The impact of performance feedback on counseling self-efficacy and counselor anxiety. (Counselor Preparation).
An important goal of counselor educators is to assist trainees in becoming effective counselors. The Social Cognitive Model of Counselor Training (SCMCT; Larson, 1998) provides a model that suggests how to accomplish this goal. The SCMCT is based on Bandura's (1982, 1986) social cognitive theory, which posits that human beings exercise control over their thought processes, motivation, and actions. In particular, the SCMCT attempts to explain the interplay of counselor variables (e.g., counselor anxiety), supervision variables (e.g., performance feedback), and client variables (e.g., mock counseling sessions). Counseling self-efficacy serves as a central construct within the SCMCT.
Counseling self-efficacy has been described as a counselor's beliefs or judgments about his or her capabilities to effectively counsel a client in the near future (Larson et al., 1992). Larson and Daniels (1998) presented 32 studies in which counseling self-efficacy was related to other important counselor training variables, such as counselor performance, counselor anxiety, and the supervision environment (e.g., E. Johnson, Baker, Kopala, Kiselica, & Thompson, 1989; Ridgway & Sharpley, 1990; Sipps, Sugden, & Faiver, 1988).
Social cognitive theory, in general, has addressed the relationship between self-efficacy and performance feedback. Bandura (1991, 1997) suggested that performance feedback provides information with which to make a social comparison, especially when the action to be performed is complex. Given the complexity of counseling, counselor trainees may use the feedback they receive in supervision to judge how they performed. Performance feedback is thought to serve as a cue indicating whether the performance was a mastery experience or a performance failure (D. S. Johnson, Perlow, & Pieper, 1993). Friedlander, Keller, Peca-Baker, and Olk (1986) argued that beginning practicum students were likely to change their opinions to more closely conform to their supervisor's estimations of their performance.
A few studies outside the counselor education literature have shown that performance feedback has an impact on domain-specific self-efficacy. Bandura and Jourden (1991) showed that managers who received negative performance feedback experienced diminished self-efficacy and other negative effects. Bouchard (1989) studied the impact of performance feedback on problem-solving self-efficacy. Positive feedback was related to higher levels of problem-solving self-efficacy, whereas negative feedback was related to lower levels of problem-solving self-efficacy.
Research on supervisory feedback within counseling has been sparse (Goodyear, 1998). Friedlander, Siegel, and Brenock (1989) operationalized supervisor feedback with the Supervisory Feedback Rating System (SFRS). The SFRS specifies four dimensions of feedback: "type (interpersonal or cognitive-behavioral), specificity (global or specific), valence (positive or negative), and focus (the counseling or the supervisory relationship)" (Friedlander et al., 1989, p. 151). In a case study, Friedlander et al. (1989) found that, during nine supervision sessions, feedback was rarely given. When it was given, it tended to be interpersonal, global, and positive. Larson (1998) suggested that supervisors' feedback to their supervisees needed to be "specific, constructive, positive, and changeable" (p. 241).
To date, only two studies have examined the relationship between counseling self-efficacy and performance feedback in the area of counselor training (Kopala, 1987; Lane, Daugherty, & Nyman, 1998). Kopala's study was a preliminary examination of five supervisee--supervisor dyads. Four out of the five supervisees' counseling self-efficacy increased slightly after positive feedback, and there was no noticeable change in trainee anxiety. Kopala did not examine negative feedback, used a small sample, and had multiple confounds. Lane et al. manipulated performance feedback regarding undergraduates' "innate counseling ability" (p. 1113). They found that participants who received negative feedback reported significantly lower counseling self-efficacy than those who received positive performance feedback. The feedback was not specific to a particular action, nor were the participants actual counselor trainees.
