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Exploring PsyCap's state-like nature by measuring the impact of service-learning

Larry R McElravy Jr, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Service-learning is pedagogical tool that engages students in service and volunteer experiences to optimize learning. Although service-learning increases several important development and learning outcomes in college students (Yorio & Ye, 2012), it is not clear whether service-learning is better preparing these students for their future careers (Gray, Ondaatje, Fricker, & Geschwind, 2000). To better understand the influence of service-learning on student development, a pre-test/post-test design is used to study the impact of service-learning on two important workplace self-evaluative psychological constructs, Psychological Capital (PsyCap) and Core Self-Evaluations (CSE). Although increasing both PsyCap and CSE would likely be beneficial to the students' future career success, CSE is considered trait-like and is hypothesized to remain constant over the course of a semester, whereas, PsyCap is considered to be relatively more state-like and is hypothesized to change significantly after students complete the service-learning course. Based on prior work focused on developing PsyCap using short interventions (Luthans, Avey, Avolio, Norman, & Combs, 2006; Luthans, Avey, & Patera, 2008; Luthans, Avey, Avolio, & Peterson, 2010), three elements of the service-learning course are theorized as having the potential to increase PsyCap, goal-setting, reflections, and presentations and updates. Furthermore, CSE have been empirically linked to PsyCap as an antecedent (Avey, 2014) and have been linked to increased learning in training environments (Stanhope, Pond, & Surface, 2013); thus, it is hypothesized that students with higher CSE will have greater PsyCap development over the semester. The results from 233 students revealed that mean PsyCap scores did change significantly over the course of the semester. However, the results from the analyses on the change of CSE produced conflicting results, but as expected, the findings do suggest that the effective change in PsyCap was greater than the effective change in CSE. Contrary to expectations, CSE did not mediate PsyCap development. Overall, the results from this study provide additional support for the state-like nature of PsyCap and provide insight into measuring the impact of service-learning on student development.

Subject Area

Educational evaluation|Organizational behavior|Higher education

Recommended Citation

McElravy Jr, Larry R, "Exploring PsyCap's state-like nature by measuring the impact of service-learning" (2014). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3642810.