Academic journal article Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning

The Relationship between Performance Feedback and Service-Learning

Academic journal article Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning

The Relationship between Performance Feedback and Service-Learning

Article excerpt

Performance Feedback and Service-Learning

Rooted in the civics education tradition in American schools (Hepburn, 1997), service-learning is receiving interest from academicians in higher education interested in applying curricular models that are experience-based (Gabelnick, 1997) and socially responsive (Altman, 1996). There is evidence that effective service-learning programs lead to such beneficial outcomes as increases in students' self-esteem (Eyler & Giles, 1997), systemic and complex moral reasoning (Eyler, Root, & Giles, 1998), development of productive interpersonal relationships with adults (McGill, 1992), and commitment to help others (Giles & Eyler, 1994). Moreover, service-learning experiences help students face the reality of working with other adults on problems encountered in the community. These experiences could, therefore, be valuable in building competencies to work effectively with co-workers and customers (Stone & Mortimer, 1998) and making career choices (Owens, 1982). Also, service-learning programs, like internships, could help in crystallizing students' vocational self-concepts (Hall, 1976), thereby easing their transition from school to work (Kramer, 1974), and allowing them access to potential employers.

Performance feedback has been described as a developmental tool for students participating in service-learning (Menlo, 1993), and has been treated as a principle of good practice in the service-learning literature (Honnett & Poulson, 1989). Feedback in the work setting could potentially impact students involved in service-learning in at least three ways.

1. Adaptation. There is evidence that feedback facilitates individual adaptation in the workplace (Ashford, 1986). Feedback forms a significant part of an organization's information environment (Hanser & Muchinsky, 1978), providing people with information regarding performance standards, rules, and norms, as well as the extent to which these are being met or not met. This helps people develop strategies to attain desired goals and other workplace standards, and ultimately leads to successful adaptation.

2. Insight. According to the experiential learning perspective (Dewey, 1938; Lewin, 1951; Marsick, 1991), performance feedback can help people gain insight into their own values, beliefs, and assumptions about people and work, especially if their experiences are processed through reflection (Marsick, 1989). Similarly, 360-degree feedback research suggests that feedback can help enhance people's awareness about their competencies, thus facilitating personal change and development (Yammarino & Atwater, 1997).

3. Self-Efficacy. Performance feedback available to individuals through enactive mastery and verbal persuasion have been shown to enhance self-efficacy (Bandura, 1986). Higher levels of self-efficacy might lead individuals to set more challenging goals and attempt more complex strategies to achieve goals, and increase the probability of successfully attaining these goals. In the service-learning context, self-efficacy would be translated into better student performance, as well as higher student confidence in addressing community problems and choosing challenging careers.

Although the positive impact of feedback on performance in training programs has been demonstrated in various studies (e.g., Martocchio & Dulebohn, 1994; Martocchio & Webster, 1992), little is known about how performance feedback specifically impacts the way in which people learn from their experiences in the natural context of their workplace. Studies of feedback and training performance cannot be easily generalized to the realm of experiential learning in the workplace because of the unstructured and often random characteristics of such learning (Marsick, 1990), and because what is learned may or may not be directly translated into changes in objective performance. On the other hand, this type of learning is extremely common and has implications for the individual's adaptation to the work environment and to self-development. …

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