Academic journal article Journal of Education and Learning

Path Analysis on the Factors Influencing Learning Outcome for Hospitality Interns-From the Flow Theory Perspective

Academic journal article Journal of Education and Learning

Path Analysis on the Factors Influencing Learning Outcome for Hospitality Interns-From the Flow Theory Perspective

Article excerpt


Learning outcome is an important indicator for educators in evaluating curriculum design. The focus of this study has been to examine the factors within internship programs, recognizing the complex nature of knowledge application in a practical industry environment. Flow theory was adopted to explain the psychological state of hospitality students during internship and relate it to their learning outcome. A total of 152 responses were collected via self-administrated questionnaires from hospitality students at their initial and final stages of internship in Taiwan. Results from SEM analysis indicate that both skill and the challenge from work have significant influence on the interns' flow experience, wherein skill has a positive influence, while challenge does not. The flow theory was well confirmed at the final stage of the internship, which becomes the complete mediator for the skill and challenge to influence the learning outcome. Learning for the interns is not exclusively concerned with skill improvement, but includes a process to overcome the unfamiliarity of the challenge, which consequently leads to a direct positive effect on learning. Thus, proper challenge and improvement of skill are important counterparts, which influence the learning outcome simultaneously, where each of them cannot result in the proper learning outcome alone. The practical implication, which can be derived, is that proper cooperation between the educator and the intern supervisor should create an environment for optimum skill development, in which the challenge is balanced with the acquired new skills. Achieving such a balance via flow will facilitate a better learning outcome.

Keywords: hospitality internship, flow theory, learning outcome

1. Introduction

1.1 Background

From the aspect of the required skills and the ability at work, interns are usually considered new employees in an organization. The hospitality industry is a typical sector in the service industry, which employs interns intensively during the high season to fill the gap of manpower demand. Entry level jobs in the hospitality industry require various professional hands-on skills, such as communication, language, culinary and housekeeping skills. Interns might feel intimidated, when they were not fully familiar with all the tasks, especially at the beginning of their internship. The situation of achieving a balance between challenge and skill may be explained by the psychological state called "Flow." Flow theory was first addressed by Csikszentmihalyi (1975), who suggested, when a person's skill and challenge reach a balanced condition, that individual may experience the emotion of pleasure, which is recognized as the flow state. Thus, Flow becomes the mental state of operation, in which a person involved in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement and enjoyment in the process of the activity.

Flow theory has been applied to explain the psychological state of individuals achieving peak performance in different activities. Massimini and Carli (1988) further developed the flow state model into 4 channels, namely anxiety, apathy, flow, and boredom based on the dynamic balance between personal skill levels and perceived challenge. Flow experience has been adopted in sport psychology especially after the development of the flow state scale (Jackson & Marsh, 1996); however, it is not a fully applied concept in the service industry. The nature of an intern's job is similar to those within sport activities with challenges requiring certain levels of skills, and where the positive emotional states have been proven to facilitate the learning effect (Um et al., 2007). Thus, the theory can be applied to explain the emotional state of the interns and the consequent effect on learning. At the beginning of an internship, students are likely to be confronted with a number of challenges until they become acquainted with the various tasks that they need to carry out the responsibilities. …

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