How Much Do I Matter? Teacher Self-Beliefs, Effort and Education Production (Job Market Paper) AEA RCT Registry

Teacher effort is critical for student learning. In many developing countries, however, teachers often perceive only a weak mapping between their effort and what students learn. I conduct an experimental evaluation of a psycho-social intervention that targets teachers’ perceived control – beliefs about the extent of control they have over themselves and their environment. I study the extent to which this intervention affects teachers’ beliefs, their effort in class, and their students’ academic performance. I devise a novel experimental task to elicit teachers’ beliefs, through revealed preference, about the relationship between their teaching effort and the performance of students in their classroom. I find that the intervention induced a 14% increase in teachers’ beliefs about their ability to increase learning, as measured by the revealed preference task. Treated teachers exert greater effort at the intensive margin, scoring 0.13 SD higher on an index of classroom effort. They also spend more time grading student work and provide more detailed feedback to students. Finally, I find that the intervention raised student learning by 0.09 SD in classrooms taught by treated teachers. These findings suggest that teachers’ beliefs can serve as a powerful lever for changing teaching practice and raising learning levels in developing countries.

Coverage: World Bank, RISE Blog

Funding: Weiss Fund for Research in Development Economics, The Agency Fund, Teachers College Economics of Education Program Research Grant 

Presentations: Field DaysRISE Annual ConferenceAdvances with Field Experiments (AFE) ConferenceSociety for Research on Educational Effectiveness (SREE) Conference, NEUDC, APPAM, PacDev, GRIPS Tokyo, University of Glasgow, SOLE Conference (scheduled)



Parental Information and Investments in Children’s Human Capital

This paper tests whether parents’ beliefs about their child’s performance shape how much they invest in the child’s human capital. I investigate this relationship using 16 years of panel data from India encompassing objective ability measures (e.g. test scores), subjective parental assessments, and investments. In the first part of the paper, I document that, conditional on true performance, parents’ prior beliefs correlate strongly with high stakes long-run investments—such as the decision to enroll in private school. This link intensifies with age, as children progress from primary to secondary school. In the second part of the paper, I exploit an exogenous shock (based on rainfall) that raises the opportunity cost of schooling—leading to a decrease in average school enrollment. I test whether parental beliefs mediate this effect—with parents who perceive their children to be of higher ability more willing to pay the opportunity cost of keeping their children in school, compared to children of lower perceived ability. This paper aims to offer the first piece of empirical evidence on the impact of parental beliefs on long-run human capital investments.

Here is the link to the first part of the paper establishing that parental perceptions of children’s performance predict parental investment in child human capital.

Presentations: AEFP Conference, Eastern Economic Association (EEA) Conference

Reshaping Beliefs about Ourselves and Others: Experimental Evidence from Civil Servants in Pakistan (with Daniel Chen, Sultan Mehmood, Shaheen Naseer) (AEA RCT Registry)

Information frictions on the knowledge of one’s impact can stymie civil servant motivation for the well-being of individuals they serve. We conduct a field experiment among public school teachers in Pakistan. We randomize teachers to receive one of three information treatments. One treatment arm is a growth mindset training that discusses the malleability of student outcomes. A second treatment arm presents a narrative about teacher value-added. A third treatment arm presents empirical evidence on teacher value-added. Preliminary results show that growth mindset training reduces teachers’ stereotypes against first-generation learners and students from disadvantaged backgrounds. In contrast, exposure to narrative or empirical evidence about teacher value-added did not shift teachers’ beliefs. We document patterns of teachers’ beliefs in a resource-constrained setting and show that perceived returns to effort are increasing in parental education and past performance of students, indicating that teachers view these as complementary inputs for teaching.

Status: Fieldwork Completed. Draft in progress.

Building the Capacity to Aspire: An Experimental Evaluation of Youth First Kenya (in collaboration with WorldBeing and Government of Kenya) (AEA RCT Registry)

Adolescents in low-resource settings develop low aspirations when faced with life pressures leading to an aspirations trap. We expose eighth-graders in Kenya to a psychosocial intervention (Youth First-Kenya) that aims to bridge the gap between the perception of one’s abilities and what is achievable. We examine the impact on aspirations, enrolment, and achievement of students. We develop a novel tool to measure aspirations and seek to shed light on a fundamental question about how adolescents in low-resource settings develop non-conformist aspirations, that are different from those of adults in their lives. 

Status: In the Field. Endline in Progress.

Evaluating a Digital Empowerment Curriculum for College Students in India (with Lena Song, Mridul Joshi)

Given the widespread penetration of digital technology in developing countries, young adults are particularly vulnerable to negative effects of social media through misinformation, digital addiction, and reduced productivity in different aspects of life. We partner with colleges and universities in urban India to expose students to a digital empowerment curriculum targeted at building skills for navigating the digital world. We evaluate the impact of the curriculum on social media usage, mental health, academic, and behavioral outcomes.

Status: In the Field. Piloting in Progress.