Research Suggests A Loss Aversion Scheme Will Raise Teaching Standards

Findings released today claim that research suggests a loss aversion scheme will raise teaching standards. The controversial research, co-authored by an economist at Harvard University, has discovered that the threat of teachers losing a portion of their salary is far more effective in increasing student attainment than offering bonuses for good results.

A small trial, carried out in Illinois, in the United States, focused on 150 teachers – half of whom were promised up to $8000 dollar bonuses for good performances. The other half were given $4000 in advance, but were told they would need to return a portion of it if attainment among their students was unsatisfactory. They were also given the opportunity to earn an additional $4000 for excellent performance among their students.

According to the findings, students taught by teachers in the second group achieved significantly higher attainment levels than their counterparts in the first group.

This research comes at a time when a new system of pay, based on performance, will be implemented in English schools – this is set to take place in September and will end the link between length of time teaching and automatic wage rises. Department for Education (DfE) guidance, which states that it is up to individual schools how best to implement changes, leaves this type of ‘loss aversion’ scheme as a potential option for exploration.

That said, a recent survey of UK teachers has suggested that almost half (43%) felt that pay should be set according to performance against annual appraisals, followed by student exam performance (29%) and professional qualifications held (11%). Length of service and parity with other teachers both received support from less than a tenth of teachers, garnering only 8% and 7% respectively. Whether teachers’ views on the topic will be taken in to account remains to be seen.

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