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What You Don't Know... Can't Hurt You? A Field Experiment on Relative Performance Feedback in Higher Education

Author

Listed:
  • Azmat, Ghazala

    (Sciences Po, Paris)

  • Bagues, Manuel

    (University of Warwick)

  • Cabrales, Antonio

    (University College London)

  • Iriberri, Nagore

    (University of the Basque Country)

Abstract

This paper studies the effect of providing feedback to college students on their position in the grade distribution by using a randomized control experiment. This information was updated every six months during a three-year period. In the absence of treatment, students' underestimate their position in the grade distribution. The treatment significantly improves the students' self-assessment. We find that treated students experience a significant decrease in their educational performance, as measured by their accumulated GPA and number of exams passed, and a significant improvement in their self-reported satisfaction, as measured by survey responses obtained after information is provided but before students take their exams. Those effects, however, are short lived, as students catch up in subsequent periods. Moreover, the negative effect on performance is driven by those students who underestimate their position in the absence of feedback. Those students who overestimate initially their position, if anything, respond positively.

Suggested Citation

  • Azmat, Ghazala & Bagues, Manuel & Cabrales, Antonio & Iriberri, Nagore, 2016. "What You Don't Know... Can't Hurt You? A Field Experiment on Relative Performance Feedback in Higher Education," IZA Discussion Papers 9853, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp9853
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Azmat, Ghazala & Iriberri, Nagore, 2010. "The importance of relative performance feedback information: Evidence from a natural experiment using high school students," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(7-8), pages 435-452, August.
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    3. David Gill & Zdenka Kissová & Jaesun Lee & Victoria Prowse, 2019. "First-Place Loving and Last-Place Loathing: How Rank in the Distribution of Performance Affects Effort Provision," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 65(2), pages 494-507, February.
    4. Eriksson, Tor & Poulsen, Anders & Villeval, Marie Claire, 2009. "Feedback and incentives: Experimental evidence," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(6), pages 679-688, December.
    5. Tran, Anh & Zeckhauser, Richard, 2012. "Rank as an inherent incentive: Evidence from a field experiment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(9-10), pages 645-650.
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    8. Caroline M. Hoxby, 2009. "The Changing Selectivity of American Colleges," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(4), pages 95-118, Fall.
    9. Bedard, Kelly & Kuhn, Peter, 2008. "Where class size really matters: Class size and student ratings of instructor effectiveness," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 253-265, June.
    10. Ghazala Azmat & Nagore Iriberri, 2016. "The Provision of Relative Performance Feedback: An Analysis of Performance and Satisfaction," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 25(1), pages 77-110, March.
    11. Diamond, Douglas W, 1985. "Optimal Release of Information by Firms," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 40(4), pages 1071-1094, September.
    12. Tisha L. N. Emerson & Beck A. Taylor, 2004. "Comparing Student Achievement across Experimental and Lecture-Oriented Sections of a Principles of Microeconomics Course," Southern Economic Journal, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 70(3), pages 672-693, January.
    13. Bruce Sacerdote, 2001. "Peer Effects with Random Assignment: Results for Dartmouth Roommates," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(2), pages 681-704.
    14. Leonie Gerhards & Neele Siemer, 2014. "Private versus Public Feedback - The Incentive Effects of Symbolic Awards," Economics Working Papers 2014-01, Department of Economics and Business Economics, Aarhus University.
    15. Michael Spence, 1973. "Job Market Signaling," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 87(3), pages 355-374.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Richard Murphy & Felix Weinhardt, 2020. "Top of the Class: The Importance of Ordinal Rank," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 87(6), pages 2777-2826.
    2. Denning, Jeffrey T. & Murphy, Richard J. & Weinhardt, Felix, 2018. "Class Rank and Long-Run Outcomes," IZA Discussion Papers 11808, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Dobrescu, Isabella & Faravelli, Marco & Megalokonomou, Rigissa & Motta, Alberto, 2019. "Rank Incentives and Social Learning: Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial," IZA Discussion Papers 12437, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    4. Damgaard, Mette Trier & Nielsen, Helena Skyt, 2018. "Nudging in education," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 313-342.
    5. Fischer, Mira & Wagner, Valentin, 2018. "Effects of timing and reference frame of feedback: Evidence from a field experiment," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Market Behavior SP II 2018-206, WZB Berlin Social Science Center.
    6. Fischer, Mira & Sliwka, Dirk, 2018. "Confidence in knowledge or confidence in the ability to learn: An experiment on the causal effects of beliefs on motivation," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 111(C), pages 122-142.
    7. Yukio Koriyama & Ali Ihsan Ozkes, 2017. "Condorcet Jury Theorem and Cognitive Hierarchies: Theory and Experiments," Working Papers halshs-01485748, HAL.
    8. Fischer, Mira & Wagner, Valentin, 2019. "Effects of Timing and Reference Frame of Feedback," Rationality and Competition Discussion Paper Series 150, CRC TRR 190 Rationality and Competition.
    9. Ulrik Hvidman & Hans Henrik Sievertsen, 2021. "High-Stakes Grades and Student Behavior," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 56(3), pages 821-849.
    10. Margaretha Buurman & Josse (J.) Delfgaauw & Robert (A.J.) Dur & Robin Zoutenbier, 2018. "The Effects of Student Feedback to teachers: Evidence from a Field Experiment," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 18-042/VII, Tinbergen Institute.
    11. Ertac, Seda & Gümren, Mert & Koçkesen, Levent, 2019. "Strategic feedback in teams: Theory and experimental evidence," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 162(C), pages 1-23.
    12. José María Cabrera & Alejandro Cid, 2017. "Gender Differences to Relative Performance Feedback: A Field Experiment in Education," Documentos de Trabajo/Working Papers 1704, Facultad de Ciencias Empresariales y Economia. Universidad de Montevideo..
    13. Gjedrem, William Gilje, 2018. "Relative performance feedback: Effective or dismaying?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 1-16.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    relative performance feedback; ranking; randomized field experiment; school performance;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing
    • J44 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Professional Labor Markets and Occupations

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