The Role of Extracurricular Activities in Educati ... The Role of Extracurricular Activities in Education

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  • The Role of Extracurricular Activities in Education Author(s): Patricia A. Haensly, Ann E. Lupkowski and Elaine P. Edlind Source: The High School Journal, Vol. 69, No. 2 (Dec., 1985 - Jan., 1986), pp. 110-119 Published by: University of North Carolina Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 19/07/2013 04:21

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  • The Role of Extracurricular Activities in Education

    Patricia A. Haensly Ann E. Lupkowski

    Elaine P. Edlind Texas A&M University

    ° 1986 The University of North Carolina Press


    Participation in extracurricular activities at the expense of academic learning time has become an issue in education. Decisions lim- iting or curtailing these activities are made on the assumption that they interfere with the primary purpose of education. If sound de- cisions are to be made regarding balance be- tween formal instruction and extracurricular activities, we must determine whether they enhance or hinder student learning and/or achievement. In other words, are they an in- tegral part of a meaningful educational cur- riculum for adolescents, or a superficial dis- traction from it? Hall, Hord, Rutherford, and Huling (1984, p. 60) suggest that the co/ extracurriculum, which "represents a rich array of opportunities and experiences," may be one of the reasons many students stay in school, much less find personal meaning for this time in their lives. While the entire curriculum is, for the most part, planned and implemented by edu- cational designers and administrators, stu- dents have had few opportunities to par- ticipate in its planning. The perceptions of students regarding their educational process is an important variable that should be clari- fied. The study reported here was designed to examine one aspect of that perception - the role of extracurricular activities, especially as they relate to personal and social develop- ment, and to academic achievement. Theoretical Concerns Many students seek, and seem to thrive on, learning activities outside of the traditional classroom setting. Such activities are vari- ously termed the co-curriculum or the extra- curriculum, apparently depending on whether they are specific extensions of aca- demic coursework, or are peripheral to it. Thus, students may extend and enrich pre- viously learned academic skills through competitions (e.g., interscholastic debates) and by applying them to real world simu- lations (e.g., writing skills in school pub- lications.) In the co/extracurricular setting they may also develop and practice artistic, musical, and psychomotor talents; lead- ership skills; and future career and occu-

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  • Extracurricular Activities

    pational skills. Interpersonal and social strategies - proficiencies not considered basic elements of the academic curriculum - may especially be constructed through par- ticipation in the extracurriculum. Since there is often an overlap in the effect of these ac- tivities, the term "extracurricular" will be used in this study to refer to both types of emphasis: academic and intra- or interpersonal. Efforts such as "maintaining one's indi- viduality in a group, practicing appropriate adult behaviors in different settings, and understanding and coping with peer pres- sures" (Hall, et al., 1984, p. 60) all contribute to the developmental tasks that adolescents must accomplish in order to move effectively from childhood to adulthood (Havighurst, 1972). Participation in the "non-academic" life of the secondary school may provide an ideal setting for the adolescent to resolve any of the eight developmental tasks proposed as necessary by Havighurst. Participation is par- ticularly effective, however, in providing a healthy setting for the task of forming new and more mature relationships with age mates of both sexes, achieving an appropriate masculine or feminine social role, accepting one's physique and using the body effec- tively, and acquiring a set of ethics as a guide to behavior. Perhaps most important, these organized school activities (freely chosen by the student rather than imposed by well- meaning adults) may provide a critical setting for the task of developing social literacy or the ability to communicate through many forms, and, through communication, learn essential social and civic responsibilities.

    Recently, selected high schools throughout the nation participated in a study of their general education programs directed by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development "in order to design a com- prehensive, balanced curriculum appropri- ate to the lives of students in the years ahead" (Roberts and Cawelti, 1984, p. 3). After much deliberation by the participating exemplary high schools, the curriculum models pro- duced and the goal statements written fo-

    cused on competencies and learning that would enable students to become "pro- ductive members of society and to enjoy life more fully." Included among the more obvi- ous academic goals were mental and physical health, moral and ethical values, aesthetic understandings, and responsible citizenship. While these concerns may be addressed by academic coursework, they seem more closely allied with intramural and extramural athletics; vocational and service organ- izations; band, drama, and choir; and student government and 4-H.

    Boyer (1984, p. 20) says that "high schools, to be effective, must have a sense of pur- pose . . . must go beyond keeping students in schools and out of trouble, and be more sig- nificant than adding up the Carnegie units the student has completed." But, in all of the current critiques of present conditions in U.S. high schools, and in suggestions for alter- ations in curriculum, a description of the secondary school as the central community for the socialization of the adolescent is con- spicuously absent. Yet, the adolescent school community serves as a bridge between the family of childhood years and the society of adulthood. Adolescents will socialize with their peers - whether as part of a well- planned school extracurriculum or in an autonomous peer society - and through this socialization will enhance self-concept or disrupt it, learn what to choose and what not to choose, attain successes and achievement or failures, and, most important for the ado- lescent, experience affiliation or social isolation.

    The extracurriculum, either in athletics or in band, drama, and other nonacademic expres- sions of talent, serves as an important sub- strate for and influence on the accomplish- ment of this critical adolescent development. Unfortunately, its inappropriate ascendance to a dominant priority for allocation of stu- dent time and attention, and for human and economic resources, has placed it in jeop- ' ardy . It is time to realign priorities and assess the perspective of students as a step toward appropriate realignment.


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  • The High School Journal- Dec. 1985/Jan. 1986

    Research on Extracurricular Participation. Extracurricular activities have sometimes been called the "third curriculum," the first being required courses and the second elect- ives (Otto, 1975). Otto proposed that, like academic curricula, extracurricular activities should provide the student with oppor- tunities to acquire skills, and he hypoth- esized that the level of participation in extra- curricular activities was directly related to later educational achievements. In a study of 17-year-old, male high school students, Otto found that participation in high school ac- tivities was significantly related to later edu- cational achievements. Fifteen years after graduation, Otto found that those involved in high school activities were more likely to go on to college. In a contrasting study, Schuh and Laverty (1983) conducted a 30-year follow-up of former class presidents. They found that al- though the students' leadership experiences in high school provided them with some specific skills, their life activities were in- fluenced only moderately by holding student leadership positions. The authors emphasize that their study focused only on the lead- ership experience itself and not on the actual behavior of former student leaders.

    Nevertheless, cutting