Panel: Field Experiments Examining Time Management and Motivation in Academic Settings

Friday, November 3, 2017: 3:15 PM-4:45 PM
Haymarket (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Brent Evans, Vanderbilt University
Panel Chairs:  Seth Gershenson, American University
Discussants:  Graham Beattie, University of Pittsburgh and Kelli Bird, University of Virginia

Present-Bias, Procrastination and Deadlines in a Field Experiment
Alberto Bisin, New York University and Kyle Hyndman, University of Texas, Dallas

Overcoming the Planning Fallacy: Evidence from Online Education
Richard Patterson, United States Military Academy at West Point and Nolan Pope, University of Chicago

The Effects of a Scheduling Intervention on Student Performance in Online Postsecondary Education
Rachel Baker1, Brent Evans2, Qiujie Li3, Bianca Cung3 and Di Xu3, (1)Stanford University, (2)Vanderbilt University, (3)University of California, Irvine

Goal Setting, Academic Reminders, and College Success: A Large-Scale Field Experiment
Uros Petronijevic1, Philip Oreopoulos2 and Christopher Dobronyi2, (1)York University, (2)University of Toronto

Poor time management skills and low motivation are two widely hypothesized obstacles to successful postsecondary degree completion. This panel contains four papers that address these obstacles and whose results have important implications for human capital development. All four papers employ randomized controlled trials in real postsecondary academic settings; two provide evidence in the context of in-person higher education and two in the context of online higher education. Each study was designed to measure and improve students’ time management and/or motivation and to enhance our understanding of students’ academic behaviors.

By experimentally providing monetary rewards for students to meet fixed deadlines, the first paper identifies behavioral mechanisms related to procrastination. It establishs that students encounter many unanticipated events that delay academic task completion and documents the existence of present-bias. It also provides evidence that students are sophisticates, that is, students are aware of their present-bias and seek commitment devices to overcome this bias.

This first paper motivates the next three studies which experimentally test interventions designed to improve academic performance.  The second paper tests a planning intervention in online postsecondary coursework that induces students to designate study times and to log their time use. Students also receive reminders of their study plans. The authors find positive effects on credit accumulation and plan to test the treatment’s effects on inputs such as amount of time studied.

The third paper tests a similar intervention in a both for-credit and not-for-credit online postsecondary settings. The authors randomly assign students to receive a scheduling nudge from the course instructor that asks students to specify the time they have set aside for studying throughout the week. Preliminary results demonstrate positive impacts on initial course performance that quickly fade out and even turn negative in distal outcomes like course completion.

The final paper extends this work beyond planning and scheduling interventions to test the academic effects of motivation interventions in postsecondary education. Specifically, it compares the efficacy of an online affirmation intervention, a text and email messaging campaign providing academic advice and motivation, and an in-person coaching intervention provided by upper-class undergraduate students. The authors find large positive effects of the in-person coaching with no effects of the other two interventions.

Collectively, these experiments provide evidence critical to the design and implementation of low-cost, scalable tools in postsecondary settings. This focus will be of interest to postsecondary policymakers dedicated to improving academic performance, and the tight alignment of topics and methods ensures we can engage in a robust panel discussion.

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