When it comes to improving performance there have been several studies to help create effective framework towards helping others reaching their goals. This study was conducted to see how families could reduce overall energy consumption in their homes. Families were chosen from a planned community who lived in identical housing units. Half the families were given a difficult goal of 20% energy reduction and the other half had an easier goal of 2% energy reduction. In each group only half received formal feedback. The study predicted that the families who set the difficult goal and received feedback would see the greatest energy savings. In the end, the study revealed that the families who had the 20% reduction goal and received feedback saved the most energy; over 15%. The study backed up the theory that improved performance is a direct result of both difficult goal-setting and specific feedback.
Keywords: improved performance; goal setting; feedback
When driving across country for the first time the best course of action is to use a map. This way as the person drives across country, they can use the map to track their progress and ensure they are still on track. The same can be said for a person who wants to improve their performance in any area of their life. They need a map to track their progress and ensure they’re on track. An example of a map to help improve performance would be difficult goal setting and feedback. According to Becker (1978) there’s a significant improvement in an activity if difficult goals are set and feedback is given throughout the activity.
Lawrence Becker conducted a study to determine if feedback and goal setting could help families reduce energy consumption. According to Locke, Shaw, Saari, & Latham (1981), it is better to have a goal that is specific and challenging as opposed to a goal that is easy and non-specific. Do your best goals do not work as they are not specific and measurable. Additionally, feedback is a key component towards achieving goals and improving performance. Feedback allows to show progress towards a given goal and keeps people on track. Feedback and goal setting go hand in hand together towards improving performance. While the two actions are good on their own, in order to improve performance both actions are needed.
According to Balcazar, Hopkins & Suarez (1985) feedback along does not improve performance. Improved performance is seen when rewards and/or goal setting is combined with feedback. Additionally, certain types of feedback are better than others toward improving overall performance. In a study performed by DeNisi & Kluger (2000) they recommend that feedback gets delivered along with information on how the recipient can improve along with a formal goal-setting plan.
Becker asked families to reduce their energy consumption for several weeks during the summer. In this study there were two different groups, one group was given a difficult goal to meet while the other group was given an easy goal to meet. Half of each group was given feedback while the half didn’t. The families who both set specific difficult goals and receive feedback on their progress will see the most improvement on their performance.
Becker’s research method used for this study was experimental. The independent variables (IV’s) were goal difficulty and feedback while the dependent variable (DV) was improved performance. This study was comprised of two groups of families to reduce energy consumption. One group had a difficult goal of 20% reduction while the other group had an easy goal of 2% reduction. Feedback was given to half the families in each group. The DV in this study was which group had the best overall energy reduction.
According to Becker (1978) the participants for this study came from homeowners in a planned unit development of around 3,000 units. Of these 3,000 units the study picked 317 identical three-bedroom townhouses in the same part of the development. Of the 317 units, 175 houses were called on to find 100 families that were willing and able to participate. The needed to ensure the families who were participating in the study would be home during the entire study. The 100 families were broken down into three groups. 40 families were asked to reduce their energy consumption by 20% and 40 more families were asked to reduce their energy consumption by 2%. The final 20 families were used as the control group and were just monitored for their everyday energy consumption habits. The household consisted of families that that were college educated in their early 30s with two younger children. The median income for this sample group was within the $20,000-$24,999 range.
The participants were given instructions to read a letter that explained the procedures for their part of the study. Half the residents were asked to reduce their energy consumption by 20% while the other half was asked to reduce their energy consumption by 2%. Finally, the control group was instructed that they would be examined for their regular everyday energy patterns. There were also tips in the letters explaining actions the residents could take to reduce their overall energy consumption. Participants were also instructed that their meters would be read every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
According to Becker (1978) the hypothesis predicts that improve performance is a result from both feedback and goal setting. The participants were given instructions to read a letter that explained the procedures for their part of the study. Half the residents were asked to reduce their energy consumption by 20% while the other half was asked to reduce their energy consumption by 2%. Finally, the control group was instructed that they would be examined for their regular everyday energy patterns. There were also tips in the letters explaining actions the residents could take to reduce their overall energy consumption. Participants were also instructed that their meters would be read every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
As predicted the families who both set specific difficult goals and received feedback on their progress saw the most improvement on their performance. The results of the hypothesis tested are attributed to both difficult goal setting and feedback about performance in relation to the activity. In this case, the activity was energy reduction. According to Becker (1978) this was supported with the 20% group (a difficult goal) who received feedback saved the most energy throughout the entire study. The number of kilowatt hours this group was significantly less than the control group, 9.22 p < .005.
