THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

Our study suggests three major theoretical frameworks to explain the impact
of ECA participation on students’ academic performance. The three theoretical
frameworks posited that the level of ECA participation has (a) negative effect on
academic performance (Zero-Sum framework); (b) positive effect on academic
performance indirectly as a result of non-academic achievements (Developmental
framework); and (c) positive effect on academic performance up till a certain point
beyond which participation leads to negative academic outcomes (Threshold

Zero-Sum Framework:

The earliest theoretical framework in the general education literature is the
Zero-Sum framework, which arises from Coleman’s (1961) seminal study. Coleman (1961) viewed the student’s society as a finite system in which commitment to academic, athletic, or social values represents a loss to the other two. As athletic participation was the main determinant of social status in school, Coleman (1961) argued that male students may prefer to invest time and energy in sport ECA and ended up neglecting their academic studies. The Zero-Sum framework theorized that ECA participation has a negative effect on academic performance because students were devoting more time for their ECA activities at the expense of their academic studies (Coleman, 1961).

  1. Developmental Framework:

The dominant theoretical framework in the general education literature is the
Developmental framework, which theorized that ECA participation has a positive
effect on academic performance indirectly as a result of the non-academic and
social benefits associated with ECA participation (Anderman, 2002; Broh, 2002;
Fejgin, 1994; Finn, 1989; Fredricks and Eccles, 2005; Hansen et al., 2003; Holland
and Andre, 1987; Larson, 2006; Lewis, 2004; Mahoney and Cairns, 1997; Mahoney et al., 2003; Marsh, 1992; Osterman, 2000; Valentine et al, 2002).

Broh (2002) argued that there are three ways which ECA participation
indirectly boosts students’ academic performance. First, ECA participation helps
students develop life skills and characteristics such as a strong work ethic, selfesteem, perseverance, locus of control, which are consistent with positive academic outcomes. Second, participating in ECA increases students’ social status and accords them membership into the leading-crowd of academically-oriented peer group, thereby facilitating higher academic performance. Third, ECA participate on provides students with greater interaction with fellow students and the school, thereby building social ties and developing social capital. This social capital then acts as a form of social control that encourages students to follow school norms and thus attain academic success.The achievement-oriented nature of ECA, especially sports activities, is an ideal context for building students’ character (Fejgin, 1994). Fejgin (1994) found that students who participated in competitive sport activities developed a greater internal locus of control.

By making experiences of both success and failure highly visible to
participants and their peers, students realize that achievements depend upon
individual effort. This link between performance and achievement in competitive
sports might help students to establish a greater internal locus of control and
achieve better academic performance (Fejgin, 1994).

ECA participation may be a key factor in increasing students’ sense of
school belonging (Finn, 1989; Fredricks and Eccles, 2005). Students who have a greater sense of school belonging were more likely to be more interested in school,
more motivated, experienced less anxiety and had improved academic performance (Osterman, 2000). Anderman (2002) found that students who felt a greater sense of school belonging obtained a higher grade point average, were more optimistic, and had fewer problems at school. Marsh (1992) argued that through ECA involvement, students experience a sense of meaning and purpose connected to the educational process, which increases their sense of commitment to the school. This results in shaping students’ values and attitudes to become more consistent with the
academic-oriented school values and to the academic process in general as
reflected through lower school dropout rates and school attendance (Mahoney and
Cairns, 1997; Marsh, 1992).

 Threshold Framework:

An emerging theoretical framework in the extant literature is the Threshold
framework, which theorized that ECA participation has a positive effect on academic
performance up till a certain point beyond which participation leads to negative

The Threshold framework posits that the association between ECA
participation and academic outcomes resembles an inverted U-shaped function, in
which academic outcomes increase at low and moderate levels of ECA participation, level off, then decline at the highest participation levels (Marsh, 1992; Fredricks, 2012). The Threshold framework attributes the point of diminishing academic benefits to students’ excessive time commitment which leaves students too little time for academic pursuits, similar to the Zero-Sum framework (Marsh, 1992).

Marsh (1992) found significant non-linear effects of ECA participation on
academic outcomes. Marsh and Kleitman (2002) also found that the number of
ECA, time spent on ECA, and total ECA participation has non-linear effects on
academic outcomes. Similarly, Fredricks and Eccles (2010) reported that ECA
participation has a non-linear effect on grades, educational expectations and
educational status. They argued that high levels of ECA participation weakened
students’ connectedness with others and take time away from academic pursuits
(Fredricks and Eccles, 2010). Fredricks (2012) found that the students’ academic
performance declined at higher breadth and intensity of ECA participation and
argued that the stress of balancing multiple ECA affects academic performance

Cooper et al. (1999) reported a curvilinear trend between ECA participation
and standardized achievement test scores – the amount of time spent on ECAs was
positively associated with test scores, but at the highest participation levels, test
scores declined dramatically. Knifsend and Graham (2012) found curvilinear
relationships between breath of ECA participation and academic performance. They argued that moderate ECA participation provided students with an optimal number of contexts to foster relationships with peers and promote a greater sense of school belonging. In contrast, students with high levels of ECA participation may
experience difficulties determining where they fit in and belong with their peers
(Knifsend and Graham, 2012). Randall and Bohnert (2012) reported a thresholdeffect between ECA participation and students’ psychological and social

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