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What Did You Get? Peers, Information, and Student Exam Performance

Abstract

When students are aware of the exam grades of their peers, does this information affect their subsequent exam performance? For example, knowing that my friend scored a higher grade on Exam 1 than myself might motivate me to improve my performance on Exam 2, or might frustrate me such that I stop trying to catch up. We analyze whether students’ performance is shaped by the grades of their classmates. To answer this question, we use survey-based data on students’ connections to other students with the grades that students obtained in a class. We find that a peer effect on grades does exist, where students who know that the grades of their friends were higher than their own on the first exam are motivated to improve their score on the following exam.

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Notes

  1. The only exception to this are Political Science majors who have to complete this course in their first year.

  2. Note, we later we interact SAT scores with grade difference to examine how the informational effect might be conditional on existing ability/knowledge.

  3. A note on the interpretation of the parameters \(\rho\) and ln\(\sigma\) in Table 2. The estimation does not directly estimate \(\rho\). To constrain \(\rho\) within its valid limits, and for numerical stability during optimization, it estimates the inverse hyperbolic tangent of \(\rho\). This estimate is reported as at \(\rho\). In the bottom panel of the output, we undo this transformation for the reader and report \(\rho\). Note the standard error for \(\rho\) is computed using the delta method, and its confidence intervals are the transformed intervals of at \(\rho\). Similarly, \(\sigma\), the standard error of the residual in the grade differential equation, is not directly estimated; for numerical stability, heckman instead estimates ln\(\sigma\). The untransformed sigma is reported at the bottom of the table.

  4. Note, we cannot implement a heckman style selection model as we do not have information on the full student population of the university, i.e., the universe of all possible students that could enroll in the course.

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Correspondence to Lauren Ratliff Santoro.

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Santoro, L.R., Bunte, J.B. What Did You Get? Peers, Information, and Student Exam Performance. Res High Educ (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11162-022-09711-w

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Keywords

  • Peer effect
  • Grades
  • Network analysis