The Role of Fun in the Education Production Function: A Randomized Controlled Trial

54 Pages Posted: 2 Dec 2023

See all articles by Loretti Dobrescu

Loretti Dobrescu

UNSW Australia Business School, School of Economics

Scott French

UNSW Australia Business School, School of Economics

Richard Holden

University of New South Wales (UNSW)

Jonathan Lim

UNSW Australia Business School, School of Economics

Alberto Motta

UNSW Australia Business School, School of Economics

Akshay Shanker

University of New South Wales (UNSW)

Sarah Walker

UNSW Australia Business School, School of Economics

Date Written: November 29, 2023

Abstract

Can fun enhance learning? We conduct a randomized controlled trial of a long-term assessment involving an economic simulation in which undergraduate students were randomly offered purely aesthetic visual enhancements. While male students experienced a 0.3 standard deviation (SD) decline in their overall course grades, female students' grades improved by 0.27 SDs, and they experienced positive spillover effects on their grades in other courses. These combined effects completely eliminated the gender gap in course outcomes. Behaviorally, treated females increased the number of simulation sessions and decreased their duration, while men exhibited the opposite behavior. Additionally, females correctly adjusted their expectations of course performance upward. To unpack the mechanisms, we estimate a structural model, which suggests that accessories increased exam productivity, preferences for grades, and knowledge retention for females. However, they also acted as a distraction, increasing effort costs particularly for males. Factors such as self-confidence were ruled out.

Keywords: human capital, accessories, randomized controlled trial

JEL Classification: J24, J18

Suggested Citation

Dobrescu, Loretti Isabella and French, Scott and Holden, Richard and Lim, Jonathan and Motta, Alberto and Shanker, Akshay and Walker, Sarah, The Role of Fun in the Education Production Function: A Randomized Controlled Trial (November 29, 2023). UNSW Business School Research Paper Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4648624 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4648624

Loretti Isabella Dobrescu

UNSW Australia Business School, School of Economics ( email )

High Street
Sydney, NSW 2052
Australia

Scott French

UNSW Australia Business School, School of Economics ( email )

High Street
Sydney, NSW 2052
Australia

Richard Holden

University of New South Wales (UNSW) ( email )

Kensington
High St
Sydney, NSW 2052
Australia

Jonathan Lim

UNSW Australia Business School, School of Economics ( email )

High Street
Sydney, NSW 2052
Australia

Alberto Motta (Contact Author)

UNSW Australia Business School, School of Economics ( email )

High Street
Sydney, NSW 2052
Australia

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/albertomottaeconomics/

Akshay Shanker

University of New South Wales (UNSW) ( email )

Kensington
High St
Sydney, NSW 2052
Australia

Sarah Walker

UNSW Australia Business School, School of Economics ( email )

High Street
Sydney, NSW 2052
Australia

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