In addition to the literature on the impact of performance feedback on counseling self-efficacy, there is also considerable research that has examined the relationship between counseling self-efficacy and anxiety. Generally, anxiety has been operationally defined by the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI; Spielberger, 1983). Kaplan and Saccuzzo (1997) defined state anxiety as a situation-specific emotional reaction, whereas trait anxiety reflects a personality characteristic related to how one handles stress. Because self-efficacy is an immediate, present-centered cognitive appraisal, studies commonly assess the more immediate state anxiety. Counseling self-efficacy has been found to negatively correlate with trait and state anxiety (rs range from -.24 to -.79; Alvarez, 1995; Friedlander et al., 1986; Larson et al., 1992). To date, no study has examined the role of performance feedback concerning a counseling session on counselor trainees' state anxiety and counseling self-efficacy.
The purpose of our study was to investigate the influence of performance feedback on counseling self-efficacy and counselor anxiety with graduate-level counselor trainees. We extended prior research in several important ways. First, we examined the effect of positive and negative performance feedback on graduate-level counselor trainees' counseling self-efficacy and anxiety. Second, counselor trainees in our study performed mock counseling sessions that closely mimicked many mock counseling sessions commonly used in prepractica. Third, we used an experimental laboratory design (Heppner, Kivlighan, & Wampold, 1992) in which an independent variable was manipulated in a laboratory setting. By manipulating which counselor trainees received bogus positive and negative feedback about their counseling performance, we were able to investigate whether there was a causal relationship between performance feedback and counseling self-efficacy and feedback and anxiety.
Specifically, we tested two hypotheses. The first hypothesis was that participants who received positive feedback would report significant increases in counseling self-efficacy from pretest to posttest, and participants who received negative feedback would report significant decreases in counseling self-efficacy from pretest to posttest. The second hypothesis was that participants who received positive feedback would report significant decreases in state anxiety from pretest to posttest, and participants who received negative feedback would report significant increases in state anxiety from pretest to posttest.
Forty-five volunteers from four midwestern universities participated in this study. Participants were enrolled in counseling psychology, counselor education or school counseling, clinical psychology, or marriage and family therapy graduate programs. A majority of the participants were from counseling psychology or counselor education/school counseling programs (n = 32, 71%). Thirty-seven participants (83%) self-identified as Caucasian, 6 (13%) self-identified as African American, and 2 (4%) self-identified as international students. Thirty-nine (87%) participants in this sample were women, and 6 participants (13%) were men. These demographics are representative of students entering graduate programs across the country (Syverson, 1996). Participants ranged in age from 21 to 48 years (M = 30, SD = 8), and they had completed from 0 to 52 (M = 17, SD = 15) hours of course work in their graduate programs. On average, participants had less than one full semester of supervised practicum experience and had worked slightly more than one semester in a supervised counseling or related position.
Demographic form. The demographic form contained questions about age, gender, ethnic background, type of graduate program enrolled in, graduate hours completed, number of semesters of supervision, and practicum experience.
The Counseling Self-Estimate Inventory. The Counseling Self-Estimate Inventory (COSE; Larson et al., 1992) is a 37-item 6-point Likert-type instrument that measures counseling self-efficacy. Item responses are arranged on a scale that ranges from 1 (strongly disagree) to 6 (strongly agree), with higher total scores representing higher perceptions of counseling self-efficacy. A factor analysis (Larson et al., 1992) revealed five factors; however, Larson et al. (1992) recommended the use of the total score rather than the factor scores when studying overall counseling self-efficacy. Evidence for the reliability and validity of the COSE has been presented elsewhere (Larson & Daniels, 1998; Larson et al., 1992).
The State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. The State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI; Spielberger, 1983) is a 40-item measure of state anxiety (STAI-S) and trait anxiety (STAI-T). Each scale has 20 items with a 4-point Likert-type scale for each item. Item scales are anchored from 1 (not at all) to 4 (very much so). Scores on each scale can range from 20 to 80, with higher scores representing higher levels of anxiety. Spielberger (1983) has presented evidence for the reliability and validity of the STAI. Because we were interested only in assessing the immediate impact of the performance feedback, the STAI-S scores alone were assessed.
