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

38 Pages Posted: 27 Sep 2014

See all articles by Eszter Czibor

Eszter Czibor

University of Chicago

Sander Onderstal

University of Amsterdam; Tinbergen Institute

Randolph Sloof

University of Amsterdam - Faculty of Economics & Business (FEB); Tinbergen Institute

Mirjam van Praag

University of Amsterdam - Department of Economics; Copenhagen Business School; Tinbergen Institute; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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.

Keywords: education, test performance, grade incentives, competition, gender, field experiment

JEL Classification: I21, I23, A22, D03, C93

Suggested Citation

Czibor, Eszter and Onderstal, Sander and Sloof, Randolph and van Praag, Mirjam, Does Relative Grading Help Male Students? Evidence from a Field Experiment in the Classroom. IZA Discussion Paper No. 8429, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2502289

Eszter Czibor (Contact Author)

University of Chicago ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Sander Onderstal

University of Amsterdam ( email )

Roetersstraat 11
Amsterdam, 1018 WB
Netherlands

Tinbergen Institute ( email )

Burg. Oudlaan 50
Rotterdam, 3062 PA
Netherlands

Randolph Sloof

University of Amsterdam - Faculty of Economics & Business (FEB) ( email )

Roetersstraat 11
Amsterdam, 1018 WB
Netherlands
+31 20 525 5241 (Phone)
+31 20 525 4310 (Fax)

Tinbergen Institute ( email )

Gustav Mahlerplein 117
Amsterdam, 1082 MS
Netherlands

Mirjam Van Praag

University of Amsterdam - Department of Economics ( email )

Roetersstraat 11
Amsterdam, 1018 WB
Netherlands
+31 20 525 4096 (Phone)
+31 20 525 4182 (Fax)

Copenhagen Business School ( email )

Kilevej 14A
Frederiksberg, 2000
Denmark

Tinbergen Institute

Gustav Mahlerlaan
Amsterdam
Netherlands

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Schaumburg-Lippe-Str. 7 / 9
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
30
Abstract Views
485
PlumX Metrics