Learning from Praise: Evidence from a Field Experiment with Teachers
Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper 2019-082/V
44 Pages Posted: 17 Dec 2019
Date Written: November 26, 2019
Non-monetary incentives such as praise are common-place, but their effects on workers performing cognitively-complex tasks remain largely unknown. I expand the teacher incentive literature through a field experiment measuring how repeated public praise for the best teachers impacts teacher performance. Testing different mechanisms, I argue that public praise sends a comparative message, with teachers being motivated when praised and becoming discouraged when not praised. In treated schools, teachers who are unexpectedly praised perform better and teachers who are not perform worse. The positive effect of unexpected praise is persistent and reflects real student learning. The negative effect disappears over time.
Keywords: public praise, teacher incentives, field experiment
JEL Classification: M52, C93, I21, J3, J45, J53
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation