Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

The Other Curriculum: Out-of-Class Experiences Associated with Student Learning and Personal Development

Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

The Other Curriculum: Out-of-Class Experiences Associated with Student Learning and Personal Development

Article excerpt

33. Light, R. J. The Harvard Assessment Seminars: Explorations with Students and Faculty about Teaching, Learning, and Student Life (second report). Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Graduate School of Education and Kennedy School of Government, 1992.

34. Lincoln, Y., and E. G. Guba. Naturalistic Inquiry. Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage, 1985.

35. Micek, S. S., A. L. Service, and Y. S. Lee. Outcome Measures and Procedures Manual. Boulder, Colo.: National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education, 1975. It is funny that we are talking about things outside the classroom because I feel like that is the place that I have done my most growing (Stanford University senior).

Through some of these groups - the sorority and the speech and hearing group - I've learned how the university works, who certain people are, how to contact them for different things and so forth. So my time management is better and it is easier for me to meet people who are different (Wichita State University senior).

[My fraternity] always has service projects coming out of its ears. The volunteer work hasn't, in any real way, given me any general knowledge about academics. But it has made me realize what is going on in the community and that my contributions after I get my degree would have to reflect back on where I came from (Xavier University of Louisiana senior).

Numerous benefits are associated with college attendance. On average, college graduates exhibit: substantial gains in knowledge (particularly in the major), autonomy, social maturation, and personal competence; modest gains in verbal and quantitative skills, cognitive complexity, aestheticism, and awareness of interests, values, aspirations, and religious views; and modest decreases in irrational prejudice, political naivete, and dogmatism [1, 5, 7, 15, 40, 45, 49]. The cumulative effect of these changes is the crystallization of a diverse set of attributes into a sense of identity [10] marked by competence and confidence which enables a college-educated person to cope successfully with novel situations and problems [7].

This impressive litany of benefits is not exclusively a function of the curriculum as Wilson observed [55, p. 71]:

The student entering college is a congeries of characteristics, many of which are about to be altered in some degree - by his own design, by experiences contrived for him (as in the classroom) and by means unplanned and even unwittingly experienced.

Most scholars who study the impact of college on students agree that what happens outside the classroom - the other curriculum - can contribute to valued outcomes of college [1, 5, 7, 10, 15, 24, 27, 33, 44, 45, 55]. For example, participation in extracurricular activities, living in a campus residence, and conversations with faculty and peers have been positively related to persistence and satisfaction [1, 5, 45] and gains in such areas as social competence, autonomy, confidence, self-awareness, and appreciation for human diversity [6, 27]. Moffatt [37, p. 58] found that "for about 40 percent of students, the do-it-yourself side of college [what took place outside the classroom] was the most significant educational experience." And participation in extracurricular activities has been a more accurate predictor of workplace competence than grades [21].

Clearly, out-of-class experiences influence student learning and personal development. Yet, except for a handful of single-institution studies [6, 53, 55], little is known about which out-of-class activities (for example, volunteerism, student government, on-campus job) are linked with what outcomes (for example, social competence, reflective thought, knowledge application). From their review of the college outcomes research, Pascarella and Terenzini observed that "not all students benefit equally from the same experience" [45, p. 634] and called for more studies that take into account whether student and institutional characteristics mediate the impact of college. …

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