Computer-based feedback matters when relevant prior knowledge is not activated

Julie F. Shirah, Pooja G. Sidney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: How feedback is given may influence its utility. Aim: We examined the effect of activated prior knowledge on learning from feedback by manipulating whether knowledge of a foundational concept was activated before solving fraction division problems. Sample and methods: Undergraduates (N = 171) were randomly assigned in a 3 (feedback timing: delayed, immediate, or no feedback) x 2 (knowledge activation: relevant or not) between-subjects design. Results: If irrelevant knowledge was activated, immediate feedback enhanced learning as compared to no feedback during the learning task, whereas if relevant knowledge was activated, then there was no impact of immediate feedback. On the posttest, any feedback (immediate or delayed) resulted in greater performance, but feedback timing did not matter. Thus, activating prior knowledge moderates the effect of feedback on learning. Conclusion: When researchers or practitioners are investigating or giving feedback, they must also consider individual differences of the learner such as the prior knowledge they bring to the task.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101796
JournalLearning and Instruction
StatePublished - Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier Ltd


  • Fraction learning
  • Knowledge activation
  • Prior knowledge
  • feedback

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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