Theory. Research. Practice. Since the Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership (MSL) was first administered during the spring of 2006, these three concepts have remained key to the success and growth of the study. Since that initial data collection, the MSL has been conducted annually in 2009, 2010, and 2011. With nearly 200 schools having participated and hundreds of thousands of respondents overall, the MSL has collected the single largest research dataset documenting student leadership development in higher education.
With this solid base, the MSL research advisory board has committed to a new strategic plan for the future of this study. This plan has been in the works over the past 12 months, and has been developed using feedback from past and current participating institutions as well as research team members, and members of the scientific community at large.
Beginning with the MSL 2012, each year will be designated as a year of “Theory,” “Research,” or “Practice.” This cycle will begin with 2012 as the fist MSL Research year. The goal of each year will be as follows:
MSL Research Years (2012/2015/2018): Research years will serve as the data collection years. Research will include data collection using the primary MSL survey instrument, but may also include other forms, such as experimental modules, new data collection methodologies, and other related inquiries. Research will always be based on a foundation of theory and collected in a manner that will allow for consistent application to practice.
MSL Practice Years (2013/2016/2019): Practice years will emphasize the practical application of the research data and analyses. This will include interpretation of the research results, at a national or local level, and transitioning those results into practice wherever possible. While no new data collections will take place in Practice Years, the MSL will support the scientific community and participating schools with assistance in turning the results into something productive for each cause.
MSL Theory Years (2014/2017/2020): Theory years are where the science hits the pavement and continues the work of the Practice year by putting what is learned back into the growing theoretical body of knowledge. While no data collection is undertaken during a Theory year, the study takes an opportunity to cycle back to the questionnaire and research design, and consider enhancements/changes that may further the cycle as a whole.
Given this strategic direction, the MSL wants to make it very clear that the MSL 2012 will be the last annual data collection. Following the MSL 2012, the next data collection will not take place until the MSL 2015.