Manipulation check. To separate the effect of the mock counseling session from the performance feedback, participants were asked to rate, on one item, their counseling performance on a 9-point scale, from 1 (I really blew it) to 9 (I did great). This was asked of each participant immediately after the mock counseling session. After the participants received the bogus performance feedback, they were again asked to respond to the same question. The manipulation check allowed the researchers to determine that participants' ratings of their performance after the feedback was based on the performance feedback and not on their own rating of their performance.
When they arrived at the study site, participants were given a packet that contained the informed consent form, a demographic form, a brief description of the mock client, and the pretest COSE.
The mock client was described as a woman in her mid-20s who had recently moved to the area to attend graduate school. Her complaint was feelings of loneliness and depression. Participants were further informed that the client was not suicidal and that the purpose of the mock counseling session was to begin the counseling process, not to conduct an intake assessment. The person playing the mock client was a Caucasian woman in her early 30s. She received training in playing the prescribed role. This training involved viewing a videotape of a mock client and practicing while the first author observed and gave input. The mock client was instructed to provide background information, the presenting problem, and problem severity in the same way to each counselor, pending the counselor's exploration of such issues. However, it was also important for the client to remain flexible so that she could respond appropriately to the counselor's chosen focus. The researcher observed each mock counseling session to ensure that the mock client followed the aforementioned guidelines.
Each participant then conducted a 10-minute mock counseling session. The researcher observed from a two-way mirror or television monitor. Immediately after the session, the researcher reentered the counseling room and asked the participant to estimate his or her performance (i.e., the first part of the manipulation check). After this estimation, each participant completed the pretest STAI-S while the researcher again went to the observation room. When the participant completed the STAI-S, the researcher returned and gave either the positive or the negative performance feedback. The positive and negative feedback was randomly assigned. The positive feedback was
I just observed your counseling session and rated your performance on a number of specific counseling skills. I'll give you more details later, but I just wanted to let you know that you scored 85 out of 100. That's very high compared to others who have completed the study before you. I was impressed by how far you got with the problem definition. Anyway, we'll talk more about this later, and I'll let you know exactly what I observed.
The negative feedback was identical, except the anchor was "you scored 15 out of 100. That's very low compared to others who have completed the study before you. I was hoping you'd get farther with the problem definition." It was important to exaggerate the positive and negative feedback to ensure that the two conditions were very different.
After receiving the feedback, each participant completed the second part of the manipulation check, the posttest COSE, and the posttest STAI-S. Finally, each participant was thoroughly debriefed regarding the nature and purpose of this study. Standards for the ethical treatment of human subjects (American Counseling Association, 1995) were closely followed throughout this study and in the debriefing. Although there is no information about potential long-term negative effects of the deception used in this study, there is evidence that being deceived in research does not result in long-term negative effects (Holmes, 1976). No participants dropped out of this study, and all participant data were used.
We conducted preliminary analyses to verify that there were no significant differences across graduate majors or sex in relation to the pretest COSE, the pretest STAI-S, and the manipulation check. Because there were three t tests for each dependent variable, we adjusted the alpha level to .017. Results were not significant for all of the preliminary analyses (all ps > .017). We also analyzed the manipulation check items to determine if the participants heeded the performance feedback. Results of a 2 (feedback) x 2 (time) repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) indicated that participants adjusted their performance estimations following the feedback, F(1, 43) = 4.62, p < .05.
The first hypothesis was that participants who received positive feedback would report significant increases in the COSE from pretest to posttest, and participants who received negative feedback would report significant decreases in the COSE from pretest to posttest.
A 2 (feedback) x 2 (time) repeated measures ANOVA was conducted to test this prediction. Results of the ANOVA for Hypothesis 1 indicated a significant interaction of performance feedback by time, F(1, 43) = 20.78, p < .001. Thus, Hypothesis 1 was supported, indicating that there were significant differences in ratings of counseling self-efficacy from pretest to posttest, depending on the feedback the trainee received. Means and standard deviations of pretest and posttest COSE scores by performance feedback are presented in Table 1. As can be seen in Table 1, positive feedback significantly increased the COSE scores by almost one third of a standard deviation. Negative feedback significantly decreased the COSE scores by almost two thirds of a standard deviation.
