The effect of rank feedback provision on performance: an experimental study using high school students

Last registered on August 26, 2021


Trial Information

General Information

The effect of rank feedback provision on performance: an experimental study using high school students
Initial registration date
August 25, 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 26, 2021, 9:55 PM EDT

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



Primary Investigator

University of Technology Sydney

Other Primary Investigator(s)

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
The effect of relative performance feedback, especially ordinal rank feedback, on performance has been broadly discussed in recent decades. However, there are few studies on the relationship between the impacts of providing relative performance feedback and the choice of comparison groups. We conjecture that splitting a large comparison group into multiple smalls can improve the motivational effects of providing rank feedback. We will conduct a field experiment in a high school to test whether giving rank feedback can motivate individuals and whether the motivational effects tend to be enhanced in small reference groups.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Lou, Hanlin. 2021. "The effect of rank feedback provision on performance: an experimental study using high school students." AEA RCT Registry. August 26.
Experimental Details


The basic experimental design requires participants to do a two-stage task consisting of two tests. We randomise participants into one of three conditions:

Control group: No feedback
We will give participants in the control group a "to do your best" notification after the first test.

Treatment 1: Class rank feedback
We will inform participants of their rank in their classroom after the first test.

Treatment 2: Group rank feedback
We will inform participants of their rank in a same-ability group of five members after the first test.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Participants' scores in each test.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We will ask participants to do a two­-stage task. At each stage, participants will be given a list of 15 English sentences and the corresponding Chinese translation and asked to remember them, and then we told them that there would be a translation test based on the list two days later. Specifically, they need to translate the Chinese sentences on the test papers into English subject to the sentence lists they received.

After the first test, we will rank participants in each classroom based on their performance, and we will divide them from top to bottom into multiple groups of five members. It means that participants in each group had similar performances. Then, we will randomly select some participants and provide them with rank feedbacks, whereas we will give others a "to do your best" notification. Both rank feedbacks and notifications will be printed on an A4 paper and privately given to participants. We will also encourage them not to share their feedback with others. In this experiment, we will introduce two types of rank feedback. The one is Class-rank feedback. Participants who are selected to receive class rank feedback will be informed of their rank in their classroom. We can interpret the class rank as a measurement of one's relative position in a large comparison group. Another one is Group-rank feedback. Instead of informing participants of their class rank, we will tell them their rank in the group of five members. In this case, participants will learn their relative position in a small comparison group that all members have similar initial performances. Then, they will be given another sentence list and test.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization by a computer programme.
Randomization Unit
We randomise all treatments at the individual level.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
At least 450 participants.
Sample size: planned number of observations
At least 450 participants.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
150 participants in the Control group; 150 participants in Treatment 1; 150 participants in Treatment 2
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Human Ethics Committee
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