Student Leadership Excellence through Action Learning

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” – Jack Welch

Western Local Schools implements Student Leadership Excellence with Action Learning

Student Leadership Excellence Certificate

About the program: In addition to a specific skill set, employers are also searching for applicants that bring with them leadership and problem-solving skills. The focus of the Student Leadership Excellence Certificate is to provide participants experiences with a proven structure for breakthrough problem-solving while developing leadership skills at the individual, team, and organizational levels.

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) understands the need to develop a well trained workforce and has provided high school students the opportunity to earn points toward high school graduation while earning Industry Recognized Credentials. The Student Leadership Excellence Certificate program was developed to meet the need of our younger workforce. 

Successful  participants in the program will be referred to as an Action Learning Student Practitioner. Recipients will have honed many of the skills entailed in Strand One of all Ohio Career Field Technical Content Standards and Strand Three of the Business and Administrative Services, Finance and Marketing career field.  Additionally, recipients will be addressing “soft skills” referred to in the US Department of Commerce Foundation’s report, Bridging the Soft Skills Gap.


  1. To teach local high school faculty and students high quality, research-based leadership skills.
  2. To provide a deliverable format for staff members to be certified trainers that can teach these leadership skills to the student body with a partnership program between Action Learning Solutions and Ohio high schools.
  3. To provide alternative pathway points for high school students toward graduation in the State of Ohio (in the form of Industry Recognized Credentials).
4 Step Process to Certifying your Students *Program can be tailored based on needs of each client.

Overview of the Program

This three-part process to certifying your students starts with training selected staff (teachers, counselors and/or administrators) that would like to deliver the Student Leadership Excellence Program to students. Once identified, they will receive a Student Leadership Practices Inventory (self assessment tool) and will fill this out similar to the way their students will. Next, this group will participate in the Student Leadership Excellence Train-the-Trainer program. This varies based on the design of class time. Typically, it will be a one-day training. Note: This program can be offered virtually.

Once requirements are met, your newly certified trainers will teach the Student Leadership Excellence program to selected high school students. They design the schedule to facilitate this program as they see fit as long as all requirements are met. Additionally, trainers will be given resources for a final exam, students’ practicum, and students’ final presentation.

When students have met all requirements, teachers may submit names to Action Learning Solutions, and certificates will be issued.

Why this program?

  1. School districts will learn skills to help improve operations and equip students with the same, in-demand skillset.
  2. This program frames the leadership around more than 30 years research conducted by Kouzes and Posner’s Leadership Challenge and integrates it with the World Institute for Action Learning’s problem- solving process called Action Learning.
  3. This program has been approved by the Ohio Department of Education to provide Ohio high school students with 3 alternative pathway points toward graduation in the form of Industry Recognized Credentials.

What is Action Learning?

Action learning is a dynamic process for solving-problems, building teams, and developing leaders. It consists of six components:  1) the problem to be solved, 2) a working group of four to six people, 3) a process that encourages questioning and listening,  4) a resolution to take action, 5) a commitment to learning, and 6) an action learning coach.


Our particular program relates specifically to the action learning model provided by the World Institute of Action Learning and is outlined in the book, Optimizing the Power of Action Learning: Real-Time Strategies for Developing Leaders, Building Teams and Transforming Organizations 3rd ed. Edition  (Marquardt, et al., 2018) and concepts are expanded up in Leading with Questions: How Leaders Find the Right Solutions by Knowing What to Ask, 2nd Edition (Marquardt, 2014).

What is Leadership?

Students will learn how to embed the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® into strategies for success. These practices identified by Kouzes and Posner through research provide the framework and specificity to enhance Action Learning.

  • Model the Way
  • Inspire a Shared Vision
  • Challenge the Process
  • Enable Others to Act
  • Encourage the Heart


The Leadership Challenge is based on over 30 years of research by James Kouzes and Barry Posner and is currently in its 6th edition text. It outlines the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® and the authors identify Ten Commitments associated with those practices. The aligned book, The Student Leadership Challenge (in its 3rd edition) provides the same framework for young leaders but in a context that is more relatable to this age cohort.

How will the Student Leadership Excellence program benefit your students?

  • Honor and prioritize time for deep reflection
  • Develop critical problem-solving and leadership skills while revealing solutions to complex dilemmas (i.e. creative solutions)
  • Relationship Skills: Build trust between peers and change school culture by fostering equity (e.g. Conflict resolution)
  • Teamwork & Collaboration: Gives a voice to all students through respect and recognition of peer perspectives
  • Interpersonal Communication: Reduce isolation of students/teachers/admin in a digital world while providing an opportunity for inclusivity among peers
  • Model and build 21st century skills through a “bottom up” approach to problem solving
  • Empower students and build confidence in students by emphasizing they already have the “tools” to solve many problems
  • Inspires a call to action for positive change.

How does this look?

This program is designed to maximize the flexibility afforded to the instructors who get trained. We will train your teacher or team of teachers on the program, and they will facilitate the program for their students. We’ve intentionally included extra resources (see below) that may utilized depending on how you would like the program designed for your school. It could be carried out in a retreat-style fashion, incorporated into an existing leadership course, or implemented over a period of time in extended advisory bells.

  • First
    • Have your teacher(s) trained in the Student Leadership Excellence with Action Learning program and become a Student Leadership Excellence- Instructor. This training can be carried out in one day. It can be offered in person or online.
  • Second
    • Decide for your school/district how you would like to carry out the program. This could be incorporated into an existing course or carried out as a special event.
    • As noted above, extra resources to be used (as optional) include a written test, guidelines for a practicum, guidelines for a presentation (with a rubric).
  • Third
    • Deliver the program to your students in the manner you see fit.
  • Fourth
    • Within a month, a credential is provided for every student that successfully completed the requirements for the Action Learning Student Leadership Certificate
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