Leadership Development in Technology Education

Leadership Development in Technology Education

Mohammed Lahkim, Anrieta Draganova
DOI: 10.4018/ijqaete.2012010107
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This research aims to create a methodology for the integration of leadership development in teaching Information Technology (IT) courses by using the Problem Based Learning method (PBL). The research objective was pursued through a review of important current and future leadership skills that IT students need to develop in order to meet IT job market challenges. A conceptual leadership model was developed. This research then investigated the alignment of this conceptual model with the skills requirements of the IT job market and the impact of employing the PBL approach. This study used a quantitative method of survey that was completed by undergraduate students enrolled in an IT web development course. Findings indicated that the use of PBL is an integral part of the process of daily leadership development in teaching IT courses. Students’ perceptions were studied and positive views were recorded.
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Until recently, many IT academic programs have been focused on hard skills (e.g., programming, networking, decision support), while employers have been looking for new graduates with management skills and soft leadership skills. Market studies have indicated that there is a growing gap between required skills for new IT professionals (e.g., negotiation, collaboration, influencing) and those taught by academic institutions (Cappel, 2001; Reich & Nelson, 2003; Tang et al., 2001). Understanding this gap is essential for any curriculum development.

In the academic literature, it is proven that new IT graduates who enter the workforce are expected to have strong technical, management, and leadership skills (Abraham et al., 2006; Benamati & Mahaney, 2007; Zwieg et al., 2006). This has even led some IT education specialists to suggest that IT professionals should not be referred to as specialists or generalists but as versatilists (Koohang et al., 2010).

In response to job market requirements, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the Association for Information Systems (AIS) have emphasized soft skills in their recent curriculum guidelines for undergraduate degree programs. The fundamental knowledge and skills of these guidelines are (Topi et al., 2010):

  • Leadership and collaboration,

  • Communication,

  • Negotiation,

  • Analytical and critical thinking, including creativity and ethical analysis, and

  • Mathematical foundations.

The objectives of this paper are to i) present a conceptual leadership model that is consistent with the requirements of the IT job market, ii) present a methodology to integrate leadership development within the teaching of IT subjects by using the PBL approach and to iii) assess the impact on students’ leadership development using a student survey.

In practice, there is no generally accepted distinction between Information Technology (IT) and Information Systems (IS) required skills. Therefore, these two terms will be used interchangeably in this paper.


Leadership Skills Required By The Job Market

Most of the research in IS in the last century focused on identifying the technical skills required for improving the performance of IS professionals (Bassellier et al., 2001). During the last decade, research in IT education was focused on the importance of leadership soft skills as the most important skills needed by new IT professionals. A recent study indicated that seven of the top ten skills required for entry IT positions are soft in nature (Merhout et al., 2009). This shift in job requirements is mainly due to shifting industry patterns, greater competition, outsourcing, and globalization (Lee & Lee, 2006). Traditional hard skills (like programming) can be cheaply afforded through outsourcing given the changes in the global economy, while the emerging skills required in the market are soft in nature. They are hard to develop over a short timeframe and require a lot more effort and work from students and educators alike.

In the IT literature, there is no consensus on one set of leadership skills that need to be developed by students, but the most frequently mentioned in the last decade are presented in Appendix A.

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