Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Steven A. Gelb, PhD, Chair; Cheryl A. Getz, EdD, Member; William R. Torbert, PhD, Member


Action Research process, collaboration, Community of inquiry, higher education, Leadership studies, Participatory-inquiry based pedagogy, undergraduate classroom, students


This project contributes to the literature on action research and undergraduate pedagogy for leadership development through application and expansion of existing theory on collaborative ways of teaching and learning. I applied a participatory, inquiry-based approach to teaching an undergraduate course in leadership studies over four semesters using the action research process of recursively asking and answering living questions in real time about teaching and learning with students' participating as co-researchers. Reflection on my initial, mostly traditional teaching strategies generated questions about the students' detachment from and resistance to exercising leadership, as well as the challenge of aligning my deepest values with my teaching. I invited subsequent cohorts to be co-investigators of these questions with me, guided by Torbert's method of action inquiry. I collected first-, second-, and third-person data from journals, course assignments, field notes, personal correspondence, discussion notes, interviews, collaborative writing, electronic discussion threads, and student course evaluations. The recursive action inquiry process led me to enact an increasingly experimental and emancipatory pedagogy which enabled the students to recognize the inertial passivity that restricted their capacity for agency, the experiences that had conditioned them in that way, and to acknowledge and act upon their responsibility for their own learning and exercise of leadership. At the same time I learned that my passion for liberating my students in this way paralleled and has been sustained by my ongoing, and unfinished struggle for my own emancipation from similar conditioning. Initially, I intended to contribute specifically to the improvement of pedagogy for undergraduate student leadership development; however, my findings have broader applicability. My narrative of the students', my dissertation committee's, and my struggles toward increasingly participatory and democratic forms of working in groups has larger application for those seeking to collaboratively transform their own groups and organizations with integrity, mutuality, and sustainability.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies