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Dissertation Abstract

Leadership Development: Student-Specific Characteristics as Predictors of Retention and Attrition in an Online Doctoral Leadership Program

Doris Gomez
Regent University

Institutions of higher education as well as corporations are investing heavily in the advancement of leadership programs aimed toward improving leadership skills and developing future leaders and leadership scholars. Furthermore, distance education leadership programs become increasingly more popular choices for adult learners. In light of these efforts and money spent on leadership development programs, the question arises as to who is most likely to succeed and persist in such programs. The population for this study derived from a convenience sample of doctoral students, enrolled in an online program in leadership studies. Based on existing research suggesting that analyzes of readily available student data specific to a particular university and program can be a valid predictor for student persistence and retention, this study used secondary analysis from data already collected by the institution. The dissertation examined the influence of learner characteristics and personality preferences on persistence in an online doctoral leadership program. Scores from the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the Leadership Practices Inventory, as well as Application Summary Scores, Master's level GPA, and gender were analyzed in relation to persistence. While critical thinking skills and psychological type may contribute to an individual's academic performance and decision to continue or drop-out, the findings of this study highlighted the central role of the effective leadership behavior of Modeling the Way. Modeling the Way emerged as the single most significant predictor of persistence and success in the online doctoral leadership program. Master's level GPA showed no statistical significance. Application summary scores were negatively related to a student's desire and willingness to persist to degree completion. The findings of this study could prove to be critical for future strategic planning, recruitment and retention processes. Results of this study could also be applied to the larger sector of non-academic online leadership training and development.