Extracurricular activities have different effects on different individuals, yet they are important to the educational programs in many schools. Joseph Mahoney and Robert Cairns suggest that organized sports, vocational clubs, special interest academic pursuits, supervised student government organizations and other extracurricular activities are optional in most educational institutions, yet they offer students the opportunity to build on their overall personal and educational development, (Mahoney & Cairns, 1997, p. 241). Similarly, Albert Cohen’s review of Coleman’s The Adolescent Society reinforces the views that academic achievement may be increased when schools integrate athletic competitions into the academic curriculum as this helps to strengthen the focus of students and help to build strategies that can help students in their academic pursuits, (Cohen, 1963, p. 645). The research reveals that organized activities can offer an ideal setting for students to develop a clearer understanding of peer relations, (Fredricks & Simpkins, 2013, p. 1). As such, the primary focus of this research paper is to further build on the researches of former researches that have proven that extracurricular activities are important to the overall development of students in a particular high school in China.
Jennifer Fredricks et al carried out a qualitative research that explores the adolescent’ commitment to athletics and the arts and found that “there has been a tendency in the development of literature to focus on adolescence as a period of risk and negative outcomes rather than considering aspects of positive development,” (Fredricks et al., 2002, p. 68). As such students in smaller schools will engage in a wider variety of extra-curricular activities than students in larger schools, (Holland & Andre, 1987, p. 437). The research categorized extracurricular activities in a similar fashion as Valentine et al to include (a)homework,
(b) employment, (c) extracurricular activities, (d) structured out-of-school activities, (e) unstructured time alone and with family and peers, and (f) sleeping, (Valentine et. al., 2002). This categorization allows for an analysis of the relationship between students’ background and their age and how these factors relate to their engagement in extra-curricular activities. In the past decades, a number of schools have opted to adopt different policies that aim at developing the “whole student.” As a result, there is an increase in the demands of the academic institutions to include extracurricular activities in the school experience. In fact, more students have embraced these extracurricular activities as a part of their developmental process as they find that their entertainment and social improves when they are a part of these extracurricular activities.
Fung and Wong believe that the educational values of extracurricular activities have been recognized in many countries, (Fung & Wong, 1991) and schools in Hong Kong have also increased their need for extracurricular activities because of the social disturbances that occurred in 1966 and 1967. This unrest led to the inclusion of approximately thirty different types of extracurricular activities being integrated in the secondary schools’ programs. Recently, schools across the world have encouraged the introduction and implementation of these clubs based on the statistics that reiterates the findings that approximately one out of every four students is involved in academic clubs, (Miller, Zittleman, 2010, as cited by Massoni, 2011). This finding will come by way of the use of purposive sampling and was applied because it met the purpose of the study.
Purposive sampling comprises of a group of different non-probability samples strategies that are selective and judgmental and relies heavily on the judgment of the researcher in selecting the individuals for the sample. The sample that was used in the research was small and this allowed for generalizations in the research. Unlike Durak et al., 2010 study which used the historical analysis approach to analyze the impact of extra-curricular activities on students overall development, this research will use the purposive sampling technique to assess the Durak e al. understanding of the role of extra-curricular as an integral part of the developmental process, (Durak, et al., 2010, p. 291). While “a single investigation cannot address all of these potentially important issues,” (Durak, et al. 2010, p. 291), the sampling techniques of purposive sampling allows the researcher to use probability sampling create a sample of the population that will give an honest reflection of the qualitative research design.
Of course the sampling technique will allow the researcher to find answers to the research questions even though the selected sample is not representative of the overall population of students who engage in extra-curricular activities. For some researchers, this method of sampling is not accepted. Still, the purposive sampling technique allows the researcher to carry out the qualitative research as the purpose of this technique varies according to the purpose of the study. The researcher conducted interviews and questionnaires to gather the information to support the thesis. In order to asses and evaluate the hypothesis that students who engage in extracurricular activities develop the “whole” self, a sample of fifty students who are a part of extracurricular activities were selected. The activities included being a part of sports and physical activity groups and students leaders. The sample was randomly selected and therefore each student in the school was given a fair chance to be selected as a part of the sample. The questionnaire was given based on the students involvement in extracurricular activities and the frequency with which student engage in these activities. Additionally, and interview was carried out with one of the school’s lecturer to garner information on the views of educators in the institution on the importance of extracurricular activities in the schools and the impact of the frequency of these activities on the lives of these students.
