Extracurricular Participation & Student Engagement

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  • 0:03 Extracurricular Activities
  • 0:33 Effect on Student Success
  • 1:51 Activity Offerings
  • 2:54 Interest Inventory
  • 4:51 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Della McGuire

Della has been teaching secondary and adult education for over 20 years. She holds a BS in Sociology, MEd in Reading, and is ABD on the MComm in Storytelling.

In this lesson, we'll discuss the benefits of participation in extracurricular activities as related to student engagement and success, along with the step-by-step process for selecting and participating in activities.

Extracurricular Activities

Emily is a 14-year-old high school freshman who, like many teens, already feels so bored with her life that she just 'can't even.' When she's not rolling her eyes around dramatically, they remain fixed on the screen of her phone. Her family has not given up on Emily, though, and while she says she would rather 'literally' die than be forced to converse with relatives, she could be tempted to engage in other activities that allow her to interact with her friends, doing activities she enjoys.

Effect on Student Success

According to a study by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics, participation in extracurricular activities is linked to student success. Half of participants in extracurricular activities report having no unexcused absences and never skipping a class. For non-participants, the perfect attendance rate is about one-third, and almost 60% report skipping classes. The grade point average (GPA) of participants is three times more likely to be over 3.0 than non-participants. Also, participants are twice as likely as non-participants to score in the top quarter on achievement tests. For those who plan to attend college, more than two-thirds of participants intend to get a bachelor's degree as compared to about half of non-participants who share that same goal.

Emily wonders if students who participate in extracurricular activities are high achievers and that motivates them to participate, or if students who participate learn better as a result of being involved. Emily is only a freshman and this study was conducted with seniors, so she still has time to reap the benefits of getting involved, whether those benefits are the cause or the effect. Since she's not much of a go-getter, she has time to ease into participation by seeing what her school has to offer.

Activity Offerings

Most schools offer some kind of exercise groups or sports teams, academic clubs and honor societies, communications activities like yearbook or other publications, and performance groups like dance, band, or theater. Sometimes a school will add an activity when a group of students with a specific interest ask for assistance in crafting their passion into a formal activity. If Emily's school doesn't offer what she needs, the community at large may have resources that can help her find it.

Schools in low-income districts may have fewer offerings as a result of economic barriers, but this is not a statistically significant difference. And there's not much of a difference in available offerings when comparing urban and suburban schools or small and large schools.

Extracurricular activities can be cost-prohibitive for many students, and it's difficult to measure how many students would participate if money were no issue. Some clubs include students who cannot afford dues, fees, or equipment by allowing them to participate in fundraising efforts for the group.

Interest Inventory

Emily decides she needs to brainstorm to figure out what she is really willing to spend time and energy doing. She fills out an interest inventory, a survey that helps identify her interests. Then she tries to find an activity to match each interest. When she has a list of a several things that interest her, she begins to whittle them down, knowing that she'll want to focus her energy on the few activities she likes most.

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