Student Leadership, Training, and Learning Outcomes

Higher education researchers have long understood the role involvement plays in supporting student success. Classic higher education theorists, including Astin, Tinto, Pascarella, Terenzini, and Kuh have cited involvement, peers, social cohesion, and student leadership development as positive influences in such areas as commitment, satisfaction, academic performance, retention, and completion. As such, ensuring our students engage in these experiences—and get the most out of them—is crucial.

To that end, this research note explores the relationship of leadership training to the broader student leadership experiences. Using a dataset of over 3,000 undergraduate student leaders from nearly 50 institutions, we explore the prevalence of training and the differences in learning between those students who do and do not receive leadership training.

Key Questions:

  1. How prevalent in leadership training amongst student organization leaders?
  2. What types of leadership training are most common?
  3. Is there a relationship between receiving leadership training and student organization learning outcomes?

Key Points:

  • More student leaders than not do not participate in leadership training related to their student organization leadership experience.
  • Training from within the organization—whether formal or informal—is most common.
  • Student leaders who participate in training are more likely to report learning from their experience compared to student leaders who do not receive training.

Training programs have a positive impact on student leadership by increasing teamwork, individuals’ knowledge about themselves, and by increasing confidence in their ability as a leader.

Prevalence of Student Leadership Training

Although students who responded to this survey were involved in leadership roles in their respective campus organizations, only 39% of respondents indicated that they participated in leadership training program for the organization they are a part of, as indicated in figure 1 on page 3.

Figure 2 on page 3 displays the breakdown of what types of training student leaders received. The most common were training sessions involving members of the organization, whether formal or informal. Approximately four out of ten student leaders indicated receiving both formal training from the organization or its advisor and informal training from previous leaders of the organization. Roughly one-third of student leaders received training from an off-campus conference or workshop and 27% received formal leadership training from the university.

To access all the data in this robust research note, just fill out the form to the right. Looking for more information on student leaders? Check out our research note “The Student Staff Experience and Intent to Return.”