3.2 Research Procedure
Prior to the collection actual data, the researcher carried out a pilot study to assess the validity of the instruments used to collect the data. The researcher tested the questionnaire on a group of randomly selected students. These ten students helped to improve the validity of the research questions and allowed the researcher the opportunity recognize bias in the questionnaires. In the actual study, these modified questionnaires were distributed to students in different clubs and societies. The researcher also included student representatives in the sample as this helped to show that the researcher intended to show that all extracurricular activities impact the educational achievement of students in the high schools in China. The respondents in the sample were first asked to clarify the extracurricular activities that they were involved in. The researcher was also able to observe the performance of students as they engaged in extracurricular activities. The interview with the lecturer allowed for the analysis and comparison of the academic performance of students who engaged in extracurricular activities against those who did not engage in extracurricular activities. The researcher will use a semi-structured approach in carrying out the interview as this allows for the interviewer to control the interview. Nonetheless, this approach will allow for flexibility in gathering the information from the interviewee.
Brown (2013) reiterates the views of Poulin and Denault in suggesting that it is important to assess the initial efforts of the peer factors that contribute to the effect of activity participation on adolescent adjustment, (Brown, 2013, p. 92). The researcher hopes to show that Brown’s arguments hold true as the research assesses the impact of the different activity types “on some aspect of adolescent adjustment or behavior” (Brown, 2013, p. 92) and the “the connection between peer factors and adolescent adjustment,” (Brown, 2013, p. 92) to “organized activity participation,” (Brown, 2013, p. 92). The questionnaires are designed to validate Shulruf’s belief that extracurricular activities impact the educational results which includes attainment, self-concept, grades, aspiration for an advaced education in higher educational institutions, (Shulruf, 2010, p. 596). Similar to Shulruf’s method of analyzing the data for the research, the researcher will use a systematic approach to assess the data as the approach differs from the methodologies that traditional descriptive researchers have taken in the past, (Shulruf, 2010, p. 596), but it allows the researcher to control the possibility of removing methodological that occur in the literature, (Boaz et al. 2002 as cited by Schulruf, 2010, p. 596).
The research will take a qualitative approach as the researcher will use interviews and surveys to collect the students’ ideas on education and extracurricular activities. The questionnaire will seek answers to the students’ views on whether participation in extra-curricular activities contributes to improving the educational experience of students in China. The researcher hopes to find out if extra-curricular activities provide better educational experiences or increases the higher education expectations and higher academic grades even as students feel a greater sense of belonging at while they attend school. Scaefer et al., suggests that the empirical and theoretical work of extracurricular activities helps to promote friendships (Schaefer et al., 2011) and helps to shape the career development of Chinese career development, (Schaefer et al., 2011). The questionnaire is designed to find out if peer association in extra-curricular activities and help students to improve their leadership and interpersonal skills. Additionally, the questionnaire attempts to find out of the number of extra-curricular activities that students are a part of and the time that each student spends per week in extra-curricular activities. The questionnaires will also allow the researcher to compare and analyze the views of students who engage in extra-curricular activities against those who do not engage in these activities. In addition, the questionnaires provided an opportunity to assess students who participate in extra-curricular activities and find ways to help those who do not participate in these activities to improve their academic performance through the use of extracurricular activities.
