Activity Guide

Student-centeredness is one of the Building Ranks dimensions and a focus of the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders 2015 (for more information, see Module 1, Activity 7). As such, professional development is a primary responsibility of every school principal. Building leadership capacity in students has a major impact on school improvement and, as research shows, on the social and academic skill development that each student needs for success in school and beyond. This activity presents three effective models of student leadership development. Study these models and identify goals and objectives that align with the ones at your school. Identify strategies that will be most effective in developing the leadership capacity of your students.


  • Stewart-Ruck, Jodie (2016). Advancing student leaders. Principal Leadership, 16(8), pp. 34–39. Retrieved from
  • Harmon, R. M., & Bartlett, J. C. (2016). Building student leaders: A case study from Knoxville.Principal Leadership, 16(9), pp. 44–47. Retrieved from
  • NASSP (2018). Student-centeredness, strategy 3: Intentionally providing opportunities for student voice and leadership … In Building ranks K–12: A comprehensive framework for effective school leaders (pp. 53–55). Reston, VA: Author.


Directions for Presentation Preparations

This is a jigsaw activity that requires each participant carefully read one article and note the goals, objectives, and strategies of the featured student leadership program. This is an excellent activity for use with leadership or administrative team(s) and/or steering or grade level team(s). Divide participants into three groups, assign a different reading to each group, and provide a link or distribute copies as needed. Allow enough time before the discussion for participants to read thoroughly and highlight pertinent information in the article. Encourage team members to annotate the text with questions or topics for discussion when the group convenes. Familiarity with the reading materials will support the discussion and aid in selecting strategies and actions that will work with the students in your school.

Directions for a Collaborative Staff Discussion

  • Divide the three groups into smaller discussion groups if the groups are large. This will allow for a more comprehensive discussion of the material.
  • Follow the Discussion Prompts for each subgroup discussion. Select a recorder for your group. Identify pertinent facts in the article and summarize the information.
  • Each small group should select another small group with the same reading for reflection and debriefing. Each group should summarize and verify the salient points of the article and their answers to the discussion prompts above and agree on a complete written account of the discussion.
  • The next activity is a discussion designed for groups reading different Each group should summarize article facts and responses to the Discussion Prompts above.
  • In the “different” articles group, focus your rationale and productive discussion on the goals, strategies, and student outcomes from the article that each group sees as a potential for student leadership initiatives for your school. Select a recorder and continue the conversation so that additional student leadership strategies and outcomes can be identified for implementation at your school.
  • Repeat this process so that each group has an opportunity to be exposed to each of the three articles.
  • Have each pair of small groups submit its written student leadership goals, strategies, student outcomes, and events that have the potential to be effective initiatives if implemented.

Extend and Apply

  • Appoint a representative group from among the participants to familiarize itself with the Discussion Guide Planning Templates.
  • Review the steps and additional actions and the reflections in Building Ranks on intentionally providing opportunities for student voice and leadership (p. 55). What new thinking might these inspire in your team?
  • Next, review the discussion summaries submitted by each small group. Consider the student leadership program goals, strategies, activities, and outcomes noted by the discussion summaries that might be effective initiatives if implemented at your school. Identify those leadership goals that are aligned with your school goals and that might be implemented in your student program this year.
  • Follow the planning templates and gather school data, identify school personnel, provide training, set goals, and monitor initiative outcomes. Complete an action plan to implement additional student leadership initiatives at your school, identifying those student groups that will be targeted.
  • Submit your plan to the administration and the faculty for input and implementation decisions.