“Assessing Classmate Peer Effects on Student Learning: Statistical and Qualitative Evidence for Gateway Courses at Three Liberal-Arts Colleges”
In 2006, Reed College received a three-year grant to partner with Whitman College and Lewis & Clark College on a collaborative study on the classroom peer effects in required courses for first-year students. We studied classmate peer effects in college-wide first-year courses using a methodology that combined quantitative regression analysis of student data with qualitative evidence obtained from interviews with experienced course instructors. Through this method we arrived at a fuller understanding of the degree to which students are helped—or hindered—by the composition of their classes. Following two years of analysis, Reed hosted a symposium in the third year of the grant to discuss the findings of the project, and to spur discussion about the degree to which colleges may improve student performance by adjusting class enrollments. This was an extremely useful symposium, leading to a two-year extension of the grant, and additional research. Our finalized peer effects findings can be found below under the 2010 papers. Jeffrey Parker, George Hay Professor of Economics at Reed College, was the principal investigator.