Using Social Media in the Classroom to Engage Learners in Developing as Leaders: The Personal Leadership Experiment Academic Article uri icon


  • While often used interchangeably, leadership development and leadership education are distinct, yet highly related, endeavors (Brungardt, 1996). Leadership development is grounded in the idea of capacity development the capacity of individuals to more effectively contribute to leadership processes, to develop cognitive complexity and adaptability, and to develop the social capital to enhance cooperation and resource exchange (Day, 2001, p. 585). Leadership development is used to describe the continuous progress of improvement that occurs over the course of a lifetime; thus, it is a long-term investment. Included under the umbrella of leadership development is the subset of leadership education. Leadership education focuses on the educational activities and environments intentionally designed to influence an individuals development as a leader (Brungardt, 1996). Bridging potential gaps between development, lifelong learning, and education through instruction in the classroom can be a challenge. Leadership educators may attempt to promote the leadership development of their students, but in a traditional fifteen-week course, there is not enough time to dedicate to the practice of leader competency development and still cover the assigned curriculum (Hartman, Allen, & Miguel, 2015). Additionally, many leader competencies require more than fifteen weeks to develop proficiency, thereby making the time our students spend in our courses developing their leader competencies that much more valuable. As those tasked with teaching leadership, we have the responsibility to help our students shift their mentality toward learning from just for this course to the broader perspective of lifelong learning. It is one thing to know strategies and behaviors for being an effective leader, but another to put those strategies and behaviors into practice in real time. Therefore, a short-term personal leadership experiment assignment is included in our leadership education courses, where students are asked to identify a particular leader behavior to intentionally practice, pre-flect on their experience, and reflect on their practice. Through the use of social media, this assignment attempts to make learning relevant, practical, and effective. In this application brief we provide the content and context for the assignment, discuss outcomes and implications of the assignment, and explore potential adaptations to the assignment that could prove useful in the continued development of principle-driven leaders across contexts.

published proceedings

  • Journal of Leadership Education

author list (cited authors)

  • Odom, S. F., Dunn, A. L., & Owen, J. E.

complete list of authors

  • Odom, Summer F||Dunn, Allison L||Owen, Julie E

publication date

  • January 2019