Important Points to Consider
Research and measurement on student leadership outcomes is constantly evolving. Many of the instruments available in this library include self-report surveys, where students self-assess their own levels of leadership. When interpreting data on student leadership outcomes, and in particular for self-reported surveys, there are common phenomenon that can occur such as:
- Reference bias: When students become more familiar with student leadership constructs, they become increasingly likely to rate themselves more judicially which may lead to lower self-reported evaluations over time. Watch this video of Dr. Angela Duckworth and Dr. David Yaeger who discuss this phenomenon and many others.
- Developmental effects on student leadership: Some research show that student social and emotional skills do not exhibit uniform growth as they develop from childhood to adolescence and into puberty, much unlike academic/cognitive ability. (West et al., 2018; OECD, 2021)
Awareness of these phenomena can support you in how to interpret this data. Additional considerations are provided for specific tools in the library.
Given that rating scales are very common, both in this library and in educational measurement more broadly, it is worth noting the measurement issues when using these types of instruments. Because rating scales are often used for self-reports, subjectivity can be an issue. Self reports are especially prone to the following main biases:
- Social desirability: This is the tendency for people to answer in a way that they are shown to be more desirable or to conform to social norms
- Acquiescence: This is the tendency to agree when unsure, especially among respondents who are eager to please or are likely to be obedient (such as children).
- Central tendency: This is the tendency to avoid the extreme responses (e.g., Strongly agree/disagree). Related to the social desirability bias, this often results in underestimating the actual prevalence of strong views.