Lei Tang

Lei Tang

PhD Candidate, Department of Economics, University of Toronto
150 St. George Street, Toronto, ON M5S 3G7  

Email: lei.tang@mail.utoronto.ca


Research Interests
Education Economics
Applied Econometrics
Experimental Economics

Teaching Interests
Education Economics

Job Market Paper

Who Benefits from Frequent Grading of Class Participation?

In universities, class attendance is known to improve learning, yet many students skip classes. Can instructors help students improve by frequently marking class participation? If yes, who benefits the most? Moreover, will the students who would benefit from frequent marking choose it when they are given the choice, and can universities impose frequent marking on a large scale without increases in costs? To answer these important questions, I conducted an eight-month field experiment in large second-year classes at a major Canadian university. Specifically, the experiment first allows students to express their preferences for marking frequencies relating to their class participation – whether class participation is assessed every week (frequent marking) or every other week (infrequent marking). The students are then randomly assigned to the frequent and infrequent marking schemes. Findings indicate that (1) imposing frequent marking on class participation improves students’ performances on average if they were assigned to the frequent marking scheme; (2) the frequent marking helped the performance of low-ability and low self-control students the most; (3) when students were given the choice between the frequent and infrequent marking schemes, the ones who would benefit the most were no more likely to choose the frequent marking scheme than others, indicating they may be unaware of their problems or did not want to overcome them. These results support the use of a compulsory frequent assessment for class participation. Alongside the benefits, the costs of imposing frequent marking can be minimized by using classroom technologies that allow instructors to collect and mark students’ responses electronically.

Papers in progress

Does Grade Incentives for Class Participation Improve Academic Performance in Large Classroom?

Absenteeism is common in higher education despite the important role of class attendance in academic success. Previous randomized field experiments find that mandatory attendance policy have little or no effect on absenteeism. This study investigates (1) whether providing grade incentives for class participation would help students, especially low-motivation students, to show up and actively participate in class questions, and (2) whether participating in the incentivized class improve exam grades more than the un-incentivized class. An eight-month field experiment in university classrooms shows that the answers to (1) and (2) are mixed and the effects are heterogeneous.

Heterogeneity in Belief Updating among Middle School, High School and University Students

A bandit problem is a dynamic decision-making task that represents a broad class of real world problems in which alternatives to be chosen are of uncertain reward rates or types. This study conducted an experiment on two-armed bandit problems among 460 middle school, high school and university students in China. The study investigates whether subjects use Bayesian rule in belief updating when making decisions under uncertainty. If not, how do they deviate from it? The study also tries to relate the deviations to observable characteristics, namely, education level and gender.

Scarth, William and Tang, Lei (March 2008). “An Evaluation of the Proposed Working Income Tax Benefit.” Canadian Public Policy, 34(1), pp.25-36.