Individual, Family, and Community Education ETDs

Publication Date



This study investigated whether the level of instructional guidance affected student learning and science self-efficacy when nine- and ten- year old children learn to design unconfounded experiments using control of variable strategies (CVS). Specifically, the goal of this study was to replicate and extend prior research that examines the impact of the level of guidance on ability to successfully design scientifically credible experiments that isolate the relationship between two variables (Klahr & Nigam, 2004). Sixty children, who were enrolled in a summer sports program, were randomly assigned in equal numbers to one of the three following conditions: 1) guided instruction, where children received instruction with examples and explanations; 2) direct instruction, where children received instruction through lecture with examples; and 3) discovery learning, where children received instruction through methods of self discovery. Before starting the experiment, participants completed a prior knowledge pretest and a science self-efficacy measure. After receiving a common introduction to scientists use of experiments, children received their assigned instructional treatment and completed the outcomes. The outcomes included: 1) design of experiments; 2) a recall measure about designing unconfounded experiments using CVS; 3) an application measure about applying CVS to scientific experiments; 4) an evaluation measure using CVS to evaluate a scientific experiment; and, 5) science self-efficacy. Results were analyzed using one-way ANOVAs and repeated-measures ANOVA. Children who received guided instruction designed a greater percentage of experiments correctly and had greater changes in self-efficacy relative to direct instruction and discovery learning. Children receiving direct instruction and guided instruction performed better than children who learned through discovery on all other learning measures. Results were interpreted in terms of theoretical and educational implications.'


Science--Study and teaching (Elementary)--Research, Science--Experiments, Teaching--Research, Self-efficacy--Research

Document Type




Degree Name

Educational Psychology

Level of Degree


Department Name

Individual, Family, and Community Education

First Advisor

Marley, Scott C

First Committee Member (Chair)

Atencio, David

Second Committee Member

Flowerday, Terri

Third Committee Member

Selig, James P.