Learning from Praise: Evidence from a Field Experiment with Teachers

Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper 2019-082/V

44 Pages Posted: 17 Dec 2019

See all articles by Maria Cotofan

Maria Cotofan

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Erasmus School of Economics (ESE)

Date Written: November 26, 2019

Abstract

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

Cotofan, Maria, Learning from Praise: Evidence from a Field Experiment with Teachers (November 26, 2019). Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper 2019-082/V, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3496184 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3496184

Maria Cotofan (Contact Author)

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Erasmus School of Economics (ESE) ( email )

P.O. Box 1738
3000 DR Rotterdam, NL 3062 PA
Netherlands

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