Title page for ETD etd-06262012-175711

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Priest, Kerry Louise
Author's Email Address kpriest@vt.edu
URN etd-06262012-175711
Title Constructing Leadership Identities through Participation in a Leadership Living-Learning Community
Degree PhD
Department Agricultural and Extension Education
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Rudd, Rick D. Committee Chair
Dahm, Kristine C. Committee Member
Niewolny, Kimberly L. Committee Member
Wildman, Terry M. Committee Member
  • peer leadership
  • communities of practice
  • higher education
  • leadership
  • leadership education
  • leadership identity
  • living-learning communities
Date of Defense 2012-06-19
Availability unrestricted
This case study conceptually illustrated how a leadership living-learning community provided an educational context well suited to enhance development of leaders within changing leadership and educational paradigms. Specifically, it highlighted how both leadership and learning have come to be viewed as sociocultural processes, and presented theoretical and applied descriptions of “communities of practice” and the identity formation process of “legitimate peripheral participation” (Lave & Wenger, 1991). The unit of analysis for this case study was a first-year, leadership-themed living-learning community at a four-year, land grant university in the Eastern United States. The purpose of the study was to explore how college students constructed leadership identities as they moved from first year members to second year peer leaders in the living-learning community.

Nine sophomore students serving in peer leader roles and four faculty members serving as program instructors were the primary study participants. In-depth qualitative interviews with students and faculty, analysis of key program documents and students’ written assignments, and a confirmatory student focus group contributed to the creation of eight primary themes and one overarching theme describing how students constructed leadership identities through community participation.

The eight themes included access to experiences of membership, meanings of the first-year experience, beliefs about leadership, peer leader roles and practices, knowing in practice, meanings of multi-membership, and embodiment of the program mission. The overarching theme illustrated how peer leaders embody the mission-oriented program design as they move through−and ultimately out of−the community. Students’ representations of their beliefs and practices enacted through community leadership roles emphasized college success strategies, foundational leadership knowledge and skill development, and preparation for future leadership roles. The findings of this study provided insight for educators who desire to design programs that foster college student leadership development. The findings revealed social and cultural implications related to higher education's call to enhance students' leadership capacity. There is a need to further explore leadership identity formation within other contexts, as well as the long-term impact of learning community experience on students’ representations of leadership identity.

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