The second hypothesis was that participants who received positive feedback would report significant decreases in anxiety from pretest to posttest, and participants who received negative feedback would report significant increases in anxiety from pre-test to posttest. A 2 (feedback) x 2 (time) repeated measures ANOVA was conducted to test this prediction. Results of the ANOVA indicated a significant interaction of performance feedback by time for the STAI-S, F(1, 43) = 26.94, p < .001. Results support Hypothesis 2, indicating that there were significant differences in ratings of anxiety from pretest to posttest, depending on the feedback received. Table 2 presents the means and standard deviations of pretest and posttest STAI-S scores by performance feedback. As can be seen in Table 2, positive feedback significantly decreased the state anxiety scores by almost one standard deviation. Negative feedback significantly increased the anxiety scores by almost one half of a standard deviation.
The purpose of our study was to investigate the influence of performance feedback about a mock counseling session on counseling self-efficacy and anxiety with graduate-level counselor trainees. As expected, the results supported Hypothesis 1. Our results extended those of Kopala (1987), who found that positive feedback slightly increased counseling self-efficacy for four out of five supervision dyads. Lane et al. (1998) found that undergraduates who received negative performance feedback reported significantly lower counseling self-efficacy than those who received positive performance feedback. We extended these findings by using counselor trainees in a true experimental study. Moreover, we used a recently completed mock counseling session as the domain of action
In our study, performance feedback seemed to serve as a cue to the participants regarding their performance. This corroborated the findings of D. S. Johnson et al. (1993) and supported predictions made by Friedlander et al. (1986).
Results supported Hypothesis 2, which supports previous research that suggested that a negative evaluation may heighten anxiety and a favorable evaluation may put one more at ease (Schauer, Seymour, & Geen, 1985). These results also extended prior counselor training research that has shown counseling self-efficacy to be moderately to strongly negatively correlated with state anxiety (Alvarez, 1995; Friedlander et al., 1986; Larson et al., 1992).
These findings provided support for the SCMCT (Larson, 1998). As expected, positive feedback seemed to be translated by novice counselor trainees as a mastery experience more so than the negative feedback did. This mastery experience led to increases in their counseling self-efficacy and decreases in their anxiety. Likewise, negative feedback seemed more likely to be translated by novice trainees as a failure experience than positive feedback was, thereby decreasing counseling self-efficacy and increasing anxiety.
Implications for Counselor Training
Given the analog nature of our study, implications need to be considered with caution. Our results suggest that performance feedback about a mock counseling session influenced counseling self-efficacy and anxiety. Although supervisors do not give feedback in a way that is as exaggerated as that given to participants in this study, positive and negative feedback is given to trainees nonetheless (Friedlander et al., 1989). On the basis of our Findings, supervisors might predict that positive feedback will increase counseling serf-efficacy and decrease the anxiety of trainees, and their negative feedback will decrease the counseling self-efficacy and increase the anxiety of trainees.
Supervisors should also attend to other aspects of their feedback, including accuracy, capacity to change, and specificity (Larson, 1998). By following this line of research, the supervisor and practicum instructor may create opportunities for enhanced growth and experience for their trainees.
Counselor trainees who lack confidence need special consideration from counselor educators. To become an efficacious counselor, trainees need multiple mastery experiences. Mastery experiences enhance counseling self-efficacy, which leads to increased confidence. Results of this study suggest that counseling self-efficacy can be raised by helping the supervisee see the mastery components of his or her counseling activities. In our experience, competence in basic counseling skills will not develop until the overly self-critical supervisee gains confidence. Thus, the supervisor is advised to actively increase the trainee's counseling self-efficacy by focusing on techniques that have been effective for the trainee during training sessions. Feedback that enhances the positives and is accompanied by specific suggestions about ways to improve should lead to higher counseling self-efficacy, lower anxiety, and more confidence.
