Nurturing Holistic Development in University Students Through Leadership Courses: The Hong Kong Experience

Daniel T. L. SHEK*, Xiaoqin ZHU, Diya DOU, Moon Y. M. LAW, Lu YU, Cecilia M. S. MA, Li LIN

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Book Chapters | Papers in Conference ProceedingsBook ChapterResearchpeer-review


Research studies show that there are developmental issues amongst contemporary university students, including worsening mental health conditions such as rising depression and suicidal rates. There is a rising trend in adolescent egocentrism. Besides, empathy and sense of social responsibility amongst university students have declined in the past decades. With particular reference to Hong Kong, morbid emphasis on academic excellence is a defining feature of Chinese socialization. As such, there is an urgent need to consider how holistic development and quality of life of university students can be promoted, particularly through credit-bearing subjects.

To promote holistic development and quality of life in undergraduate students, two credit-bearing leadership subjects were developed at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU). The first subject is entitled “Tomorrow’s Leaders”. Based on the positive youth development (PYD) approach, it is argued that effective leaders should possess intrapersonal competence (such as resilience, moral competence, emotional competence, and spirituality) and interpersonal skills (such as conflict resolution and team building skills). The second subject is entitled “Service Leadership”. With the emergence of service economies, it is argued that everybody is a leader and effective service leaders should possess 3Cs – competence, character, and care.

To understand whether these two subjects did promote the leadership qualities and well-being of the students, multiple evaluation studies were carried out. These included objective outcome evaluation (pretest-posttest differences), subjective outcome evaluation, and qualitative evaluation using focus groups and reflection forms. For “Tomorrow’s Leaders”, evaluation findings suggest that the subject can promote PYD attributes in the students who had taken the subject. For “Service Leadership”, evaluation research based on different approaches suggests that the subject is able to promote leadership competence, character, and caring dispositions in the students.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTeaching Quality of Life in Different Domains
EditorsGraciela H. TONON
PublisherSpringer, Cham
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9783030215538
ISBN (Print)9783030215507
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameSocial Indicators Research Series
ISSN (Print)1387-6570
ISSN (Electronic)2215-0099


  • Leadership
  • Well-being
  • Service leadership
  • Evaluation
  • Holistic youth development


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