This study analyzes how adolescent Upper School girls at one, well established, selective girls’ school in the Northeast conceptualize and experience leadership. Data were collected from semi-structured student interviews, a focus group, and samples of classwork from 87 students. These were content analyzed, and then used to formulate a more nuanced and modern understanding of how girls define leadership, what their leadership experiences have been like, and how they perceive the forces that shape their leadership beliefs. Findings will be used to inform the school’s expanding leadership curriculum and programming. The results also shed light on how schools can create single-sex and co-ed classroom environments in which girls thrive.
The school has been teaching girls to be leaders since before women had the right to vote, but that work has historically been based on the adults’ notions of leadership. This study asked girls directly what leadership means to them, providing critical insight to educators who want to further girls’ leadership capacities. The study is an attempt to ask students, as Carol Gilligan describes, real questions about their relationship with leadership and elicit authentic answers (Maxwell, 2013). How do girls understand the relationship between leadership and friendship? How do students navigate leadership in a gender-biased world? What is the range and variation among the girls’ definitions, experiences, and conceptualizations?
Using leadership theory, women’s changing experiences of leadership, female adolescent identity formation, and girls’ understandings of leadership as conceptual frames, this study responds to a lack of research on girls’ conceptualizations and experiences of leadership. It seeks to honor the wisdom of the young, female participants in a way that will positively influence them, inform the work of all teachers of young women, and help shape the growing leadership program at the school.
|Advisor:||Kuriloff, Peter J.|
|Commitee:||Reisman, Abby, Windsor, Katherine G.|
|School:||University of Pennsylvania|
|School Location:||United States -- Pennsylvania|
|Source:||DAI-A 79/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Educational leadership, Gender studies|
|Keywords:||Female voice, Girls' leadership, Leadership education, Student voice|
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