Examining Undergraduate Grading Policies and Student Behavior

Last registered on February 22, 2021

Pre-Trial

Trial Information

General Information

Title
Examining Undergraduate Grading Policies and Student Behavior
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0007215
Initial registration date
February 20, 2021

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
February 22, 2021, 12:03 PM EST

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

Locations

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Primary Investigator

Affiliation
University of Michigan

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
University of Michigan
PI Affiliation
University of Michigan
PI Affiliation
University of Michigan
PI Affiliation
University of Michigan

Additional Trial Information

Status
On going
Start date
2021-01-08
End date
2025-05-31
Secondary IDs
Abstract
In response to the myriad challenges students are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many universities have modified their academic policies to provide more flexibility for students. During the 2020-2021 academic year, the University of Michigan (UM) adopted a policy that gives students the option to convert letter grades to “Pass” or “No Record Covid” and also to drop courses late in the term without it appearing on their official transcript. This policy should reduce the risk associated with poor course performance and permit students to attempt more challenging courses without fear that it will adversely affect their grades.

We will use this setting to better understand the role that grading systems play in students’ course selection, major choice, and other academic behaviors. Using a survey of UM undergraduates, we will solicit information about students’ beliefs about grades and knowledge of the new and old grading policy. In an experimental intervention embedded within the survey, some students will receive additional information highlighting how the grading policy reduces the risk of taking more difficult and more varied courses. We will combine survey responses with administrative student records to see whether making salient the insurance aspect of the policy changes students’ attitudes towards coursetaking, intended academic behavior, and realized academic decisions.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Citation
Jacob, Brian et al. 2021. "Examining Undergraduate Grading Policies and Student Behavior." AEA RCT Registry. February 22. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.7215
Sponsors & Partners

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Experimental Details

Interventions

Intervention(s)
The intervention entails providing students with additional information and context about the University’s grading policies for the Winter 2021 semester. Specifically, the treatment highlights that the new grading policy reduces the risk of bad grades, makes it easier to experiment with more varied classes, and makes it less risky to take more classes. This informational treatment is embedded within a survey that all study participants take, but is shown to only half the respondents.
Intervention Start Date
2021-01-08
Intervention End Date
2021-01-22

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Survey outcomes: subjective probability of course withdrawal; subjective probability of changing letter grade to “Pass”; intended number of credits (enrolled, completed, and relative to hypothetical policy counterfactual); intended difficulty of courses; intended breadth of courses; intended graduation date.

Administrative outcomes: number of credits (enrolled and completed); subjects taken; difficulty of courses taken; course withdrawals; letter grades converted to “Pass” or “No Record Covid”; declared major.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Survey outcomes: concern about grades; concern about dropping classes; intended time use (studying, working, other extracurricular activities)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
All currently enrolled undergraduate students at the University of Michigan are eligible to participate in the study. All students who consent to participate will be fielded a survey about their academic plans. Among survey respondents, half will be randomly assigned to treatment and half to control using the Randomizer tool within Qualtrics survey software, which randomizes students to treatment or control at the point in the survey where the intervention text appears.

The intervention entails providing students with additional information and context about the University’s grading policies for the Winter 2021 semester, embedded within the survey. Control students do not receive the additional information.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization done using the Randomizer tool within Qualtrics survey software.
Randomization Unit
Individual
Was the treatment clustered?
No

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
We do not have a target sample size in mind. The survey (and therefore the intervention) will be open to all undergraduate students enrolled at the University of Michigan for Winter 2021 (N = approx. 29,000 students). The survey will remain open for two weeks, and all survey respondents will be included in the analysis. The design is individual (student) level, not clustered.
Sample size: planned number of observations
We do not have a target sample size in mind. The survey (and therefore the intervention) will be open to all undergraduate students enrolled at the University of Michigan for Winter 2021 (N = approx. 29,000 students). The survey will remain open for two weeks, and all survey respondents will be included in the analysis.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Half of survey respondents will be assigned to control and half to treatment.
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
University of Michigan Health Sciences and Behavioral Sciences Institutional Review Board
IRB Approval Date
2020-12-16
IRB Approval Number
HUM00192555
Analysis Plan

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