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Student Achievement and University Classes: Effects of Attendance, Size, Peers, and Teachers


  • Martins, Pedro S.

    () (Queen Mary, University of London)

  • Walker, Ian

    () (Lancaster University)


We examine the empirical determinants of student achievement in higher education, focusing our attention on its small-group teaching component (classes or seminars) and on the role of attendance, number of students per class, peers, and tutors. The empirical analysis is based on longitudinal administrative data from a major undergraduate program where students are allocated to class groups in a systematic way, but one which is plausibly uncorrelated with ability. Although, in simple specifications, we find positive returns to attendance and sizeable differences in the effectiveness of teaching assistants, most effects are not significant in specifications that include student fixed effects. We conclude that unobserved heterogeneity amongst students, even in an institution that imposes rigorous admission criteria and so has little observable heterogeneity, is apparently much more important than observable variation in inputs in explaining student outcomes.

Suggested Citation

  • Martins, Pedro S. & Walker, Ian, 2006. "Student Achievement and University Classes: Effects of Attendance, Size, Peers, and Teachers," IZA Discussion Papers 2490, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2490

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Abdulmumini Baba Alfa & Abdulmumini Baba Alfa & Mohd Zaini Abd Karim, 2016. "Student Enthusiasm as a Key Determinant of their Performance," International Review of Management and Marketing, Econjournals, vol. 6(2), pages 237-245.
    2. Stephen L. Ross, 2009. "Social Interactions within Cities: Neighborhood Environments and Peer Relationships," Working papers 2009-31, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
    3. Oriana Bandiera & Valentino Larcinese & Imran Rasul, 2010. "Heterogeneous Class Size Effects: New Evidence from a Panel of University Students," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 120(549), pages 1365-1398, December.
    4. Martins, Pedro S., 2017. "(How) Do Non-Cognitive Skills Programs Improve Adolescent School Achievement? Experimental Evidence," IZA Discussion Papers 10950, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Steven Brint and Allison M. Cantwell, 2011. "ACADEMIC DISCIPLINES AND THE UNDERGRADUATE EXPERIENCE: Rethinking Bok’s “Underachieving Colleges†Thesis," University of California at Berkeley, Center for Studies in Higher Education qt83q89897, Center for Studies in Higher Education, UC Berkeley.
    6. Martins, Pedro S., 2017. "Can Non-Cognitive Skills Programs Improve Achievement? Quasi-Experimental Evidence from EPIS," GLO Discussion Paper Series 105, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    7. Delaney, Liam & Harmon, Colm & Ryan, Martin, 2013. "The role of noncognitive traits in undergraduate study behaviours," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 32(C), pages 181-195.
    8. Frederick van der Ploeg & Reinhilde Veugelers, 2007. "Higher Education Reform and the Renewed Lisbon Strategy: Role of Member States and the European Commission," Economics Working Papers ECO2007/33, European University Institute.
    9. Hoffmann, Anna-Lena & Lerche, Katharina, 2016. "Class attendance and university performance," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 286, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
    10. K T Soo, 2009. "Estimating the production function of university students," Working Papers 600466, Lancaster University Management School, Economics Department.
    11. Aucejo, Esteban M. & Romano, Teresa Foy, 2016. "Assessing the effect of school days and absences on test score performance," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 70-87.

    More about this item


    education production functions; attendance; class size; peer effects;

    JEL classification:

    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education
    • J2 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor

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