Mastering Leadership Concepts through Utilizing Critical Thinking Strategies within Educational Administration Courses at Kuwait University

Article excerpt

The current study aims at exploring the students' perceptions of mastering leadership concepts and critical thinking strategies implemented by faculty members in the college of education at Kuwait University, and the impact of the later on former. The data was collected using a questionnaire on a sample consisting of 411 students representing different colleges. The findings showed that the students perceived their faculty members implementing critical thinking strategies while delivering the educational administration courses contents, and they were developing leadership concepts. Additionally, demographic factors were found to generally affect students' perceptions. Regression analyses showed that providing feedback and assessment of learning was the most significant predictor explaining the change in mastering leadership concepts. The study discussed the obtained findings and concluded with relevant recommendations.

Introduction

Leadership development is prominent theme and goal in higher education institutions (Smart, Ethington, Riggs, & Thompson, 2002; Thompson, 2006). Almost every college articulates its commitment, through mission statements to the development of students as future leaders, and accordingly increases curricular and extra-curricular portions targeting college student leadership development (Astin & Astin, 2000; Dugan, 2006a; Dugan, 2006b). The emphasis of these portions is consistent with research linking students' collegiate involvement to students' developmental outcomes, including civic responsibility, multicultural awareness, skill development, and personal and societal awareness (Cress, Astin, Zimmerman-Oster, & Burkhardt, 2001; Dugan, 2006a; Posner, 2004).

On a micro level of university programs, leadership development is considered as a main objective of educational leadership courses. Of course, there is no consensus on what leadership is based on the different people trying to define it conceptually (Stogdill, 1974). As a result, several approaches, theories, and models were developed in order to explore the nature of leadership (Gregoire & Arendt, 2004; Shertzer & Schuh, 2004). It is well documented, however, in the literature that leadership, though not clearly conceptualized, is still a life-long conceptual aspect necessary for real human development (Kouzes & Posner, 2007). Yet, instead of arguing a settled definition of leadership, the trend is on how to teach leadership skills (Doh, 2003).

Since leadership can be developed through learning (Brown & Posner, 2001), leadership skills could be acquired and learned through experience and education (Arendt & Gregoire, 2005; Tuleja & Greenhalg, 2008). Even though teaching leadership is considered as a difficult task, students can take the advantages of appreciating, negotiating and experiencing leadership skills. The ultimate goal of this trend in leadership education is that students will encounter the changing work environments. That is, in order to be effective in their future careers, students have to comprehend the essence of leadership: self-directed management, enabling others, and sensitivity to diverse sources of knowledge (Thompson, 2006). Therefore, models of leadership education attempting to integrate theory with experience are essential (Hartman, Conklin, & Smith, 2007).

A common criticism of many education systems today is that they, by scheme, produce "men and women all of one pattern, as if turned in a lathe" (Paul, Elder, & Bartell, 1997, p. 3). This way of knowledge delivery may not contribute to well-developed critical mindsets. However, for these desired mindsets to exist, critical thinking as a strategy of instruction requires students to be self-monitors and self-assessors. It is predicted that critical thinkers are more likely to become challenging performers of tasks requiring complex problem-solving skills; rather than passive recipients of crude knowledge (Mason, 2007). …