Monday, May 01, 2006

Go to Class

Your grade will improve. Jennjou Chen and Tsui-Fang Lin estimate the effect of class attendance using a randomized experiment:

The study of determinants of a college student’s academic performance is an important issue in higher education. Among all factors, whether or not attending lectures affects a student’s exam performance has received considerable attention. In this paper, we conduct a randomized experiment to study the average attendance effect for students who have chosen to attend lectures, which is the so-called the average treatment effect on the treated in program evaluation literature. This effect has long been neglected by researchers when estimating the impact of lecture attendance on students’ academic performance. Under the randomized experiment approach, least squares, fixed effects, and random effects models all yield similar estimates for the average treatment effect on the treated. We find that, class attendance has produced a positive and significant impact on students’ exam performance. On average, attending lecture corresponds to a 7.66% improvement in exam performance.

Reading their paper, I dont really understand the instrumental variable that they use. I get the fact that different materials are covered in different sections and that students are told to review the slides as being the full exam material. What I dont understand is how this isolates the effects of attending class. Rather, what I think this does is show the effect of mentioning something in lecture on students beliefs about what will be on the exam. Often times in my experience professors will say to look at the slides but observing their behaviour one can gauge what the primary topics on the exam will be.
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