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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.
    2. Gill, David & Kissová, Zdenka & Lee, Jaesun & Prowse, Victoria L., 2015. "First-Place Loving and Last-Place Loathing: How Rank in the Distribution of Performance Affects Effort Provision," IZA Discussion Papers 9286, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. 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.
    4. Camelia M. Kuhnen & Agnieszka Tymula, 2012. "Feedback, Self-Esteem, and Performance in Organizations," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 58(1), pages 94-113, January.
    5. 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, Southern Economic Association, vol. 70(3), pages 672-693, January.
    6. 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.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Denning, Jeffrey T. & Murphy, Richard J. & Weinhardt, Felix, 2018. "Class Rank and Long-Run Outcomes," IZA Discussion Papers 11808, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    2. 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).
    3. repec:eee:ecoedu:v:64:y:2018:i:c:p:313-342 is not listed on IDEAS
    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. Richard Murphy & Felix Weinhardt, 2014. "Top of the Class: The Importance of Ordinal Rank," CESifo Working Paper Series 4815, CESifo Group Munich.
    8. Yukio Koriyama & Ali Ozkes, 2017. "Condorcet Jury Theorem and Cognitive Hierarchies: Theory and Experiments," Working Papers halshs-01485748, HAL.
    9. 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.
    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. repec:eee:jeborg:v:162:y:2019:i:c:p:1-23 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Yukio Koriyama & Ali Ozkes, 2018. "Inclusive Cognitive Hierarchy in Collective Decisions," AMSE Working Papers 1819, Aix-Marseille School of Economics, France.
    13. 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..
    14. 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.
    15. Ulrik Hvidman & Hans Henrik Sievertsen, 2018. "High-Stakes Grades and Student Behavior," Bristol Economics Discussion Papers 18/698, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    relative performance feedback; ranking; randomized field experiment; school performance;

    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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