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The academic performance of high school students always constitute a major source of concern for educational practitioners as a result, any factor that could potentially improve this performance is worth considering (Everson and Roger, 2005). The importance of high school education derives from the fact that it provides an essential platform for academic and non academic accomplishments, psychological growths, the foundation for subsequent higher education and future life (Marsh and Kleitman, 2002).
Consequent upon this perceived importance, factors that could potentially inhibit or improve high school students’ performance are worthy of in depth investigation. One such factor that has been shown to considerably influence high school performance is the participation in extra curricular activities. To a large extent, participation in extracurricular activities in high school is generally considered as a vital component of the educational experience (Galiher, 2006). However, the influence of participation in extracurricular activities has not been clearly defined.
While some studies have linked positive academic outcomes with extracurricular activities, such as the study carried out by Cairns, Farmer, and Mahoney (2003); others have shown that there exist no significant relationships and even in some cases, some studies have reported negative relationship. As a result, the effect of extracurricular activities on high students’ performance has become a topic of “educational, political, and community debate for more than a century” (Marsh and Kleitman, 2002: 465).
This paper intends to contribute to this debate by reviewing the several literatures on the topic. Historical Overview Fujita (2005) noted that the early adoption and development of extracurricular activities in high schools was slow. During those early years, most educators saw it as a fad that will fade away with time. For example, Marsh and Kleitman (2002) observed that before the turn of the twentieth century, educators were critical of participation in school extracurricular activities.
To these early educators, high schools should be focused on ‘solely on narrowly defined academic outcomes’, because, non academic activities were believed to be primarily recreational and of no educational value. Some even contented that such recreational activities could be detrimental to the academic performance of high students. As a result, extracurricular activities participation for high students was discouraged in the early 1900s. Burnett (2000) provides an indepth review of the history and early developments of extracurricular activities in high schools.
However, over the course of the last couple of decades, educational practitioners and researchers have adopted a more positive perspective of extracurricular activities; with most of then contending that these activities positively impact psychological developments of students and at the same time help improve academic performance. This change in perception is not unrelated to the large and growing body of research that have continually examined the links and relationships between extracurricular activities and academic performance of students using a wide array of research methods and tools.
To a large extent, the bulk of studies conducted on this topic over the course of time point to a positive relationship between extracurricular activities and a host of academic, social and psychological outcomes, while very few of these studies report negative relationship. However, the primary problem with research in this field is that researchers have often adopted different variables in different research methods making generalization of the effects of extracurricular activities on academic and social performance of high students difficult to make.
Relevant Theoretical Literature The basic theoretical framework that underlies the various studies carried out in this field involves correlating students’ academic performance with their participation or lack of, in extracurricular activities. For example, in Galiher (2006), the author collated data about the various extracurricular activities present in a particular high school and the list of students that participate in these activities.
The grade point averages (GPA) and cumulative grade point averages (CGPA) for these students was also collated and participation in extracurricular activities was then correlated with students’ academic performance. The basic idea, generally, is that if participation in extracurricular activities positively impacts academic performance, then students involved with these activities would perform better academically, when other factors, such as age, IQ, gender, socio economic status etc have been controlled for.
Analyzing the commonly used methodological designs in studying the relationship between social and academic performance and participation in extracurricular activities, Marsh and Kleitman (2002) observed that there are three research designs often employed by researchers. The first involve a one-time data collection research design that correlates extracurricular activities with the selected outcome variables.
The second also involved a one-time data collection design, but controls for background variables such as socioeconomic status, gender, and age before correlating extracurricular activities participation with the selected outcome variables; while the third framework involve longitudinal studies where the same outcome variable are measured on multiple occasions so that the actual effect of extracurricular activities on the selected outcome variables are estimated after controlling for earlier outcomes (Marsh and Kleitman, 2002).
While, according to Marsh and Kleitman, all of these frameworks are not perfect, they have all been used to show positive relationship between extracurricular activities and social and academic variables. Relevant Research In researching the relationships between extracurricular activities and students’ academic outcomes, researchers have sought to delineate what constitutes extracurricular activity. In this light, extracurricular activities have been broadly divided into in-school and out-of-school activities. The divisions are self descriptive.
Furthermore, out-of-school activities can be subdivided into structured and leisure activities. While structured activities have been described as “activities that require active effort from the participating parties and provide an environment for expression of one’s identity or interest in sports, performing arts, academic, and leadership activities”(Eccles and Barber, 1999 quoted in Marsh and Kleitman, 2002), leisure activities are activities that “enjoyable but not demanding” (Marsh and Kleitman, 2002) e. g. driving around or talking to friends.
Extracurricular activities have also been grouped into formal and non-formal activities (Fujita, 2005). Here, formal activities refer to all structured and organized activity, irrespective of whether it is in-school or out-of-school, while non-formal activities refers basically to out-of-school leisure activities. From this classification, the influences of extracurricular activities on academic performance can be streamlined. For example, it is only reasonable that in-school structured activities will better influence academic outcomes and thus increase GPA than out-of-school activities.