Fredricks and Eccles in their 2005 study showed that one of the most effective ways to garner information for this particular research is through the use of adolescents filling out the questionnaires in their classrooms, (Fredricks & Eccles, 2005, p. 510). The researcher also used the approach as this allowed for the students to submit reliable answers to the questions about their involvement in different extracurricular activities and the impact this has on their academic performance and their psychological adjustment. The thematic coding that was used is representative of the qualitative analysis that the researchers used to record and identify the commonalities in the sample responses to the research questions. The common theme in this research is that of identifying the impact of extra-curricular activities on students and establishes the framework for the hypothesis. Thematic coding allows the researcher to examine the different extra-curricular activities that these students belong to and the impact that these activities have on the students’ development. Additionally, thematic coding allows the researcher to put the activities together and code the information for future analysis or categorization. The researcher was later able to list the information in the findings and compare these findings to other researchers from the literature review. While such coding is largely descriptive, the researcher was better able to analyze the data from the categorization of the information. Still, the information could be easily analyzed by future researchers because of the analytic coding system that is involved in using the thematic coding approach.
3.3 Research Instruments
The research used the qualitative and quantitative approach to research methodology to find out if Mahoney is fair in his assumption that the child’s holistic development stems from the biological, psychological, and socio-environmental influences (Mahoney, 2000), or further improves the level of personal adjustment, powerlessness and social integration, (Holland & Andre, p. 1987). The researcher used two major instruments to gather the information: questionnaire and interview. The questionnaire contained twenty questions that were divided into four sections. The sections included demographic background, the effectiveness of extra-curricular activities on students’ performance, the management of students’ time in relation to extra-curricular activities, and the frequency of engaging in extra-curricular activities. The respondents answered according to the rankings that were associated with each question. The questionnaire responses were simple as the respondents were required to answer yes or no to the questions and ranking the response in order of importance. The qualitative data was gathered through the use of the interview instrument where the researcher gathered the necessary academic numerical data from a lecturer. The respondent in this sample answered a set of questions that were based on the lecturer’s perception of students’ involvement in extracurricular activities and the academic performance for students who participated and who did not participate in extra-curricular activities through the Interpersonal Competence Scale, (Mahoney, 2000). Fredrick and Eccles also employed this strategy and the results from their study made it easy for the researcher to compare the performance of these students in China against those in North American countries. Based on the research of Fredrick and Eccles, the researcher recognized the similarities in the fact that students were involved in team sports, student leadership programs, performance arts activities and academic clubs, (Fredrick & Eccles, 2005, & Eccles & Barber, 1999). These activities showed that students developed interpersonal skills when communicating with others and also developed their leadership qualities because of the frequency of their involvement in extra-curricular activities. The responses in the research were coded based on the rankings of a seven point scale where the highest ranking was all the time to the lowest being never.
3.4 Respondents of the Study
The respondents of the study came from numerous year groups with a uniformed minimum of two students per year group. The researcher chose the recipients for the sample from the students’ annual yearbook as this source revealed the extra activities that students were involved during the school year. All of the respondents were part of at least one extracurricular activity and therefore these students were best suited to answer the research questions. These students in the sample are active participants in academic groups, performing arts group and social clubs, and the activity involvement that only a few researches have attempted to account for the variety of experiences based on students socio-economic backgrounds, (Feldman & Matjasko, 2007). A total of sixty questionnaires were distributed among the selected sample. Of this group, thirty were males and thirty were females. This selection allowed for fairness in gender selection and proves that the extracurricular activities in school allows for the minority groups in the schools to achieve success outside of the formal or traditional curriculum, (Everson & Millsap, 2005) irrespective of the age and gender of children’s participation in extra-curricular activities, (Mahoney, 2000).
3.5 Data Analysis
Cooper et al. suggests that in order to have a data unit that will allow the researcher the employ ethical measures, the researcher ascertained permission from parents and teachers to use the academic records of the participants, (Cooper et al., 1999 and Knifsend & Graham, 2011) and this allowed the researcher the opportunity to make generalizations about the benefits of extra-curricular activities, (Farb & Matjasko, 2012). The data was placed in Microsoft Excel program as this allowed for ease of access to analyze the statistical information. The results from the sample were presented graphs and
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