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Developing leadership skills in performing arts graduates: A case study of an extracurricular community project
chapterposted on 25.10.2019, 00:00 by Judith BrownJudith Brown
While the skill of leadership is emerging as an important graduate attribute for higher education (HE) graduates, finding ways to embed this learning within the often crowded HE performing arts curriculum requires some degree of creativity and innovation on the behalf of faculty. This chapter reports on a case study of an extra-curricular community project as an incubator for the development of student leaders within a performing arts faculty of an Australian university. Sitting outside of the regular curriculum, the project is a unique partnership between tertiary performing arts students, university faculty, government partners and community leaders that uses the performing arts as a framework to deliver safety messages to school students in their final year of schooling before they attend post-graduation “Schoolies” celebrations at Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays region of Queensland. With a track record spanning seventeen years and a clear community mandate for its continuation, the project has been recognised nationally and internationally with evidence demonstrating that it changes the lives of young people during their Schoolies celebrations (Quek et al., 2012). Using a case study methodology, past student leaders of this project who have since graduated from the university, were asked to reflect on their experiences as emerging leaders within the project to answer the central research question: What are the key factors in the design of the extra-curricular community project that facilitate the development of leadership skills? The analysis of their responses identified four consistent themes: the value of mentorship for emerging student leaders; the positive benefits to personal confidence and self esteem through participation in the project as a leader; the acquisition of generic skills relating to leadership and the application of these in later work opportunities; and the progression from student to professional resulting in a greater awareness of self and the possibilities for career development. The analysis suggests that this type of community performing arts project provides increased opportunities for the acquisition of leadership skills among student leaders and posits ideas for future research to enhance curriculum development in this field.