The impact of feedback and incentives on parental engagement, children's reading skills and motivation: a field experiment

Last registered on August 10, 2021


Trial Information

General Information

The impact of feedback and incentives on parental engagement, children's reading skills and motivation: a field experiment
Initial registration date
August 09, 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
August 10, 2021, 3:31 PM EDT

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



Primary Investigator

University of Vechta

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
University of VEchta
PI Affiliation
University of VEchta

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Reading can only be learned through daily practice, but school practice time was in short supply in the Corona year 2020/21, with phases of school closures alternating with phases of school openings with a masking requirement or a ban on reading aloud. Many parents fear that this cohort started their school career with significant learning deficits, but hardly anyone really knows. Accordingly, the pressure to act and thus the motivation of parents to support their children's educational process through active participation is unclear. In a field experiment, we investigate the effects of systematically varied feedback and incentives on their children's reading skills on parents' motivation and effort to actively support skill acquisition over several weeks. About 250 first graders train their reading skills with active support from their parents in a phonics reading tandem procedure as part of the nationwide "#30-Day Reading Challenge”. The challenge is to motivate the parent-child dyads to achieve a consistently high or even increasing level of activity over the 6 weeks of summer vacation, while strengthening the children's intrinsic motivation to such an extent that they remain active readers beyond the intervention period. In addition to parent performance, we also measure children's motivation and change in performance using validated literacy tests and weekly progress diagnostics.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Klößner, Stefan, Vanessa Mertins and Nicole Middendorf. 2021. "The impact of feedback and incentives on parental engagement, children's reading skills and motivation: a field experiment." AEA RCT Registry. August 10.
Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Number of submitted readed texts, type of submission, daily reading time, quality of parent support, development of children's reading skills, children's reading motivation, parent-child-cooperation.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Effectiveness and acceptance of the #30-days reading challenge as instrument to support children's learning process
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
About 250 elementary school students are to train their reading skills in a field experiment with the help of their parents in a sound reading tandem procedure. By means of the combined phonetic reading procedure, we provide parents with an instrument that can on the one hand direct the children's performance and on the other hand indirectly increase the children's motivation to learn. We run an entry and exit test at the beginning and end of a 6 weeks period, and three survey at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end. Within the 6-weeks-period, parent-child-dyads are asked to read one text per day (one story) and report on it daily via WhatsApp. After each 5 days of reading, we measure children's reading skills using a validated test and inform parents regularly about the results.
Experimental Design Details
In this study, the effectiveness of different kinds of feedback on educational success and motivation and different incentives on parents’ motivation to support their children’s readings skills acquisition will be investigated.
To basically promote motivation to invest time in the parent-child dyad, different forms of incentives are tested over 2 weeks: (1) low (10 cent/day) monetary incentive, (2) high (1 Euro/day) monetary incentives, (3) non-monetary incentive (1 chinese feng shui coin/day) of low value (10 cent/day), (4) non-monetary incentive (1 chinese feng shui coin/day) of high value (1 Euro/day), and (5) control group with no incentive at all to submit a daily reading report via WhatsApp, created with high effort (extensive voice message about the progress) or low (short voice or text message about the result).
Besides this intervention, we systematically vary the relative performance feedback on children’s readings skills during a baseline phase using a control group and to treatment groups. We take advantage of the fact that there are no direct matching comparison values for the current time (in the vacations between the 1st and 2nd school year). However, there are comparison values at 2 months before and 2 months after. So we have some kind of a natural variation in that we use one or the other comparison table. In Treatment HS (high standard), we update parents’ beliefs about their child's reading skills and learning progress relative to a comparison group from the following school year, thus the children's performance to date is measured against a relatively high benchmark. In Treatment LS (low standard), we update parents’ beliefs about their child's reading skills and learning progress relative to a comparison group from the previous school year, thus the children's performance to date is measured against a relatively low benchmark. As a result, some of the parents receive feedback that is very mild and somewhat overstates the child's performance, and some receive feedback that is somewhat severe and somewhat understates the child's performance. A control group receives no relative performance feedback at all.
We expect heterogenous effects on parents’ engagement and children’s performance with regard to children’s objective measurable entry reading skills level (low and top-performer) and parent’s ambitions, measured by the extent to which parents use the possibility to support the child during the placement test in order to improve test results. When we inform parents about the outcome of the placement test, we randomly communicate to half of them the information that even the smallest assistance can massively falsify the test result and parents who have assisted therefore now know for themselves that the result is then very error-prone. Since we are measuring children's reading skills at the same time with a test where parents cannot assist and thus bias, we have an indicator of who is more likely to have assisted and who is not.
A follow-up test will be used to evaluate whether there has been a long-term change in behavior and whether the reading tandems continue to practice even after the incentives have been removed.
Randomization Method
randomization via R.
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
250 parent-child-dyads
Sample size: planned number of observations
250 parent-child-dyads
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
50 Control, 50 small monetary incentive, 50 large monetary incentive, 50 non-monetary incentive of low value, 50 non-monetary incentive of high value
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Gesellschaft für experimentelle Wirtschaftsforschung
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number


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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

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Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials