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Findings from RCT Grants

Findings from a Randomized Controlled Trial of Low-Cost 'Getting to Know You' Intervention for College Instructors and their Students

This well-conducted RCT found no statistically significant effects on exam scores or college persistence.

Grantee: University of California Santa Barbara. The final study report is linked here

Description of the Intervention: This was a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of a brief, low-cost intervention designed to improve relationships between college instructors and their students by using “getting-to-know-you” surveys to identify and highlight interests and values that they share, with the ultimate goal of improving students’ academic achievement. A previous RCT of this intervention, conducted in a high school setting, found the intervention produced significant improvements in students’ grades by the end of the marking period (i.e., six weeks after random assignment), with particularly large effects for Black and Latino students. This study sought to replicate those previous findings in a college setting, with a larger sample and a longer-term follow-up.

Study Design. This study had a sample of 2,749 students and 120 instructors. Student-instructor pairs were randomly assigned to a treatment group that received the intervention or to a control group that did not. Sample students averaged 22 years of age and were 60% female, 53% Hispanic or Latinx/21% White/11% Asian/ 5% Black, and 43% were in the first generation in their families to go to college. The study used school administrative data to measure exam scores and academic outcomes.

Impact on the Primary Outcome. The study found that the intervention had no significant, or meaningful non-significant impacts on its primary, preregistered outcome measures — namely, (i) scores on objectively graded end-of-semester final exams (e.g., those using a multiple choice format) and (ii) continued enrollment into the following school year.

Study Quality. This was a well-conducted RCT1 that produced valid findings.

  1. 1

    For example, the study had successful random assignment (as evidenced by highly similar treatment and control groups), valid analyses that were publicly pre-registered, and minimal attrition (no attrition on persistence and 6% non-differential attrition on final exam scores for the pre-specified subsample who took objective final exams).

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