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Repeated Praise: Evidence from a Field Experiment

  • Series
    PhD Lunch Seminars
  • Speaker
    Maria Cotofan (EUR)
  • Location
    PhD Lunch Seminars Amsterdam
  • Date and time

    May 07, 2019
    12:00 - 13:00

In a large-scale field experiment I study how repeated public praise for top performing teachers impacts the short and long-run performance of 900 teachers in 39 schools. For both recipients and non-recipients of recognition, I analyze the effect of repeated public praise on performance as measured by student grades, attendance, and student performance on anonymously graded high-stake exams. When teachers are praised for the first time, their students perform significantly better in subsequent months; students of teachers who are not praised perform significantly worse following the intervention. Repeating the intervention does not impact teacher performance. Using the fact that praise is repeatedly given, I test different mechanisms that could explain teacher performance. Results are best explained by a mechanism where praise sends a comparative message about relative performance. Updating their beliefs, teachers become more motivated if they receive good news through praise, and become discouraged when receiving bad news through not being praised. Looking at student performance on final exams, I find that the positive effects of unexpected recognition are large and persistent, explained by real learning gains, as opposed to teachers “cheating” when grading their own students. The negative effects of unexpected recognition are phased-out over time, and do not influence final exam performance.