Essays on the determinants of student achievement: education policies, confidence and effort

Merewood, James (2022) Essays on the determinants of student achievement: education policies, confidence and effort. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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In this thesis, I examine the role of effort, and school management as determinants of student achievement. In addition, I present evidence demonstrating the role of task complexity on confidence.

In chapter 1, I study the impact of a nationwide merit-based selection policy implemented in Romanian high schools. This policy saw high school principal posts opened for applications; the highest scoring candidate across a series of tests was selected for each post. Using a staggered difference-in-difference design, I identify the impact of the policy on student outcomes. I find that principals who move between posts (compared to those who retain their position) improve outcomes in low-to-average schools two years on. Improvements are related to the selection of students into school leaving exams.

In chapter 2, I examine the impact of the complexity of real effort tasks on subjects’ beliefs about performance. Here, I note that the choice of effort tasks used in many lab experiments is not trivial. Some evidence suggests that task complexity influences subject beliefs about performance, however little is known about this interaction when using standardised real effort tasks. I conduct an experiment to test the interaction between task complexity and beliefs about performance. I find that subjects are more confident about their relative performance, and make more accurate predictions about performance, when facing complex tasks. The findings of this chapter have ramifications for real-effort task choice within experimental economics.

In chapter 3, I explore the impact of ability tracking systems on effort using an online lab experiment. Evidence suggests that ability tracked classrooms allow teachers to better target teaching, however low ability students often suffer from studying alongside low ability peers. The mechanism of peer effects is well established in literature, but little is known about the impact of tracking on effort. Using an experiment, I find that when ability tracking is implemented so that subjects can frequently move between ability groups, effort increases overall. I show that increases in effort are due to high ability subjects increasing their effort, and further that low ability subjects do not reduce effort. I go further to show that differences are not driven by group composition or differences in ability.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Economics
Depositing User: Jennifer Whitaker
Date Deposited: 20 Jun 2023 11:14
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2023 11:14


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