Previous research has indicated that high levels of anxiety may have deleterious effects on practicum students. Ronnestad and Skovholt (1993) suggested that high levels of anxiety seem to lead to an external orientation, which may limit growth. They recommended that one way that supervisors can lower supervisee anxiety is to provide specific feedback. Hiebert, Uhlemann, Marshall, and Lee (1998) found that supervisees' negative self-talk was related to increases in anxiety, and positive self-talk was related to decreases in state anxiety. Moreover, they found that higher levels of anxiety were related to impaired counseling performance on videotapes, and lower anxiety was related to enhanced counseling performance. Clearly, too much anxiety in initial practicum is negative. However, some anxiety enhances learning and performance, acting as a motivator (Larson, 1998). Research dating back to Yerkes and Dodson (1908) has shown that difficult tasks can best be performed with low to moderate amounts of anxiety. Because counseling is a difficult task, moderate levels of anxiety may be beneficial to beginning practicum students (Larson, 1998).
Limitations and Future Directions
Because this was a first study to examine counseling self-efficacy, performance feedback, and anxiety together, issues of internal validity were assessed. Thus, the manipulation was presented in an exaggerated manner. In fact, two participants in this study indicated that, although they felt they had not done a very good job in the mock counseling session, they did not think they had performed as poorly as "15 out of 100" would suggest. With that observation, future researchers may want to reduce the extremes of the positive and negative feedback. For example, the positive feedback could be 95 out of 100, and the negative feedback could be 70 out of 100.
One strength of the present study is that the variety of the graduate programs represented in the sample bolstered the generalizability of the results. However, future research should also move from the confines of this analog study to a more naturalistic setting, thereby enhancing the external validity of this area of research. For example, the impact of performance feedback as it is typically given in supervision needs to be explored. Researchers may manipulate the specificity of the feedback provided, how constructive it is, and how changeable the feedback is (Larson, 1998). In addition, the impact of feedback that is interpersonal, global, and positive (Friedlander et al., 1989) and delivered within the context of an ongoing working relationship needs to be explored in future research.
Finally, future research should more closely examine the relationship between counseling self-efficacy and counselor performance. For example, if supervisors can enhance the counseling self-efficacy of their supervisees through the use of positive feedback, does this lead to enhanced counselor performance?
TABLE 1 Means and Standard Deviations of Counseling Self-Estimate Inventory Scores by Performance Feedback (Positive Versus Negative) Feedback n Pretest M SD Positive 22 147.64 24.07 Negative 23 143.87 16.08 Overall 45 145.71 20.23 Feedback n Posttest M SD Sig. Positive 22 154.68 24.12 .017 Negative 23 130.57 21.74 .001 Overall 45 142.36 25.74 TABLE 2 Means and Standard Deviations of State-Trait Anxiety Inventory Scores (STAI-S) by Performance Feedback (Positive Versus Negative) Feedback n Pretest M SD Positive 22 37.95 10.13 Negative 23 36.09 8.71 Overall 45 37.00 9.37 Feedback n Posttest M SD Sig. Positive 22 31.95 6.93 .001 Negative 23 41.00 10.91 .007 Overall 45 36.58 10.17
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Jeffrey A. Daniels is an associate professor in the Psychology Department at Central Washington University, Ellensburg. Lisa M. Larson is a professor in the Psychology Department at Iowa State University, Ames. This article is based on the first author's doctoral dissertation under the direction of the second author at the University of Nebraska--Lincoln in 1996. The first author thanks Collie Conoley, Susan Lonborg, Craig Smith, and Wayne Piersal for their help and comments. Correspondence regarding the article should be sent to Jeffrey A. Daniels, Department of Psychology, Central Washington University, Ellensburg. WA 98926-7575 (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
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|Author:||Daniels, Jeffrey A.; Larson, Lisa M.|
|Publication:||Counselor Education and Supervision|
|Article Type:||Statistical Data Included|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2001|
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