In this sense, Gerber (1996) investigating the relationship between academic outcomes and the two type of extracurricular activities reported that there is a greater and more significant positive correlation between in-school extracurricular activity participation and GPA than for out-of school structured activities. This distinction between extracurricular activities notwithstanding, there is ample research studies that point to the academic and social utility of extracurricular activities.
In one of the early definitive studies carried out in this field, Marsh (1992) using a large longitudinal study that investigated the social and academic performance of students while in school and two years after graduation, reported that students who participated in extracurricular activities were more likely to have higher school satisfaction, higher internal locus of control meaning that students felt more in control of their lives; higher social and academic self-concepts; and higher educational and occupational aspirations in school and two years after completing high school (Marsh, 1999; Marsh and Kleitman, 2002).
Several other studies have reported a positive correlation between participation in extracurricular activities and academic performance. For instance, Marsh and Kleitman after reviewing several previous studies observed that extracurricular activities help in building and strengthening academic performance, even if the activities are not obviously related to academic subjects. Darling, Caldwell, and Smith (2005) after an extensive longitudinal study reported that students who participated in school-based extracurricular activities had higher grades compared to those who were not involved in any extracurricular activity.
In a more specific study, Galiher (2006) investigated the relationship between students’ participation in extracurricular activities and their current grade point averages and cumulative grade point averages. The author did not only investigate this relationship, data was also analyzed to see if there existed grade point increments with increasing participation in more than one extracurricular activities.
The author concluded that “Not only was the analysis consistent with the correlation data but also showed very clearly that students who were participating in one or more activity were getting better grades than students who were not involved in any school activities. The mean grade point average for students who participated in one or more activities was approximately one grade point higher than students who were not involved, which is equivalent to one letter grade” (Galiher, 2006: 11-12).
This study showed, definitely, that there is a positive relationship between students’ participation in extracurricular activities and their academic performance (indicated by the GPA) and that with increasing participation, students are more likely to get higher grades. Implications for Practice With the decreasing educational achievement recorded in schools nationwide, educational practitioners and researchers are under pressure to find ways to better improve the performance recorded in schools.
With this increasing pressure on educators to perform, any factor that shows potential of improving academic performance deserves serious attention. Again, with the decrease in funding available for public schools, coupled with the poor performance of schools, educational decision makers are often under intense pressure to make decisions concerning the continuance or removal of academic and extracurricular programs.
From the above, it is apparent that research studies indicating positive correlation between participation in extracurricular activities have two major implications. First, it provides educators with a valid instrument for increasing the academic performance of students. The knowledge that students achieve greater academic and social outcomes with increase participation in extracurricular activities will definitely prompt educational practitioners to promote healthy and effective extracurricular activities tool for enhancing academic achievements.
Two, it make the decision process easier for educational decision makers who have to decide concerning the continuation of extracurricular programs. Instead of rationalizing the removal or continuance extracurricular programs, decision makers will be more productively engaged with how to better harness the potentials of these programs. Implications for Inquiry Despite the several positive implications of extracurricular activities that have been reported in several studies, one major that deserves further investigation was raised by Hunt (2005).
After studying the relationship between extracurricular activities and academic performance, the author reported no positive outcome, instead, he argued individuals who were academically sound at earlier ages were more likely to participate in extracurricular activities raising the question of whether extracurricular activities indeed influence academic performance or is a result of it. This area still deserves further study. Summary
It has been argued that high school experiences provide an essential platform for academic and non academic accomplishments, psychological growths, the foundation for subsequent higher education and future life. Thus, any factor that could possibly influence students’ ability to perform their best while in high school is worth investigating. Extracurricular activities constitute one of the factors that have been shown to influence students’ performance in high school. In this paper, several literatures on this topic were reviewed.
To a large extent, it was shown that extracurricular activities participation improves students’ academic performance. Thus, students that participate in one or more extracurricular activities were more likely to have higher GPAs compared to students that did not participate at all.
Work Cited Burnett, M. A. (2000). One strike and you’re out: An analysis of no pass/no play policies. High School Journal, 84(2): 1-6. Cairns, B. , Farmer, T. , and Mahoney, J. (2003). Promoting interpersonal competence and educational success through extracurricular activity participation.
Journal of Educational Psychology, 95: 409-419. Eccles, J. S. , and Barber, B. L. (1999). Student council, volunteering, basketball, or marching band: What kind of extracurricular involvement matters? Journal of Adolescent Research, 14: 10-43. Fujita, K (2005). The Effects of Extracurricular Activities on the Academic Performance of Junior High Students. The Master’s College. Available at http://www. kon. org/urc/v5/fujita. html [Accessed June 21, 2008]. Everson, T H and Roger E. M (2005). Everyone Gains: Extracurricular Activities in High School and Higher SAT® Scores. College Board Research Report No.
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