Ensemble Learning for Estimating Individualized Treatment Effects in Student Success Studies

Publication Information


  • Joshua Beemer, San Diego State University
  • Kelly Spoon, San Diego State University
  • Lingjun He, San Diego State University
  • Juanjuan Fan, San Diego State University
  • Richard A. Levine, San Diego State University


  • 315-335


  • Educational data mining, Personalized learning, Machine learning, Regularized regression, Supplemental instruction


  • Student success efficacy studies are aimed at assessing instructional practices and learning environments by evaluating the success of and characterizing student subgroups that may benefit from such modalities. We propose an ensemble learning approach to perform these analytics tasks with specific focus on estimating individualized treatment effects (ITE). ITE are a measure from the personalized medicine literature that can, for each student, quantify the impact of the intervention strategy on student performance, even though the given student either did or did not experience this intervention (i.e., is either in the treatment group or in the control group). We illustrate our learning analytics methods in the study of a supplemental instruction component for a large enrollment introductory statistics course recognized as a curriculum bottleneck at San Diego State University. As part of this application, we show how the ensemble estimate of the ITE may be used to assess the pedagogical reform (supplemental instruction), advise students into supplemental instruction at the beginning of the course, and quantify the impact of the supplemental instruction component on at-risk subgroups.