Deskmates: Reconsidering Optimal Peer Assignments Within the Classroom
Last registered on March 19, 2020

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Deskmates: Reconsidering Optimal Peer Assignments Within the Classroom
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0005299
Initial registration date
March 16, 2020
Last updated
March 19, 2020 12:02 PM EDT
Location(s)
Region
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
PI Affiliation
Additional Trial Information
Status
Completed
Start date
2015-06-01
End date
2016-12-31
Secondary IDs
Abstract
We conduct our field experiment within primary school classrooms where a pair of deskmates forms the smallest possible designated peer group. We randomize the seats to ensure that every student has a randomized deskmate. We further measure the non-cognitive peer difference between a pair of deskmates, and we record their mid-term and final grades.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Eric, Mak, Li Li and Chunchao Wang. 2020. "Deskmates: Reconsidering Optimal Peer Assignments Within the Classroom." AEA RCT Registry. March 19. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.5299-1.0.
Sponsors & Partners

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Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
Randomize the initial seating plan in a class and fix it for one semester.
Intervention Start Date
2015-09-01
Intervention End Date
2016-07-01
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Mid-term and final scores (Chinese, Math); non-cognitive measurements.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
We conduct our field experiment within primary school classrooms where a pair of deskmates forms the smallest possible designated peer group; we further measure the non-cognitive peer difference between a pair of deskmates---a metric measuring the difference in their responses to Big Five personality questionnaire items.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Public Lottery.
Randomization Unit
student.
Was the treatment clustered?
Yes
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
21 classes (The seating plan of each class is separately randomized).
Sample size: planned number of observations
1005 students.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
1005 (Note: It is not a traditional RCT as there are no treatment and control arms. Instead, the seating plan is randomized).
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Supporting Documents and Materials

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IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
Yes
Intervention Completion Date
July 01, 2016, 12:00 AM +00:00
Is data collection complete?
Yes
Data Collection Completion Date
July 06, 2016, 12:00 AM +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
1005 students in 21 classes, 3 schools
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
No
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
1005 students
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
21 classes (the seating plan for each class is randomized)
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No

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Program Files
Program Files
No
Reports and Papers
Preliminary Reports
Relevant Papers
Abstract
We find that knowledge spillover in the classroom depends on how peer personalities differ. To address the issue of within-group sorting, we conduct a field experiment within primary school classrooms where a pair of deskmates forms the smallest possible designated peer group. We measure the non-cognitive peer difference between a pair of deskmates, defined as the averaged difference in their responses to Big Five personality questionnaire items, to understand the social process within each designated peer group. Our estimation results reveal that knowledge spillover between deskmates works only when their non-cognitive peer difference is relatively small. Otherwise, a detrimental effect ensues. After accounting for non-cognitive peer difference, optimizing peer assignments yields a 2%-6% gain in academic achievement after a semester. Recurring reassignments are necessary to sustain this optimization gain because assimilation or differentiation occurs between deskmates over time.
Citation
Li Li, Eric Mak and Chunchao Wang, "Deskmates: Reconsidering Optimal Peer Assignments Within the Classroom," 2019. SSRN Working Paper.