Kristin Krahl Jamie L. LoVerde Mark W. Scerbo Old Dominion University
Many issues involving skill acquisition in teams are tenuous and need to be studied experimentally (e.g., practice strategies, types of feedback, personality and motivational differences). One such issue is whether knowledge of results (KR) should be given as individual scores for individual members, or as an overall team score to all members, or whether both types of KR are necessary. At present, there is little research on this topic, thus, the purpose of the present study was to address this need in the literature.
Often times, team members must tradeoff between optimizing team performance or maximizing individual performance. Salas, Dickinson, Converse, & Tannenbaum ( 1992) suggest that performance should benefit from those aspects of a task to which feedback is given (i.e., individual feedback facilitates individual performance, team feedback facilitates team performance). For example, individual feedback may cause members to concentrate on their own tasks and neglect their team duties thereby potentially reducing overall team performance. Consequently, Jentsch, Navarro, Braun, and Bowers ( 1994) and Jentsch, Tait, Navarro, and Bowers ( 1995) performed studies to observe the effects of different forms of feedback on team performance.
Based on results of Saavedra, Earley, and Van Dyne ( 1993), Jentsch et al. ( 1994) had teammates work toward a common goal on a task requiring reciprocal interdependence, i.e., one member's output became another member's input and vice versa. They accomplished this by using a tracking task, referred to as Team Track ( Jentsch, Bowers, Compton, Navarro, & Tait, 1996), where members relied upon their partner to guide them about how to move their joystick/mouse. Each participant was assigned to control either the horizontal or vertical position of the cursor. Participants saw the target along only their partner's axis and, therefore, they required positional cues from their partner. Those subjects controlling the horizontal direction of the cursor either received individual, team, or no feedback; those in the vertical condition received no feedback. Their goal was to minimize team tracking error.
Overall, the results ( Jentsch et al., 1994) showed that team members receiving individual feedback performed significantly better than their partners who received no feedback, however, those receiving individual feedback optimized their individual performance at the expense of their partner. This finding suggests that individual feedback causes team members to neglect their team duty (i.e., provide directional cues) while concentrating on their own performance. On the other hand, those receiving team feedback did not perform significantly better than those members receiving no feedback. Members receiving team feedback could not effectively use this information to enhance performance; team feedback provides aggregated scores which does not allow for the decomposition of strengths and weaknesses of each team member. The authors suggested that because individuals did not know their own levels of performance it inhibited them from taking remedial action. Therefore, team feedback may only be effective if members are able to derive information about their own performance.
One approach to reducing the effects found in the above study is to provide both individual and team feedback to members. Usually, members on a team must perform both individual and team duties, thus Matsui, Kakuyama, and Onglatco ( 1987) suggested providing both forms of feedback in order to maximize team performance. They believe it is necessary to provide individual feedback to those members whose performance is below the team average. On the other hand, team feedback is useful to those teams whose performance is below average as a whole even though individual members are meeting their performance goals.