Nudging Autonomous Learning Behavior: Three Field Experiments

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Education Sciences


Autonomous learning behavior is an important skill for students, but they often do not master it sufficiently. We investigated the potential of nudging as a teaching strategy in tertiary education to support three important autonomous learning behaviors: planning, preparing for class, and asking questions. Nudging is a strategy originating from behavioral economics used to influence behavior by changing the environment, and consists of altering the choice environment to steer human behavior. In this study, three nudges were designed by researchers in co-creation with teachers. A video booth to support planning behavior (n = 95), a checklist to support class preparation (n = 148), and a goal-setting nudge to encourage students to ask questions during class (n = 162) were tested in three field experiments in teachers’ classrooms with students in tertiary education in the Netherlands. A mixed-effects model approach revealed a positive effect of the goal-setting nudge on students’ grades and a marginal positive effect on the number of questions asked by students. Additionally, evidence for increased self-reported planning behavior was found in the video booth group—but no increase in deadlines met. No significant effects were found for the checklist. We conclude that, for some autonomous learning behaviors, primarily asking questions, nudging has potential as an easy, effective teaching strategy.

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Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek



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