Learning Job Skills from Colleagues at Work: Evidence from a Field Experiment Using Teacher Performance Data
We study on-the-job learning among classroom teachers, especially learning skills from coworkers. Using data from a new field experiment, we document meaningful improvements in teacher job performance when high- and low-performing teachers working at the same school are paired and asked to work together on improving the low-performer’s skills. In particular, pairs are asked to focus on specific skills identified in the low-performer’s prior performance evaluations. In the classrooms of low-performing teachers treated by the intervention, students scored 0.12 standard deviations higher than students in control classrooms. These improvements in teacher performance persisted, and perhaps grew, in the year after treatment. Empirical tests suggest the improvements are likely the result of low-performing teachers learning skills from their partner.
We thank Jonah Rockoff as well as seminar participants at the NBER Summer Institute, New York Federal Reserve, and Harvard Graduate School of Education for helpful comments and suggestions. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provided financial support of this research, and we benefited greatly from discussions with our program officer Steve Cantrell. We are equally indebted to the Tennessee Department of Education, and particularly Nate Schwartz, Laura Booker, Tony Pratt, Luke Kohlmoos, and Sara Heyburn for their collaboration throughout. Finally, we thank Verna Ruffin, superintendent in Jackson-Madison County Schools, and the principals and teachers who participated in the program. All opinions and errors are our own. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
John P. Papay & Eric S. Taylor & John H. Tyler & Mary E. Laski, 2020. "Learning Job Skills from Colleagues at Work: Evidence from a Field Experiment Using Teacher Performance Data," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, vol 12(1), pages 359-388.