourage professors to leave their opinions off grading policies.
  • Inform students about issues.
  • Teach faith based reactions to issues.
  • Make sure professors nurture input from students.
  • Provide opportunities to serve the community.
  • Form focus groups in each department to lead and brainstorm ideas.
  • Rigorous debate can be encouraged in individual classes. Students at this level should not be receiving as “sit and get” curriculum; instead, current citizenry issues can be weaved into the curriculum to renew participation.

While many students gave simplistic answers, this indicates that these basic ideas have not been implemented at the graduate level. An analysis and understanding of the responses from these graduate students can create the basis of positive social change in educational leadership programs.


The purpose of this paper is to delve into a discussion of the perceptions of postgraduate students and to create a practical plan to implement ideas provided by the students within educational leadership. While there is much literature on the civic, social and political responsibilities within leadership positions, very little information exists on how to accurately and successfully implement such responsibilities within the framework of educational leadership curriculum. Three main themes emerged from the research: the responsibility of higher education institutions in developing participatory citizens, recommendations for social development, and how higher educational institutions can renew political and civic participation within educational leadership programs.

Responsibility of Higher Education Institutions in Developing Participatory Citizens

Many of the responses indicated that the responsibility of the university lay in providing opportunities to participate in civic opportunities. At the very minimum universities need to educate students on what opportunities are available within the university community or in local and state forums. Activities such as voter registration, engaging local and national civic leaders, and volunteering for non-profit organizations are a few of the suggestions. Creating opportunities to be aware of these activities and explaining the process for participation are seen as weaknesses in the university program.

Other suggestions focused on the university incorporating civic opportunities into current curriculum. Without making civic opportunities a mandatory part of the educational experiences most graduate students will not, or cannot, make the time to participate in social forums. Professors need to model civic participation and they need to monitor the civic experiences of students as part of the curricular experience.

Recommendations for Social Development

To increase social awareness administrators must “stay well read, be involved within the larger community and state and put [themselves] in positions to be cognizant of what is really going on in political, social, economic, legal and cultural contexts” (Wilmore, 2002, p. 94). In addition to theoretical material, the university should create real life applications that benefit the entire educational community. This provides meaningful synergy between theory and practice.

With an increase in the popularity of servant leadership the participants in this study felt that justice, democracy and civic leadership were being ignored causing a disconnect with constituents. The most common suggestion for educational leadership preparation programs is to provide authentic activities that benefit student, professor and community within the context of theory and practice.

How Higher Education Institutions can Renew Political and Civic Participation

Wilmore (2002) states that “without divergent opinions and perspectives, there can be no critical analysis” (p. 94). Student feedback consistently identified the lack of debate and inquiry as a major downfall in educational leadership programs. One participant stated:

“I just don’t think higher education really has the courage to initiate such a debate. Everyone is preoccupied with being ‘sensitive’ and there are issues in our society today that can only be resolved when this rigorous debate can take place with no subject or position being avoided.”

Likewise, others stated that the forum for debate needed to be provided by the university within the context of the program. Political and local issues can best be included within the theoretical context of leadership preparation when students are allowed, encouraged, and invited to have discourse on controversial or new ideologies that exist within the cultural contexts of society.

Understanding the need for a renewal in addressing political and civic participation isn’t enough; higher education institutions must respond to this need and influence the outcome of the program. If professors participate, and students are included in the planning and implementation of such debate, current citizenry issues can be weaved into the curriculum through public discussion and classroom discussion to enhance current curricular requirements. With the appropriate opportunity and encouragement, civic leadership can be developed hand-in-hand with educational leadership.

Implications for Educational Leadership Programs

The focus of educational leadership programs should be on developing civic- and social-minded leaders that can participate in the political and cultural contexts of their communities. The sign of a strong program is students challenging the status quo within a safe learning environment in a search for a deeper understanding of the role of educational leadership within a societal context. Once an educational leader moves to a leadership position within a public context opportunities for this type of social searching will be limited due to the scope and responsibilities required of such positions.

The ELCC Standards are directly tied to creating a stronger curriculum that encourages social, civic and political participation (Wilmore, 2002; Baxter, 2008) which provides support for curricular changes within the educational program. Educational leadership programs are challenged to balance theoretical and practical aspects of school leadership. Programs should tie theory with experience, should have faculty to model appropriate social and civic interactions, should encourage students to create an individualized plan for engagement, and should enhance current practices in field experiences to reflect social, civic and political responsibilities in education. These topics are most consistently identified from the participants in the study.

Suggestions for Implementation in Educational Leadership Preparation Programs

The suggestions for improvement stem from the merging of current research with the participant responses.

  1. Educational preparation programs must integrate a service learning activity into required field experiences. Hart, Youniss and Atkins (2007) found that mandated community service can increase civic engagement if the activities engage students in addressing social problems. Field experiences are the perfect arena for implementation of community service. David (2009) found that “service learning projects can influence both short-term and long-term attitudes and actions regarding civic participation when the projects are carefully designed and implemented” (84). The university program needs to carefully design and implement civic participation activities within leadership preparation. The design should include “explicit learning goals, committed and well-trained teachers, opportunities to debate important social issues, effective coordination with community agencies, and dedicated time in the curriculum” (David, 2009, p 84).
  2. Evaluate curriculum to identify strengths or deficiencies with incorporating the social, civic and political roles of administrators. Include students, professors, and other community members in this process. Baxter (2008) and Etzioni (1993) advocate for a communal evaluation of program and curricular success. Because of the cyclical process of evaluation, this step is seen as a never ending process.
  3. Create a course to specifically address or to incorporate social, civic, and political roles within educational leadership. Create objectives that clearly identify the knowledge and experiences necessary for understanding these roles in complex cultural atmospheres and that identify theoretical concepts for implementation.
  4. Allow for and encourage students to provide feedback on the success of the curricular changes in formal and informal formats. Incorporate specific questions in course and instructor surveys during each semester or provide a separate forum for feedback specific to curricular improvement in social and civil engagement.
  5. Create an open-forum for discussion or debate related to current cultural and social issues that impact education. This can be implemented within course work, within student organizations, or through a town hall format.
  6. Professors should participate in and provide authentic opportunities that promote social and civic awareness in relation to educational leadership. Professors can implement a service learning project within the scope of the course or allow such activities for extra credit. These opportunities should always relate to the curricular topic or the purposeful inclusion reflects an inauthentic concern for implementation.
  7. Students should be required to make a plan that sets goals for civic, social, or political participation from the prospective of an educational leader. Allow the students to reflect on their experience as they meet their goals and on how these experiences will improve professional practices.

These steps are the start of process focused on improving student awareness in the postgraduate classroom and promoting social participation from the position of an educational leader.


Educational research should reflect the advances in the social application of leadership principles as well as a broadened student perspective so that leadership education can accurately plan programs that increase the understanding of social responsibility. The recommendations provided within this study are designed to implement change based on perceptions of students within educational leadership programs.

Future studies can include research that evaluates specific competencies required by state and national agencies as well as research that monitors the transition from theoretical participation to active participation in the social, civic and political arenas. Only when educators have achieved the merging of social, civic, political and educational responsibilities can the educational systems within the United States reach their maximum potential.


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