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Courtney McManus, Afra A. Hersi, Ph.D.

A Snapshot of Student Engagement in a Catholic All-Girl School

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Single-sex education has been popular at the secondary level, particularly in the private and religious sectors. As with any trend, there is debate surrounding the topic of single-sex education, particularly whether or not students benefit from such an education. This qualitative study focuses on the experiences and stories of seven female students enrolled in an all-girl Catholic high school in suburban New Jersey. The study examined student engagement in academics and extracurricular activities in an all-girl high school. The study was framed by the following research question: What are the factors which promote engagement in an all-girl school. Data collection included student journals, a student focus group, individual student interviews, and the researcher’s reflexivity journal notes. Data was analyzed within and across the seven participants, identifying categories and themes across the focus students. Drawing on the review of the literature within the data, I identified five themes that influenced the participants’ academic engagement and participation in extracurricular activities.

Initial data suggests that the participants attributed their engagement in academics and extracurricular activities to the opportunities they have had in an all-girl school environment. In terms of academics, the participants identified a stronger willingness to participate in class, engage in leadership roles, and attempt activities they have never tried before. The data also suggests that this school has its own distinct culture, along with a complex peer culture, which influences the students’ engagement and personal investment in the school environment. All findings will be further discussed.

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