Very long-term retention of the control of variables strategy following a brief intervention

Robert F. Lorch, Elizabeth P. Lorch, Benjamin Freer, William J. Calderhead, Emily Dunlap, Emily C. Reeder, Jessica Van Neste, Hung Tao Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Middle school students (n = 354) were tested for their understanding of the control of variables strategy (CVS) 2.5 years after participating in a study comparing three different interventions for teaching CVS. The key finding was that the pattern of effects observed in the 4th grade continued to be observed in the 6th grade. This was because (a) students who had mastered CVS in the 4th grade were likely to continue to perform at mastery levels in the 6th grade whereas (b) the learning of students who had not mastered CVS in 4th grade was independent of the teaching intervention they had received in the 4th-grade study. These findings demonstrate that a brief intervention of direct instruction in CVS can produce long-lasting learning of the principle of controlling variables.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)391-403
Number of pages13
JournalContemporary Educational Psychology
StatePublished - Oct 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education (Grant R305H060150 ). The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the U.S. Department of Education. We are grateful to the 6 th -grade teachers and principals of Beaumont Middle School, Edythe J. Hayes Middle School and Winburn Middle School in Fayette County, KY for their support of this research. We are particularly indebted to Lori Bowen for her time and enthusiastic support of our research efforts. Robert Lorch also gratefully acknowledges the support of the Scientific Council of the Midi-Pyrenees Region of France, the Laborataire CLLE-LTC and OCTOGONE Laborataire at the Universite de Toulouse – Jean Jaures.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Inc.


  • Control of variables strategy
  • Inquiry in science
  • Retention of learning
  • Robust learning
  • Science education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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