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Knowing previous students’ grades affects undergraduates’ GPA, Stanford scholars find

close-up of a report card
Image credit: Getty Images
May 10 2018
Fellow, Research, Stanford

When undergraduates know how previous students performed in courses at their university, they end up receiving slightly lower class grades on average than they would have if they did not check out that information, according to Stanford research.

In a new research paper, an interdisciplinary group of Stanford scholars examined the effects of a course-planning web application which visualizes data from registrar records and prior student evaluations for each class. Through a randomized field experiment, the scholars found that the use of this platform led on average to a drop of 0.16 units in overall GPA. As an example, that decrease is large enough to move a B+ grade roughly half the distance to a B, the researchers said.

Additional author René Kizilcec is a SPICE funding recipient and a 2014 Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellow (Anonymous Donor), Communication.