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Engagement in After-School Programs as a Predictor of Social Competence and Academic Performance

Abstract

Using the experience sampling method, this study examined two questions related to outcomes associated with after-school programming. First, does the quality of experience in after-school programs mediate the effect of program participation on social competence and academic performance? Second, among program participants, is the difference in quality of experience when in programs versus other settings after school related to higher social competence and academic performance? Middle school students (N = 196) attending eight programs in three Midwestern states reported a total of 4,970 randomly sampled experiences in and out of after-school programs during 1 week in the fall and spring of the 2001–2002 academic year. Engagement during after-school hours partially mediated the relationship between participation in after-school programs and social competence. In addition, relative perceptions of engagement, challenge, and importance when in after-school programs compared to elsewhere after school predicted higher English and math grades. Results suggest that the quality of experiences in after-school programs may be a more important factor than quantity of experiences (i.e., dosage) in predicting positive academic outcomes.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by a grant from the C. S. Mott Foundation to Dr. Deborah Lowe Vandell, Principal Investigator. Analyses and report writing were made possible by a grant from the Robert Bowne Foundation. I am most grateful to Dr. Vandell for her generous feedback on the manuscript; to Dr. Kimberly Dadisman as co-manager of the research project with me; and to Dr. B. Bradford Brown and Dr. Kim Pierce as co-Investigators. I am also grateful to Dr. Daniel M. Bolt, Dr. Tom Smith, and Jiabin Fu for their consultations on data analyses. Thanks also to Dr. Elisa Shernoff, Dr. Amy Bohnert, and Kelly Talaga for their helpful reviews and comments.

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Correspondence to David J. Shernoff.

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Shernoff, D.J. Engagement in After-School Programs as a Predictor of Social Competence and Academic Performance. Am J Community Psychol 45, 325–337 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10464-010-9314-0

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Keywords

  • Engagement
  • Middle school
  • After-school programs
  • Social competence
  • Academic performance
  • Outcomes
  • Adolescence
  • Subjective experience
  • Experience Sampling Method (ESM)
  • Flow
  • Mediation