Publication Date

2018-05-07

Availability

Open access

Embargo Period

2018-05-07

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EDD)

Department

Educational and Psychological Studies (Education)

Date of Defense

2018-02-12

First Committee Member

Soyeon Ahn

Second Committee Member

Carol-Anne Phekoo

Third Committee Member

Debbiesiu Lee

Fourth Committee Member

Paul Driscoll

Abstract

Empirical research shows that students who are involved in cocurricular programs in college are more likely to graduate on time and be satisfied with their institutions, are more likely to gain important leadership skills and competencies, and are more likely to gain skills deemed important by employers and necessary for job success. The purpose of this study is to examine whether cocurricular involvement and/or leadership experiences throughout a student’s college career increases the perceived development of certain skills that are required to be successful in a job, and whether the intensity of a student’s involvement plays a moderating role in the relationship between their involvement and the skills they learn in college. The study sought to answer the following research questions: (1) does a student’s intensity of involvement have a moderating effect on the relationship between cocurricular involvement and skill development?; and (2) does holding leadership roles impact a student’s perceived development of skills deemed important by employers? The secondary data used for this study was obtained from the spring 2017 administration of the Cocurricular Experience Outcomes Benchmarking Survey at a private, selective university in the southeastern United States. The dependent variable for the study was perceived skill development in ten specific areas, and control variables included the student’s intensity of involvement, sources of learning, class status, gender, race/ethnicity, and GPA. The research questions were answered utilizing a series of statistical analyses including independent samples t-tests, analysis of variance (ANOVA), and hierarchical multiple regression analysis utilizing five blocks of control variables to predict outcomes. The main findings of the current study suggest that cocurricular involvement and intensity of involvement are both significant predictors of perceived skill development in one or more areas. Findings show that students involved in cocurricular activities perceive that they are most competent in the skills of (1) obtaining and processing information, (2) analyzing quantitative data, and (3) planning, organizing, and prioritizing work. The findings also suggest that there is a significant and positive relationship between the number of leadership positions a student holds and their perceived overall skill development, in addition to their perceived competence in the skills of (1) teamwork, (2) verbal communication, (3) decision making/problem solving, (4) analyzing quantitative data, and (5) technical knowledge of job. Findings also suggest a significant and positive relationship between the number of hours a student dedicates to cocurricular involvement and their perceived overall skill development, in addition to their perceived competence in the skills of (1) teamwork, (2) verbal communication, (3) decision making/problem solving, (4) obtaining and processing information, (5) planning, organizing, and prioritizing work, and (6) technical knowledge of job. Finally, findings suggest that perceived skill development scores significantly differed based on the experiences to which students attributed their learning. Specifically, students who attributed their learning to “classes only” reported significantly lower scores than those who attributed their learning to some combination of classes, cocurricular experiences, and jobs/internships in the skills areas of (1) problem solving/decision making, (2) planning, organizing, and prioritizing work, (3) analyzing quantitative data, (4) technical knowledge of job, (5) proficiency with computer software programs, (6) creating/editing written reports, and (7) selling to or influencing others. Secondary findings from the study suggest that gender, ethnicity and class status are significant predictors of perceived skill development in one or more areas. Males reported to have higher mean overall composite scores than did females, and higher perceived skill development scores for the specific skills of (1) verbal communication, (2) decision making/problem solving, (3) analyzing quantitative data, (4) proficiency with computer software programs, and (5) selling to or influencing others. Statistically significant differences based on ethnicity were found only for the skill of verbal communication, for which African Americans had higher scores than Asian/Pacific Islanders. Seniors reported to have higher overall composite scores and higher perceived development scores in proficiency with computer software programs and creating/editing written reports than did sophomores. Seniors also reported to have higher perceived skill development than did freshmen and sophomores in obtaining and processing information and analyzing quantitative data. Juniors reported to have higher scores than did freshmen in obtaining and processing information. In addition to adding to the existing research base, this study demonstrates to students, parents, faculty, and administrators that cocurricular involvement and leadership are important and valuable aspects of a student’s college experience. In the classroom, colleges and faculty must find ways to connect teaching to experiential and cocurricular education. Outside of the classroom, student organizations serve as critical learning laboratories where students can develop important skills. In addition, there exist a number of opportunities for institutions to partner with employers to help narrow the perceived skill gap. Limitations of this study include the fact that secondary data was utilized, and that students’ scores were based on a subscale that contained only a single question. While the original research design included a comparison of non-involved vs. involved students, the sample did not include enough non-involved students for comparisons to be made. Additional limitations include the potential for social desirability bias, and the difficulty in determining strong causal relationships between perceived skill development and sources of learning. Future research opportunities include a longitudinal study examining how alumni perceive the impact of their cocurricular involvement on the development of skills they regularly use in the workplace, and further analysis of the ways in which specific cocurricular involvement experiences (i.e. club sports vs. student media vs. student government) impact the perceived development of employability skills.

Keywords

college student involvement; student leadership; employability skills; student engagement; skill development

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