An adapted version of Astin’s (1993) “input-environment-outcome” (I-E-O) college impact model provides the conceptual framework for MSL. The model holds that pre-college inputs and elements of the college environment interact to produce a range of outcomes (students’ characteristics after exposure to college).
The model is adapted in three ways. First, the environment is extended to include variables representing experiences outside the college context. Second, intermediate outcomes (e.g., efficacy, social perspective-taking, resiliency) known to be influenced by the college environment and, in turn, influences outcomes were included.
Third, the I-E-O format has been adapted to fit MSL’s cross-sectional design. The study collects data at a single point with pre-college data collected through retrospective questions. Students are asked to think back to before they started college to capture these data points. This approach is supported by prior research on studies in which respondents self-reported leadership outcomes. Cross-sectional designs reduced response-shift-bias — the tendency of students to over-estimate their leadership capacities before they start college. Retrospective questions are therefore an accurate indication of student gains (Howard, 1980; Rohs, 2002; Rohs & Langone, 1997).