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Increasing students' aspirations: the impact of a role model on students' educational attainment

Last registered on November 01, 2019


Trial Information

General Information

Increasing students' aspirations: the impact of a role model on students' educational attainment
Initial registration date
December 06, 2016

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
December 06, 2016, 12:10 PM EST

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.

Last updated
November 01, 2019, 7:16 AM EDT

Last updated is the most recent time when changes to the trial's registration were published.



Primary Investigator

University of Michigan

Other Primary Investigator(s)

Additional Trial Information

Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
This project involves randomised screenings of an aspirations-building film to secondary school students before their national exams. The film is called Queen of Katwe and is a biographical film, based on the true story of Phiona Mutesi, about the rise of a poverty stricken Ugandan girl to become a world chess champion. The film therefore offers a potential role model to young Ugandan students about working hard to achieve their dreams and overcoming challenges.

A growing body of behavioural economics research suggests that people’s aspirations and sense of control over their lives may be beaten down over time by the very difficult nature of living in poverty. Providing an example of a successful peer as a role model may help to create new mental models at a crucial decision point in young peoples’ lives. This research design allows us to test whether something as simple as viewing an aspirational film can positively impact young people’s educational achievement and hence have long run impact on their earning potential. It would allow us to answer the following questions:
1. Does the viewing of an aspirational film featuring a potential role model, The Queen of Katwe, positively impact students' national exam performance?
2. Does this impact vary by the gender or age of the viewer, or by the level of exam being sat?
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Riley, Emma. 2019. "Increasing students' aspirations: the impact of a role model on students' educational attainment ." AEA RCT Registry. November 01.
Former Citation
Riley, Emma. 2019. "Increasing students' aspirations: the impact of a role model on students' educational attainment ." AEA RCT Registry. November 01.
Experimental Details


The study involved a treatment and a placebo intervention:
- The aspiration intervention involved a cinema screening of "The Queen of Katwe", the aspirational story of a young girl's rise out of poverty to become a world chess champion.
- The placebo intervention involved a cinema screening of "Miss Peregrine's home for peculiar children", a fantasy story about children with paranormal abilities.

Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
The outcome variables are student results on the national exams: The Uganda Certificate of Education and the Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education. These will be analysed as detailed in the attached pre-analysis plan
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
See attached pre-analysis plan

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
The study involves randomised cinema screenings of a movie to Ugandan Secondary School students preparing to sit their national exams. The study features two treatment arms:
1. Aspirational movie - The Queen of Katwe
2. Placebo movie - Miss Peregrine's home for peculiar children
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
The randomisation was done by drawing shuffled movie tickets out of a bag. The movie tickets were printed by a ticket machine and were identical except for the movie name on the ticket.
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
1900 students
Sample size: planned number of observations
1900 students
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
950 students seeing the placebo movie
950 students seeing
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Social Science & Humanities Inter-Divisional Research Ethics Committee
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

Analysis Plan Documents

pre analysis plan amendment 3

MD5: 10437c8799dfd12457c4348429363867

SHA1: 3eeab116f0ee7f7c69c459b9d1c61465f95e75b4

Uploaded At: November 01, 2019

Pre analysis plan amendment 2

MD5: 022561ffeac32bb7f83d0fb768e2bdee

SHA1: b34d312768334a3f1e7f5850519d349fa1f0ca29

Uploaded At: July 11, 2019

pre analysis plan amendment

MD5: bc3943f27f2784135397e79448e7caee

SHA1: 01b2f73cb2123f24e3444f015f2731ff78975f1e

Uploaded At: July 18, 2017

pre analysis plan

MD5: fc9a371e5bb9c6d1a3a32aaf50a2d8fc

SHA1: 6fa6f0e8be0cf3d1b0d455c0c49c9f298f33faac

Uploaded At: February 22, 2017


Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Is the intervention completed?
Intervention Completion Date
October 12, 2016, 12:00 +00:00
Data Collection Complete
Data Collection Completion Date
June 28, 2019, 12:00 +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
1,444 students
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
1,444 students
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
761 Treatment 683 Control
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

This paper presents experimental evidence on the impact of a role model on secondary school students' exam performance in Uganda. Students were individually randomised to see either a movie featuring a female role model, Queen of Katwe, or to see a placebo movie. I find that treatment with the role model immediately before an important national exam leads to students performing better in their exams, particularly in maths subjects, with effects largest for female students. Female students exposed to the role model are more likely to remain in education in subsequent years, closing the gender gap with their male peers.
Emma Riley; Role Models in Movies: The Impact of Queen of Katwe on Students' Educational Attainment. The Review of Economics and Statistics 2022; doi:

Reports & Other Materials