Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Teaching The Control-of-variables Strategy Through Different Forms Of Active Learning

“Active learning” has been used to describe many effective instructional interventions;
however, there are wide variations in several aspects of those interventions. The goal of
the current study was to isolate and compare the effectiveness of different aspects of
active learning on elementary students’ learning of the Control-of-Variables Strategy
(CVS). The sample consisted of 145 3rd and 4th grade students who were randomly
assigned to one of four active-learning conditions. Student learning was measured
through an independent-practice question and a pre- and post-test on CVS material.
Results indicated the four forms of active learning (a) produced equivalent learning gains
on the independent-practice problem and (b) did not produce equivalent learning gains
on the measure of transferring CVS knowledge to novel questions (i.e., post-test).
Further, students tended to perform at higher levels when the instruction included
teacher modeling and/or direct guidance as compared to no teacher modeling or minimal

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Martella, Amedee
Klahr, David
DC, Psychology