Academic journal article Journal of Catholic Education

Catholic School Principals: Promoting Student Leadership

Academic journal article Journal of Catholic Education

Catholic School Principals: Promoting Student Leadership

Article excerpt

Developing the leadership potential of young people is vital. Society will always require leaders who are ethical, collaborative, transformative, and have a strong sense of service. Secondary schools are in a unique position to influence the leadership development of adolescents. Such influence comes in the shape of offering formal and informal opportunities for leadership, specific training in leadership, and adult mentors to accompany adolescents on their leadership journeys. Catholic secondary schools, moreover, can draw upon a rich tradition of Gospel values exemplified in the person of Jesus to inform their efforts to develop student leadership. This article explores the notion of student leadership through the eyes of eight principals of Catholic secondary schools in Western Australia. Specifically, the article examines what each of these eight school leaders understands as the most appropriate model of leadership in Catholic schools, the ways each considers student leadership can be fostered and implemented, and what each believes to be the role of the principal in enhancing student leadership and student leadership development

Underpinning this research is a belief that school principals play a dynamic role as catalysts for developing student leadership (Lavery & Hine, 2012). By virtue of their status, school principals are in a preeminent position to influence the vision of student leadership and leadership development exercised in their schools. They ultimately decide what human and financial resources will be allocated to student leadership. They--through their words and actions--model leadership behavior for students (and staff). Moreover, they--by their level of involvement--indicate to the school community the degree to which student leadership is valuable and worthwhile. In such ways, school principals--perhaps more than anyone else--affect the culture of student leadership in the school (Lavery & Hine, 2012).

Conceptual Framework

Four theoretical constructs form the conceptual framework underpinning this research into the role of the Catholic secondary school principal in student leadership development and formation. These theoretical constructs are Christian leadership within Catholic schools, the notion of student leadership per se, the development of student leadership in schools, and the role of the school principal in fostering student leadership. First, the literature on Christian leadership and its meaning for Catholic schools furnishes a rationale on which to base the position of the Catholic secondary school principal in student leadership development. This literature includes a review of leadership within the New Testament, pertinent Church documents, and insights from prominent Christian writers. Collectively, these sources represent a leadership approach recommended for leaders within Catholic schools. Second, material specifically focused on student leadership offers some insight regarding the foci of school-based student leadership, as well as the roles, responsibilities, and expectations for student leaders themselves. The third construct concentrates on student leadership development, and how leadership development is engendered through student involvement in leadership programs. This construct is explored with regard to current trends in research, benefits of participation in leadership programs, and the increasing popularity of service-learning as an approach to leadership development. Fourth, literature on the role of the school principal regarding student leadership and student leadership development is presented. Attention is given to the approaches principals use to promote, develop, and sustain student leadership activities within schools.

Christian Leadership in Catholic Schools

Christian leadership draws its inspiration from the life, teachings, and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. The approach to leadership exemplified by Jesus is one of service (Adair, 2001; Agosto, 2005; Blanchard & Hughes, 2005). …

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