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Blissful Ignorance? A Natural Experiment on the Effect of Feedback on Students'Performance

  • Oriana Bandiera
  • Valentino Larcinese
  • Imran Rasul

We provide evidence on whether providing university students with feedback on their past exam performance affects their future exam performance. Our identification strategy exploits a natural experiment in a leading UK university where different departments have historically different rules on the provision of feedback to their students. We find the provision of feedback has a positive effect on students’ subsequent test scores: the mean impact corresponds to 13% of a standard deviation in test scores. The impact of feedback is stronger for more able students and for students who have less information to start with about the academic environment, while no subset of individuals is found to be discouraged by feedback. Our findings suggest that students have imperfect information on how their effort translates into test scores and that the provision of feedback might be a cost?effective means to increase students' exam performance. Keywords: feedback, incentives, students' performance, university education.

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Paper provided by IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University in its series Working Papers with number 511.

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Date of creation: 2014
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Handle: RePEc:igi:igierp:511
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  1. Steven D. Levitt, 2006. "An Economist Sells Bagels: A Case Study in Profit Maximization," NBER Working Papers 12152, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Christiane Bradler & Robert Dur & Susanne Neckermann & Arjan Non, 2013. "Employee Recognition and Performance: A Field Experiment," CESifo Working Paper Series 4164, CESifo Group Munich.
  3. Daniel Aaronson & Lisa Barrow & William Sander, 2007. "Teachers and Student Achievement in the Chicago Public High Schools," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25, pages 95-135.
  4. Oriana Bandiera & Imran Rasul & Iwan Baranky, 2011. "Team incentives: evidence from a firm level experiment," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 58193, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  5. Bandiera, Oriana & Larcinese, Valentino & Rasul, Imran, 2009. "Heterogeneous Class Size Effects: New Evidence from a Panel of University Students," IZA Discussion Papers 4496, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Gerald S. Oettinger, 1999. "An Empirical Analysis of the Daily Labor Supply of Stadium Vendors," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(2), pages 360-392, April.
  7. Florian Ederer, 2010. "Feedback and Motivation in Dynamic Tournaments," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 19(3), pages 733-769, 09.
  8. Ashraf, Nava & Bandiera, Oriana & Lee, Scott S., 2014. "Awards unbundled: Evidence from a natural field experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 44-63.
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