Arnaud Chevalier, Peter Dolton, Melanie Lührmann, 15 July 2017

Feedback has been found to improve exam performance in the context of higher education, but demand for feedback is low among students when obtaining it requires unrewarded effort. This column evaluates how the provision of extrinsic incentives affects students’ effort and performance. Having online learning assessments count towards final grades is found to trigger large participation increases, and better subsequent exam performance. Given the low cost of these interventions, they offer particular promise in higher education.

Sandra Black, Sanni Breining, David Figlio, Jonathan Guryan, Krzysztof Karbownik, Helena Skyt Nielsen, Jeffrey Roth, Marianne Simonsen, 08 July 2017

Despite the policy importance of understanding the relationships between them, very little evidence exists on the causal effects siblings have on one another. This column investigates outcomes for families in which the third-born child has a disability, and shows that the oldest children have better educational outcomes than the middle children, who due to birth order are more likely to be more affected by a common sibling spillover. We may be able to measure greater returns to investments that relieve the effects of negative shocks to children if we consider the effects on siblings too.

Sebastian Galiani, Ramiro Gálvez, 10 June 2017

Researchers are evaluated using citation counts, often with a cut-off date. But this column shows that the lifecycle of citations differs between disciplines, with some subjects having earlier peaks or steeper declines in annual citations than others. These differences should be taken into account when evaluating researchers or institutions.

Fernanda Estevan, Thomas Gall, Patrick Legros, Andrew Newman, 23 May 2017

In recent years, several US states have introduced college admission policies that reward local rather than global relative performance by guaranteeing admission to students graduating in the top N-percent of their high school. This column examines how these policies affected socioeconomic and ethnic segregation at both the university and high school levels in the state of Texas. While the policies did not replicate the level of diversity in universities seen under earlier affirmative action policies, they did lead to a reduction in the overall level of ethnic segregation in high schools.

Yuki Higuchi, Miyuki Sasaki, Makiko Nakamuro, 20 May 2017

The quality of English language teaching in Japan is disappointing when compared with other East Asian countries or with the quality of other school subjects. This column assesses the impact of an English learning programme via Skype for Japanese high school students. Although a positive impact on English communication skills could not be established, mostly likely due to the low utilisation of the programme, it did have a positive impact on student attitudes. Policymakers may wish to consider how to combine regular English lectures and online English learning programmes to improve results.

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