How to use out-of-school time, the power of pen pals, and new research in South Africa

I have three recent posts over on World Bank blogs. Check them out!

 

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Should I intersperse tables throughout my paper or put them at the end?

Some years ago, I was a graduate student in economics, and one of my advisors taught me that well-done tables, all at the end, will allow a reader to capture the entire narrative of your paper quickly.

On the other hand, if I’m actually reading the paper from start to finish, tables at the end mean constant flipping back and forth.

On the other other hand, when I’m going back to papers later, it’s much easier to find the results I’m looking for if the tables and figures are together in the back.

When I review economics papers (with tables at the back), I end up keeping two PDF files of the paper open at once, one open at the text and the other open at the tables and figures.

Last week Chris Blattman — a well-known development economist — posed the question to Twitter.

As you can see, the vast majority of respondents prefer tables interspersed throughout the paper. Now, it’s clear from responses to the tweet that not all respondents were economists. I suspect that most respondents were people who read economics papers, so if your goal is communicating with readers, this may be a useful metric. If your goal is to impress academic economists on hiring committees, who may or may not be well represented on Twitter (I don’t have a strong prior), then it may not be so helpful.

Discussants to the tweet highlighted the points I make above, that reading on a device is easier with tables interspersed, and that tables at the back make for easier skimming.

But I’d note that if you’re going to do tables at the back, do them right: Provide clear titles and notes such that the tables really can stand alone. As one economist noted, “Tables at the end are okay with decent notes, horrible without.”

If you have a website, a few people suggested having two versions, which is an interesting idea (and more work than I will credibly do).

So, writers, pick your poison. You’re likely to annoy at least a few readers either way!

Identifying great teachers and communicating with policymakers

I wrote a couple of items this week around the blogosphere:

Looking for a shortcut to identifying great teachers? You may be out of luck. On new evidence about the relationship between teacher performance on tests and student learning.

“The right data at the right time”: How to effectively communicate research to policy makers. A policymaker from Jamaica’s Ministry of Education shares insights on how to communicate your research.

Does it matter which co-author submits my co-authored paper to a journal?

I’ve wondered about this, so this week I posed the question to the twitterverse. Lots of people, including several journal editors, weighed in. (When I say editors, I include co-editors and associate editors.)

Here’s my take away: It doesn’t matter very much — and maybe not at all, depending on the editor. It’s certainly second (or third or fourth) order relative to the actual quality and relevance of your paper. But there may sometimes be a return to having the most well-known or senior author submit, so if it’s low-cost, then go for it.

Here are the details: I posed the question, “Do you believe it matters WHICH AUTHOR submits your co-authored paper to the journal?”

170 Twitter users weighed in, as follows:

Of course, we don’t know who those 170 voters are or how much weight we should put on their opinions. (No offense to all you fine voters; I appreciate and value you!)

A few editors weighed in directly. One wrote: “Offering my *personal* perspective on this as editor. When better known submits it signals (to editor) their commitment to the paper.” She then clarified, “To be clear, not saying there’s a lot of info. I’m being honest that I do take epsilon more notice when a recognizable name submits.”

Another editor wrote (and a couple of others “liked”), “I’d say, don’t sweat the small stuff.” That’s in line with the first editor, who added, “Those mental cycles better spent on fine tuning the abstract, title and intro.”

Another editor wrote, “I don’t pay attention to which author submits. But now that I have the floor: I do remember super late or non-responsive referees.”

An academic weighed in, “For me, ‘lead’ author submits. When I lead, I submit. If my student leads the work, they should submit (this is how they learn).” This jives with what one of the editors wrote: “Ultimately, I think authors should take turns and let resources influence who submits. And I practice that.”

So there you go! I’ve left attributions off this post, but you can read the original discussion here.

If you want School Report Cards to improve learning, try sharing results on the whole local education market

Over at Let’s Talk Development, I give my take on an interesting new study using school report cards.

Better information to improve service delivery: New evidence

Countries around the world have experimented with “school report cards”: providing parents with information about the quality of their school so that they can demand higher quality service for their children. The results have been mixed. Andrabi, Das, and Khwaja bring a significant contribution to that literature in last month’s American Economic Review with their article, “Report Cards: The Impact of Providing School and Child Test Scores on Educational Markets.”

Here’s the abstract: “We study the impact of providing school report cards with test scores on subsequent test scores, prices, and enrollment in markets with multiple public and private providers. A randomly selected half of our sample villages (markets) received report cards. This increased test scores by 0.11 standard deviations, decreased private school fees by 17 percent, and increased primary enrollment by 4.5 percent. Heterogeneity in the treatment impact by initial school test scores is consistent with canonical models of asymmetric information. Information provision facilitates better comparisons across providers, and improves market efficiency and child welfare through higher test scores, higher enrollment, and lower fees.”

Read my take at the original post!

A few self-links

  1. This morning I posted “What a new preschool study tells us about early child education – and about impact evaluation” over at Development Impact, about an interesting study “Cognitive science in the field: A preschool intervention durably enhances intuitive but not formal mathematics,” which is a randomized controlled trial in Delhi, India.
  2. You can also just watch the researchers explain that paper below.

3. The French version of my post, “A Framework for Taking Evidence from One Location to Another,” based on the work of Mary Ann Bates and Rachel Glennerster, is now available:  Comment déterminer si un projet avec de bons résultats dans un pays fonctionnera ailleurs ?

4. The Portuguese version of my post, “Are good school principals born or can they be made?” based on the work of Roland Fryer and others, is now available: Os bons diretores da escola nascem ou podem ser criados?