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

51 Pages Posted: 30 May 2017 Last revised: 8 Jun 2017

See all articles by Erik O. Kimbrough

Erik O. Kimbrough

Chapman University - The George L. Argyros School of Business & Economics

Andrew McGee

University of Alberta - Department of Economics

Hitoshi Shigeoka

Simon Fraser University (SFU); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Date Written: May 2017

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

Kimbrough, Erik O. and McGee, Andrew and Shigeoka, Hitoshi, How Do Peers Impact Learning? An Experimental Investigation of Peer-to-Peer Teaching and Ability Tracking (May 2017). NBER Working Paper No. w23439, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2976180

Erik O. Kimbrough (Contact Author)

Chapman University - The George L. Argyros School of Business & Economics ( email )

One University Dr
Orange, CA 92866
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Andrew McGee

University of Alberta - Department of Economics ( email )

8-14 Tory Building
Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2H4
Canada

Hitoshi Shigeoka

Simon Fraser University (SFU) ( email )

8888 University Drive
Burnaby, British Columbia V5A 1S6
Canada
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(778)782-5348 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://sites.google.com/site/hshigeoka/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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