A separate reading found that the 2% group who received feedback used significantly less than the control as well (p < .05) while the 20% group who received feedback didn’t fare as well. They used less than the control but not as much (p < .10). Overall the 20% group who received feedback used 13% less energy than the control group while the 2% group who received feedback use 4.6% less than the control group.
On the other and the 20% group who didn’t receive feedback only used 1.3% less than the control group and the 2% group who didn’t receive feedback used 1.2% more electricity than the control group. When the study looked at feedback scores based on consumption for the entire treatment period the 20% group with feedback saved 15.1% and the 2% feedback group saved 5.7%. The 20% group that didn’t receive feedback saved only 4.5% and the 2% group with no feedback used .6% more electricity. No matter how you look at the numbers it’s obvious that the greatest savings occurred with the group who set a difficult goal of 20% and received feedback.
When families set specific difficult goals and received feedback on their progress saw the greatest energy savings. Our results support this hypothesis as the families who had a goal of 20% reduction and received feedback three times a week saw a greater percentage of savings than the families with an easier goal of 2% reduction and the control group. The results of the study showed that the 20% group who received feedback saved over 15% more energy while the 2% group who received feedback saved nearly 6%. On the contrary the groups who didn’t receive feedback only saved 4.5% and .6%. This data backs up the claims made by others mentioned earlier in this paper. Improving performance needs to have specific challenging goals along with measured feedback informing the person if they are on track to reach their goals or if they are getting off track.
This research has a strong construct validity. The researchers were able to obtain actual numbers of energy consumption from the participants in order to compare and analyze. According to Becker (1978) each family was asked to set a goal of either 20% energy reduction or 2% energy reduction. Half of the families in each group were given feedback on their progress. The performance of each family was tracked throughout the study. The families who received feedback were given access to their progress and could see if they were improving or not. The study has a strong external validity.
According to Becker (1978) the participants were families who lived in a planned unit development of approximately 3,000 units. The families were selected from a pool of 317 identical three-bedroom units in this development. In the end, the study had 100 families participate that were college educated, in their early 30s with two small children and had a median income of $20,000 – $24,999. Covariance is established in this study. The study established a relationship between difficult goal setting and feedback in improving performance.
According to Becker (1978) the 20% reduction group (the most difficult goal) who received feedback outpaced everyone significantly in terms of energy reduction. The other groups who had an easier goal or did not receive feedback did save nearly as much energy. This study also establishes a temporal precedence. The researchers had data on the households of their energy consumption before the study took place. The measurements show a direct improvement from those who benefited from difficult goal setting and feedback during the study. The results will not likely be the same if the IV’s and DV’s were flipped. You can’t have improved performance first and then set difficult goals and receive feedback.
This study had a third-variable problem due to the time it was conducted. The study was conducted during the warmest month of the summer where the greatest amount of electricity is typically used. Additionally, the participants had knowledge of the study and were aware they were being monitored which could have skewed the overall results. One change to this study I would make is to make the study longer. I would make this study at least a year long to capture energy consumption during each of the four seasons.
Additionally, the longer study may take the participants knowledge of the study out of the equation as they will more than likely get complacent and revert to their old ways. This would be a more difficult test for the goal setting and feedback part of the study. The second change I would make is during a longer study I would change the parameters at a certain point during the study by changing the families who received feedback. This would give a direct correlation to those who were receiving to those who didn’t. If we saw a significant improvement in those who weren’t receiving but started receiving feedback it would make that claim stronger.