The Influence of Student Engagment and Sport Participation on College Outcomes among Division I Student Athletes
Gayles, Joy Gaston, Hu, Shouping, Journal of Higher Education
Over the past decade, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has become increasingly concerned about the educational experience of student athletes, beyond the mere enforcement of eligibility rules and regulations. Perhaps this growing interest is in response to public criticism of the intercollegiate athletic enterprise, commonly known as "American higher education's 'peculiar institution'" (Thelin, 1994, p. 1). Recent and past incidences of low graduation rates, particularly for football and men's basketball, gross misconduct, academic scandals, and student athletes leaving higher education institutions in poor academic standing have eroded the public's confidence concerning the educational benefits of participation in sports at the college level. Thus, finding the proper balance between intercollegiate athletics and the goals of higher education so that student athletes experience positive gains in student learning and personal development has been an enigma unsolved by institutions of higher education.
The NCAA has responded to public criticism by limiting the number of hours student athletes spend on athletic activities (e.g., competition, practice, conditioning, etc.), restricting the number of student athletes who live together on campus, and requiring academic support services for student athletes at Division I institutions. Despite the limits enforced by the NCAA, a recent survey on student athletes' experiences on college campuses reported that football players at Division I institutions spend well over 40 hours per week on athletic related activities (Wolver-ton, 2008). That much time spent on athletics is alarming because it leaves very little time during the week to devote to other activities, such as academics and other educationally purposeful activities. Moreover, student athletes could potentially miss out on the learning that takes place from interacting with peers and engaging in other educational activities outside of the classroom and off the field.
More recently, the NCAA implemented the academic progress rate (APR) rule to encourage institutions and athletic programs to retain its student athletes in good academic standing. However, more information is needed concerning the overall experience of student athletes and the kinds of activities that foster learning and personal development for this population. Given the high profile status of sports such as football and men's basketball at Division I institutions, it would be instructive to examine whether participation in educationally purposeful activities varies by profile level of sport participation. Further, an examination of how such activities are related to cognitive and affective outcomes for student athletes in high profile versus low profile sports is warranted.
Research on Student Engagement and Undergraduate Outcomes
One of the most important factors in student learning and personal development is student engagement in educationally purposeful activities that contribute directly to desired outcomes (Astin, 1993b; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991, 2005). This concept is reflected in Astin's theory of involvement, which essentially suggests that "students learn by becoming involved" (1985, p. 133). Chickering and Gamson's (1987) Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education continues this line of reasoning by defining the kinds of educationally purposeful activities that lead to learning and personal development. These principles encourage: (a) student-faculty contact; (b) cooperation among students; (c) active learning; (d) prompt feedback; (e) time on task; (f) communication of high expectations; and (g) respect of diverse talents and ways of learning (Chickering & Gamson, 1987). The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) and other related initiatives have brought "student engagement" to the forefront of higher education reform. In particular, this study examines what contributes to the student athletes' experiences in relation to student-faculty interaction, peer interaction, participation in student groups, and participation in academic related activities, and the impact of such experiences on a set of college outcomes.
Sport Participation and Student Learning and Development
There is quite a bit of literature on student engagement in relation to the general college student population and its relationship to learning and personal development (Astin, 1993b; Hu & Kuh, 2002, 2003; National Survey of Student Engagement, 2004, 2005; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991, 2005); however, the literature examining student athletes' engagement and in educationally purposeful activities and its influence on cognitive and affective outcomes for this population is scant, though steadily growing (Pascarella, 2005; Terenzini, Pascarella, & Blimling, 1996).
A few studies have sought to examine what students do with their time outside of participation in sports and how such experiences influence student learning and personal development, and satisfaction with their college experience. According to Terenzini, Pascarella, and Blimling (1996), the majority of the literature in the 1990s focused on the influence of student experiences on psychosocial development. Some studies suggest that participation in intercollegiate athletics is negatively associated with involvement in and satisfaction with the college experience and career maturity (Blann, 1985; Kennedy & Dimmick, 1987; Sowa & Gressard, 1983; Stone & Strange, 1989). Other studies that controlled for pre-college characteristics found that participation in intercollegiate athletics was positively associated with satisfaction with the college experience, motivation toward degree completion, persistence, completion of the bachelor's degree, and gains in internal locus of attribution for success during the first year (Astin, 1993b; Ryan, 1989; Pascarella, Edison, Hagedorn, Nora, & Terenzini, 1996).
More recently, Wolniak, Pierson, and Pascarella (2001) examined the effect of athletic participation for males on a series of outcome variables by comparing male athletes in revenue producing sports to athletes in other sports and non athletes. Overall the authors found that male athletes did not differ significantly from their peers on outcomes such as openness to diversity and challenge, learning for self understanding and academic motivation. Similarly, Umbach, Palmer, Kuh, and Hannah (2005), using data from the National Survey on Student Engagement, found that on average student athletes across division levels and institutional types did not differ from their peers on involvement in effective educational practices, such as academic challenge, interaction with faculty, and participation in active and collaborative learning.
Outcomes of Undergraduate Education
Astin (1993b) developed a useful typology to classify student outcomes from college into cognitive and affective domains. Specifically, cognitive outcomes deal with students' higher order mental processes such as critical thinking, academic achievement, and logic and reasoning, whereas affective outcomes are characterized by students' values, attitudes, and beliefs. These two types of outcomes are important to both individual students as well as the society as a whole. For instance, student learning from college has been a paramount concern in the policy arena, as documented by the report by the National Commission on the Future of Higher Education (2006). The …
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Publication information: Article title: The Influence of Student Engagment and Sport Participation on College Outcomes among Division I Student Athletes. Contributors: Gayles, Joy Gaston - Author, Hu, Shouping - Author. Journal title: Journal of Higher Education. Volume: 80. Issue: 3 Publication date: May-June 2009. Page number: 315+. © 1999 Ohio State University Press. COPYRIGHT 2009 Gale Group.
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