Scaling up behavioral science interventions in online education

Low persistence in educational programs is a major obstacle to social mobility. Scientists have proposed many scalable interventions to support students learning online. In one of the largest international field experiments in education, we iteratively tested established behavioral science interventions and found small benefits depending on individual and contextual characteristics. Forecasting intervention efficacy using state-of-the-art methods yields limited improvements. Online education provides unprecedented access to learning opportunities, as evidenced by its role during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, but adequately supporting diverse students will require more than a light-touch intervention. Our findings encourage funding agencies and researchers conducting large-scale field trials to consider dynamic investigations to uncover and design for contextual heterogeneity to complement static investigations of overall effects.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Jun 2020, 201921417; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1921417117

Justin Reich

About Justin Reich

Justin Reich is an educational researcher interested in the future of learning in a networked world. He is the director of the MIT Teaching Systems Lab, which investigates the complex, technology-rich classrooms of the future and the systems we need to help educators thrive in those settings. He is an instructor in the Scheller Teacher Education Program, where MIT undergraduates can earn their 6-12th grade Massachusetts teaching license. He was previously the Richard L. Menschel HarvardX Research Fellow, where he led the initiative to study large-scale open online learning through the HarvardX Initiative, and a lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Justin is a faculty associate of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. He is the co-founder of EdTechTeacher, a professional learning consultancy devoted to helping teachers leverage technology to create student-centered, inquiry-based learning environments.


Share this Post