‘Staggering’: Cash incentives improve kids’ learning, research shows

Feb 10, 2019 by

Paying students to put effort into their schooling is an unorthodox proposal, and a potentially controversial one. But we should be open to ideas that could help kids learn, so, a few years ago, my colleagues and I investigated the effects of financial incentives on education.

In medicine, researchers use randomised controlled trials (RCTs) to study the effectiveness of potential treatments, such as a pill or a diet. By randomly selecting a “treatment group” and a “control group”, some patients get the medication and some get a placebo (sugar pill), and the difference in outcomes is measured.

Richard Holden, from the University of NSW
Richard Holden, from the University of NSWCredit:Aran Anderson

This approach is also being used in education research. A study might involve putting students in a smaller class size and the control group in a standard one, and measuring the difference in outcomes to assess the impact of teacher-student ratio on learning.

Our research looked at the impact of financial incentives, which could be for children, teachers, or parents. And they could be for outputs like test scores, or for inputs like reading books, doing mathematics homework, school attendance, or behaviour.

Source: ‘Staggering’: Cash incentives improve kids’ learning, research shows

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