A Study of Academically Talented Students' Participation in Extracurricular Activities

By Bucknavage, Leah B.; Worrell, Frank C. | Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, Spring 2005 | Go to article overview

A Study of Academically Talented Students' Participation in Extracurricular Activities


Bucknavage, Leah B., Worrell, Frank C., Journal of Secondary Gifted Education


In this study, we surveyed the participation rates of academically talented students across 9 areas: dance, solo instrument, choral music, band, athletics, student government, academic clubs, ethnic/cultural clubs, and an "other activities" category. Participants consisted of 2 independent cohorts (Cohort 1, N = 842; Cohort 2, N = 290) attending a summer program. Results indicated that athletics was the activity in which males and females reported greatest participation across cohorts. Significant differences in rates were found for participation in athletics, choral music, and dance in the direction of gender-stereotypical expectations. Differences were also found among ethnic groups and across grade levels in certain activities. We concluded that the results contradict the nonathletic stereotype sometimes associated with students who are academically talented.

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School-sanctioned extracurricular activities play an important role in the lives of students, parents, and school personnel, and a great deal of time and money are devoted to these activities. Over the years, the costs and benefits of extracurricular activities have generated many studies and numerous debates. Especially in times of tightening budgets, the benefits of extracurricular activities need to be determined. In addition to looking at students' rates of participation, several researchers have examined the relationship of extracurricular activities to student outcome variables such as personal and social development, academic achievement, self-concept, locus of control, delinquency, and problem behaviors. However, the majority of published studies on extracurricular activities have focused on athletes and sporting activities in both college and high school populations.

While there are a few studies on other populations, one group that has been largely ignored in this area of research is the gifted and talented. Currently, there is only one study that has examined gifted students' participation in extracurricular activities (Olszewski-Kubilius & Lee, 2004), and that study's sample came from the Midwest. In this paper, we examined extracurricular participation rates in a sample of academically talented students from a western state. Before proceeding further, we present a brief review of the extant literature on this topic.

Extracurricular Activities in College

Hood, Craig, and Ferguson (1992) examined the effect of nonacademic activities such as work, watching television, and socializing on the academic achievement of freshman athletes and nonathletes at the University of Iowa. In this study, each athlete was matched with a nonathlete who was similar on variables such as gender, ethnicity, SAT/ACT scores, and resident/nonresident status. The researchers also compared the matched groups to a group of randomly selected students from the university, for a total sample size of 2,856. They found that athletes achieved similar grades to nonathletes with similar backgrounds and abilities, with the athletes and nonathletes performing at a level slightly below that of the random sample of university students.

In 1996, Terenzini, Pascarella, and Blimling reviewed the literature examining the effects of college students' out-of-class experiences on academic, intellectual, and cognitive outcomes. They found that student athletes achieved at about the same level as nonathletes when precollege achievement and aptitude were taken into account. They also found that level of participation in athletics had a negative relationship to scores obtained on standardized graduate admissions tests. In looking at extracurricular activity involvement more generally, Terenzini et al. found "little consistent evidence suggesting that extracurricular involvement per se has a direct impact on students' academic or intellectual development" (p. 155).

The studies by Hood et al. (1992) and Terenzini et al. (1996) suggest that, overall, extracurricular activities do not have major positive or negative effects on student achievement at the college level. …

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