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Leadership Program Assessment and Evaluation: Coming to a Theater Near You


accrediting bodies within the leadership discipline does not preclude leadership programs from accreditation reviews— whether regional or institutional—among our colleges, departments, or programs. Thus, it is imperative that each program has an assessment plan and that leadership educators know what resources are available for this important, and often requisite, work.

Unprecedented growth in this field has created a challenge that—while old news to seasoned academics and their respective deans and chairs in our oldest disciplines—is new to many leadership educators, program directors, and department chairs. This is the challenge of assessment and evaluation. While some standards and guidelines exist (e.g., Student Leadership Programs Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS) Guidelines, International Leadership Association (ILA) Guiding Questions: Guidelines for Leadership Education Programs) these resources are in no way accrediting documents, nor do they pretend to be. Yet, the absence of

The primary purpose of this paper is to call leadership educators to intentionally engage in a conversation regarding how we ensure participants of our programs are learning what we hope they learn. To achieve this principal aim, this paper will (a) briefly examine pressures compelling our discipline to engage in intentional conversations regarding assessment and (b) provide an overview of ways and means of assessment activities. (p. 1)


At many institutions, curricular and co-curricular leadership programs are the new game in town. These leadership programs range from student to academic affairs and today nearly 2,000 such programs in the form of advanced professional, doctorate, and graduate degrees to major, minor, or certificate programs persist (Brungardt, Greenleaf, Brungardt, & Arensdorf, 2006; ILA, 2013). Yet, as a chiefly academic field of study, Leadership Studies is still in its infancy (Hackman, Olive, Guzman, & Brunson, 1999). The first degree-granting leadership programs were initiated in the early 1990s while the majority came to be in just the last decade.

Formative leadership program assessment is as infant as the discipline. To illustrate this, Goertzen (2009) called to attention Journal of Leadership Education readers in the following abstract:

Unfortunately, Goertzen’s call often goes unnoticed—until needed. Academic leadership programs were often sprouted from co-curricular programs or developed at an institution as a result of one administrator’s particular interests. In many of

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