FIELD EXPERIMENT DESIGN
The field experiment is articulated in 3 phases: Pre-treatment, treatment, and post-treatment.
Pre-treatment phase: Sample definition, randomization and pre-treatment questionnaire
In the first phase of the experiment, we ask teachers to list students who can be considered for participation in the three days Mathematics Camp. According to the practice followed by the organizing Mathematics teacher association (Mathesis) up to now, potential participants are high-ability students in the field of Mathematics. The list elaborated by teachers contains the name and surname of each student, the class and section, the name and the typology of the school, the name of the Mathematics teacher, the total size of the class and the ranking of students according to their ability assessed by the teacher. By the beginning of February 2019, teachers provide us with the complete list and students are informed about their enrollment in the field experiment.
In mid-February, listed students fill the pre-Mathematics Camp questionnaire. The questionnaire is compiled in Google Forms. Students fill the questionnaire in class using their mobile phones under the supervision of teachers. The questionnaire contains questions related to the socio-demographic characteristics of the students, their preferences for academic subjects, their ability in Mathematics, their cognitive and relational skills, their self-esteem and psychological traits. A number of teachers are willing to give the questionnaire to all the other students in their classes, a feature which allows us to gain some understanding of the selection of potential participants.
By the end of February, we perform the randomization. We stratify the sample by class, randomly select one student per class, and assign her/him to the control group. In the few schools that typically have a reduced number of potential participants, we randomize at grade level. Given that in past-editions the average number of students who participate in the Mathematics Camp from a class is 2, we end up with a control group that is 30 percent of the total sample.
By April 2019, teachers define the exercises and activities that are proposed to students during the Mathematics Camp. They also design a system to measure the performances of working groups. In addition, teachers fill a questionnaire about their degree of involvement in the organization of the Mathematics Camp and their opinion about the objectives and the benefits of the Mathematics Camp for participants. They also provide some other information useful to double check what students self-declare about their performances and attitudes.
Treatment Phase: Mathematics Camp
In phase 2 students assigned to the treated group attend the Mathematics Camp. The Mathematics Camp lasts 3 days. Given capacity constraints, four turns are scheduled: May 6-7-8, 2019; May 20-21-22, 2019; May 23-24-25, 2019; May 29-30-31, 2019. Activities take place along all day. Students sleep in the hotel that hosts the Camp where they share rooms and spare moments.
At their arrival, students are divided by teachers into working groups with 5 – 6 components. Group composition is kept fixed along the three days. Teachers supervise the activity of students and at the end of each activity register the scores of each working group. The registry includes the names of the students, their allocation in groups, and their performances in different activities together with the information related to the teachers effectively present in the Mathematics Camp. One researcher attends the Mathematics Camp to supervise the social dynamics of the groups and all organizational details.
Before leaving the Mathematics Camp, students are required to fill an additional questionnaire designed to explore the dynamics of social relationships among members of the working groups and elicit leader/follower attitudes. We also ask their perceptions about the size and importance of their personal contribution to the performance of the group.
Post-treatment phase: Final questionnaire
In early June all the initially listed students are requested to fill a post-treatment questionnaire which replicates all the outcomes included in the initial questionnaire. Students who have attended the Mathematics Camp also declare their levels of satisfaction and their overall impression from the Mathematics Camp. We provide an incentive to students in the control group to fill this questionnaire: students in the first, second and third grades are automatically given the opportunity to participate in the next edition of the Mathematics Camp; fourth-grade students are invited to attend a two days course on Mathematics applied to Economics. The course will be held at Collegio Carlo Alberto in early September 2019.