Does practice make perfect? Effects of feedback (PSY, Ba)

Mentor: Ard Lazonder

Preliminary note

This Bachelor thesis project can be run individually, or in collaboration with a fellow student who will do a complementary project on the relative effectiveness of feedback and self-explanations. In case of a combination, supervision will be combined where possible, and the two students will join forces in data collection (and, of course, can give each other some moral support).


Early science instruction enables children to learn about a topic by designing and performing simple investigations. Even young children (>6 years) know what a ‘good’ investigation looks like and need only a short instruction to use this knowledge in designing their own, systematic experiments (Klahr & Li, 2005). But what should this instruction include? Recent Bachelor thesis research in our department has shown that watching a simple demonstration of the procedure to design valid experiments can be highly effective. Offering additional opportunities for practice was expected to increase this effectiveness even further … but the results proved otherwise: children who merely received the demonstration outperformed their classmates who could engage in additional practice. The goal of the present thesis project is to find out whether the null result in the practice condition was due to the absence of feedback.


Following a review of the literature, you design an experimental study in which children (aged 10-12) experiment with a computer simulation of a musical gong. Prior to the experiment, you give all children a demonstration of the way to design valid experiments. Children in the ‘demonstration’ condition receive nothing else whereas children in the ‘practice’ condition can try out the demonstrated skill themselves by interacting with the simulation. Children in the ‘practice-plus-feedback’ condition also get the opportunity to practice and, in addition, receive feedback on the experiments they design. Learning outcomes are measured by a written posttest. (As the nature of the instruction requires one-on-one interaction with a child, you should be sufficiently fluent in Dutch).


  • Klahr D., & Li, J. (2005). Cognitive research and elementary science instruction: From the laboratory, to the classroom, and back. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 14, 217-238.
  • Lorch, R. F., Lorch, E. P., Calderhead, W. J., Dunlap, E. E., Hodell, E. C., & Freer, B. D. (2010). Learning the control of variables strategy in higher and lower achieving classrooms: Contributions of explicit instruction and experimentation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102, 90-101.
  • Schwichow, M., Croker, S., Zimmerman, C., Höffler, T., & Härtig, H. (in press). Teaching the control-of-variables strategy: A meta-analysis. Developmental review, 1-27.


Scientific reasoning, inquiry learning, children, direct instruction, feedback.