Relative Performance Feedback in Education: Evidence From a Randomized Controlled Trial
64 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2019 Last revised: 17 Apr 2021
Date Written: June 19, 2019
In a 1-year randomized controlled trial involving thousands of university students, we provide real-time private feedback on relative performance in a semester-long online assignment. Within this setup, our experimental design cleanly identifies the behavioral response to rank incentives (i.e., the incentives stemming from an inherent preference for high rank). We find that rank incentives not only boost performance in the related course assignment, but also increase the average grade across all exams taken in the (intervention) course by 0.21 standard deviations. These beneficial effects remain sizeable across all quantiles and extend beyond the time of the intervention. Furthermore, relative performance feedback seems to stimulate social learning, i.e., rank incentives make students engage more in peer interactions. Finally, we explore the virtues of real-time feedback by analyzing a number of alternative variations in the way it is provided.
Keywords: relative performance feedback, rank incentives, social learning, academic performance, randomized controlled trial
JEL Classification: J24, J18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation