Experimental Evidence on the Role of Students' Interests during Learning.

Last registered on March 24, 2020


Trial Information

General Information

Experimental Evidence on the Role of Students' Interests during Learning.
Initial registration date
March 24, 2020
Last updated
March 24, 2020, 10:57 AM EDT



Primary Investigator

KU Leuven

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
PI Affiliation
KU Leuven
PI Affiliation
KU Leuven

Additional Trial Information

On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Despite the high returns to education, private investment among many students remains remarkably low. That the present long-term returns do not motivate students enough to invest effort during learning is one explanation for this puzzle. Given the increasing body of evidence implying non-cognitive skills to play an equally important role for education investments as cognitive skills, this study examines an incentive scheme through which students’ learning experience is expected to enhance, i.e., example choice, an instructional approach that offers students a choice between predefined contexts for an academic topic, which are related to their out-of-school interests. To establish our results, we conducted a field experiment in the seventh and eighth grade of Flemish secondary education involving 1,460 students in 31 schools. We hypothesise that modifying learning material to draw on students’ interests not only improves the interest in the topic, but also the academic performance of students.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

De Witte, Kristof et al. 2020. "Experimental Evidence on the Role of Students' Interests during Learning. ." AEA RCT Registry. March 24. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.5480-1.0
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Experimental Details


We designed two conditions to study the effect of modifying material to draw on students’ interests:
- A control condition where students followed a standard financial education programme.
- A treatment condition where students followed a financial education programme in which, for every exercise, they were given the choice between different contexts based on three interest fields, i.e., sports, music and culture, and social media and gaming. The three interest fields were chosen based on the responses of a short survey.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
We assess students' academic performance using computer-aided multiple-choice questions that refer directly to the learning material and measure financial literacy in a wider sense.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
To evaluate whether students' interest in the topic is affected by the programme, we measure students' triggered situational interest, maintained situational interest, and perceived value using three scales.
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
The programme was developed for students in the seventh and eighth grade of Flemish secondary education. Schools were recruited via an open call in December 2018. Participating schools were randomly assigned to the control or treatment condition. The financial education programme was designed as four lectures of 50 min. in the form of an interactive website. The website focused on the topic of the government and taxes. Students completed the material individually. No particular teacher training was provided. Teachers were requested to give the programme during regular class hours in pre-specified periods. To measure the impact of the programme, students had to take two tests, i.e., a test before the start of the lectures to capture students’ baseline knowledge, interest, and attitudes about the topic and a test at the start of the last lecture to measure the effectiveness of the different versions of the programme.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Schools were randomly assigned to a condition using a random number generator in Stata.
Randomization Unit
Randomisation was done at the level of the school.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
31 schools participated in the programme of which 19 schools entirely followed the protocol (students completed both the pre- and post-treatment test).
Sample size: planned number of observations
1,460 students took the pre-treatment test of which 673 students also took the post-treatment test.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Control condition: 731 students in 15 schools (361 students in 10 schools took the post-test)
Treatment condition: 729 students in 16 schools (312 students in 9 schools took the post-test)
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number


Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials