Developing Digital Student Leaders : A mixed methods dissertation study of student leadership,...


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The purpose of my dissertation research is to explore: -Experiences of student leaders use of social media. -Meaning made of digital technologies in student leaders college experience. -Explore identity meaning making, digital decisions and online leadership behavior. Goal: Provide evidence and direction in what works in developing digital student leaders, both for student affairs administrators, leadership educators, as well as student leaders themselves.


Developing Digital Student Leaders - A Mixed Methods Study of Student Leadership, Identity and Decision Making on Social Media

Josie Ahlquist

California Lutheran University

Dissertation Proposal Defense

April 15th 2014

Developing Digital Student LeadersA mixed methods study of student leadership, identity and decision making on social media

Identity: Laboratory of exploration


College Student Leaders

High Users

+/- Impact of Social Media Use

Student Identity Development

Current Leadership Theories

Little or no education on digital technologies

Privacy in Digital Global Environment

Career Bound

Purpose of the Study

Experiences of student leaders use of social media.

Meaning made of digital technologies in their college experience.

Explore identity meaning making, digital decisions and online leadership behavior.

Provide evidence and direction in what works in developing digital student leaders, both for student affairs administrators, leadership educators, as well as student leaders themselves.

What role does social media play in the identity and experiences of college student leaders?

What patterns of behavior exist for social media activity of college student leaders in how leadership, identity and decision-making are portrayed online?

Do the self-reported experiences of college student leaders represent their actual behavior as documented on social media?

What is a #DigitalStudentLeader ?Research Questions


State of Social Media Use by Teens & Young Adults

90-99% of college students use

At minimum 30 minutes per day (Pempek, Yermolayeva & Calvert, 2009), and climbing up to two hours (Junco, 2012)

Differences between men & women usage (Ahn, 2011)

Average 300 Facebook friends (Mangao, Taylor & Greenfield, 2012)

Freshman more active than seniors

Using self-presentation/performance tools (Chen & Marcus, 2012; Birnbaum, 2013)

On most social media platforms, teens and college-aged users are #1 active participants


Josie Ahlquist (JA) - Add citations



(+) Expressing true self

(+) Building social capital

(+) Increased self-esteem

(+) Transition to college

(+) Academic success

(+) Student engagement

(+) Campus involvement

(-) Increased stress

(-) Study disruptions

(-) Grade attainment

(-) Class attentiveness

(-) Cyberbullying

(-) Internet addiction

(-) Poor digital decisions

Literature Review: Impact of Social Media

(DeAndra et al., 2012), (Ellison, Steinfield & Lampe, 2007), (Junco, Elavsky & Heiberger, 2012), (Gray, Vitak, Easton & Ellison, 2013) (Gonales & Hancock, 2011) & (Pempek et al., 2009)

(Adams & Lawrence, 2011), (Gemmill & Peterson, 2006), (Jacobsen & Forste, 2011), (Kim & Davis, 2002), (Kirschner & Karpinski, 2010) (Lifer et al., 2010)& (Yang & Brown, 2013)

Literature Review: Digital Realities

Literacies (Ng, 2012)

Identity (Goode, 2010)

Citizenship (Greenhow & Robelia, 2009)

Leadership (Lewis & Rush, 2013)


Theory + Practice = Digital & Leadership Research Framework

Josie Ahlquist (JA) - Re-Image Design

Relational Leadership

Digital Citizenship

Identity Development

Social Change Model

Student Development Theory

Digital Literacies

Digital Leadership


In-Person & Online

(Social Change Model)

Safely & Strategically Exploring Identity Digitally

Collaborative Partners (Relational Leadership)

Social Media Social Change Agents

Developing Digital Leadership Competencies

Mixed Methods Research

Sequential Exploratory Design

Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011

Tashakkori & Teddlie 1998; 2009

Sequenced Phases


Pragmatic Worldview

Tells Complete Student Leader Social Media Story

Green, Caracelli and Graham (1989) five purposes of Mixed Methods


complementary (examining phenomenon)

initiation (discovering perspectives),

development (sequential methods from one to the next)

expansion (adding scope)







Research Participants

Two Southern California universities

30 Student Leaders

Purposeful & Theoretical Sampling


Juniors & Seniors

One year in leadership-related role

Good standing in position

On at least two social media platforms

Same 30 Participants = Focus Groups + Survey Research + Digital Social Media Analysis

Student Leader is defined as a college student whom is involved in a traditional student leader role for which they were selected, nominated, hired or elected.


Phase I

Qualitative Collection of Focus Groups

Qualitative Analysis


Phase II

Qualitative Collection of Social Media

Grounded Theory Analysis

Development of Rubric

Quantitative Analysis

Phase III

Mixed Methods Analysis

Focus Groups





Phase I: Focus Groups & Survey Research

Nominations from Student Affairs Administrators from two Southern California universities

4-6 Focus Groups: 90 Minutes

At minimum 30 participants

Social Media Usage and Self Assessment Survey to capture activity and self reported data


Student Nominations

Focus Groups

Social Media Usage & Self Assessment Survey

Qualitative Analysis

Phase II: Rubric Development & Social Media Activity

Quantizing Data

Defined by Teddlie and Tashakkori (2009) as the process of converting qualitative data into numbers that can be statistically analyzed (p. 27).


10-20% of Social Media Activity

Qualitative Grounded Theory Analysis

Social Media Rubric

Develop Instrument

Quantitize Social Media Activity

Quantitative Analysis

Social Media Rubric

Focus Group Analysis

Social Media Survey

Grounded Theory Analysis

Student Development Theory

Digital Citizenship & Literacies

Leadership Theory (Social Change Model)

Phase III: Social Media Analysis


Phase III Analysis

Phase I Results

Phase II Results

Graphic or matrix displays are a way of getting the trees located in the forest in such a way as to see not only what the forest looks like, but also how it would look like if the trees were moved around

Huberman & Miles (1989, p. 286)

Cross-Site Analysis

Within Study

Explore how college student leaders use social media

Define college student digital leadership through self reported and actual behavior

Discover how identity is played out on social media for student leaders

Use student experience to teach new/future college students about social media

Integration of social media as positive devices in student leadership practices

Development of student leader competencies for leadership programs

Long Term


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