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Does Relative Grading Help Male Students? Evidence from a Field Experiment in the Classroom

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  • Czibor, Eszter

    () (University of Amsterdam)

  • Onderstal, Sander

    () (University of Amsterdam)

  • Sloof, Randolph

    () (University of Amsterdam)

  • van Praag, Mirjam C.

    () (Copenhagen Business School)

Abstract

The provision of non-pecuniary incentives in education is a topic that has received much scholarly attention lately. Our paper contributes to this discussion by investigating the effectiveness of grade incentives in increasing student performance. We perform a direct comparison of the two most commonly used grading practices: the absolute (i.e., criterion-referenced) and the relative (i.e., norm-referenced) grading schemes in a large-scale field experiment at a university. We hypothesize that relative grading, by creating a rank-order tournament in the classroom, provides stronger incentives for male students than absolute grading. In the full sample, we find weak support for our hypothesis. Among the more motivated students we find evidence that men indeed score significantly higher on the test when graded on a curve. Female students, irrespective of their motivation, do not increase their scores under relative grading. Since women slightly outperform men under absolute grading, grading on a curve actually narrows the gender gap in performance.

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  • Czibor, Eszter & Onderstal, Sander & Sloof, Randolph & van Praag, Mirjam C., 2014. "Does Relative Grading Help Male Students? Evidence from a Field Experiment in the Classroom," IZA Discussion Papers 8429, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp8429
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    Cited by:

    1. Bigoni Maria & Fort Margherita & Nardotto Mattia & Reggiani Tommaso G., 2015. "Cooperation or Competition? A Field Experiment on Non-monetary Learning Incentives," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 15(4), pages 1753-1792, October.
    2. Wagner, Valentin, 2016. "Seeking Risk or Answering Smart? Experimental Evidence on Framing Effects in Elementary Schools," Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145678, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    3. Shinya Kajitani & Keiichi Morimoto & Shiba Suzuki, 2018. "Information Feedback in Relative Grading: Evidence from a Field Experiment," Working Papers 40, Meisei University, School of Economics.
    4. Carpenter, Jeffrey P. & Frank, Rachel & Huet-Vaughn, Emiliano, 2017. "Gender Differences in Interpersonal and Intrapersonal Competitive Behavior," IZA Discussion Papers 10626, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Shinya Kajitani & Keiichi Morimoto & Shiba Suzuki, 2017. "Relative Performance Information Feedback and Just-Pass Behavior: Evidence from a Field Experiment," Working Papers 36, Meisei University, School of Economics.
    6. Wagner, Valentin, 2016. "Seeking risk or answering smart? Framing in elementary schools," DICE Discussion Papers 227, University of Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics (DICE).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    gender; competition; grade incentives; test performance; education; field experiment;

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions
    • A22 - General Economics and Teaching - - Economic Education and Teaching of Economics - - - Undergraduate
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments

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