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How Do Peers Impact Learning? An Experimental Investigation of Peer-to-Peer Teaching and Ability Tracking

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  • Erik O. Kimbrough
  • Andrew D. McGee
  • Hitoshi Shigeoka

Abstract

Classroom peers are believed to influence learning by teaching each other, and the efficacy of this teaching likely depends on classroom composition in terms of peers’ ability. Unfortunately, little is known about peer-to-peer teaching because it is never observed in field studies. Furthermore, identifying how peer-to-peer teaching is affected by ability tracking—grouping students of similar ability—is complicated by the fact that tracking is typically accompanied by changes in curriculum and the instructional behavior of teachers. To fill this gap, we conduct a laboratory experiment in which subjects learn to solve logic problems and examine both the importance of peer-to-peer teaching and the interaction between peer-to-peer teaching and ability tracking. While peer-to-peer teaching improves learning among low-ability subjects, the positive effects are substantially offset by tracking. Tracking reduces the frequency of peer-to-peer teaching, suggesting that low-ability subjects suffer from the absence of high-ability peers to teach them.

Suggested Citation

  • Erik O. Kimbrough & Andrew D. McGee & Hitoshi Shigeoka, 2017. "How Do Peers Impact Learning? An Experimental Investigation of Peer-to-Peer Teaching and Ability Tracking," NBER Working Papers 23439, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23439
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    Cited by:

    1. João Firmino, 2018. "Class composition effects and school welfare: evidence from Portugal using panel data," Working Papers 2018/14, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
    2. Fischer, Thomas & Rode, Johannes, 2020. "Classroom or pub - Where are persistent peer relationships between university students formed?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 178(C), pages 474-493.
    3. Cooper, David J. & Saral, Krista & Villeval, Marie Claire, 2019. "Why Join a Team?," IZA Discussion Papers 12587, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
      • David J. Cooper & Krista Saral & Marie Claire Villeval, 2021. "Why Join a Team?," Post-Print halshs-03003653, HAL.
      • David Cooper & Krista Saral & Marie Claire Villeval, 2019. "Why Join a Team?," Working Papers halshs-02295921, HAL.
      • David J. Cooper & Krista Saral & Marie Claire Villeval, 2019. "Why Join a Team?," Working Papers 1928, Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique Lyon St-Étienne (GATE Lyon St-Étienne), Université de Lyon.
    4. McVicar, Duncan & Moschion, Julie & Ryan, Chris, 2018. "Achievement effects from new peers: Who matters to whom?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 66(C), pages 154-166.
    5. Agurto Adrianzén, Marcos & Fiestas Chevez, Hugo & Nuñez Morales, Wenceslao & Quevedo, Valeria & Vegas Chiyón, Susana, 2019. "Study-group diversity and early college academic outcomes: Experimental evidence from a higher education inclusion program in Peru," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 131-146.
    6. Kiessling, Lukas & Radbruch, Jonas & Schaube, Sebastian, 2018. "The Impact of Self-Selection on Performance," IZA Discussion Papers 11365, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    7. Sandro Ambuehl & B. Douglas Bernheim & Fulya Ersoy & Donna Harris, 2018. "Peer Advice on Financial Decisions: A case of the blind leading the blind?," NBER Working Papers 25034, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy

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