Author ORCID Identifier

Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Pooja G. Sidney


Although often helpful, feedback sometimes has neutral or negative effects on learning (Hattie & Timperley, 2007; Kluger & DeNisi, 1996). For example, Fyfe and colleagues have found that the effects of feedback timing are moderated by students’ prior knowledge such that feedback has been useful for students with low prior knowledge, but has mixed effects on students with high prior knowledge (e.g., Fyfe et al., 2012; Fyfe, 2016). In this study, I extended Fyfe’s work by re-conceptualizing prior knowledge as knowledge of more familiar foundational concepts a learner brings to a learning task (Sidney & Alibali, 2017), which can be activated to facilitate transfer from a more familiar concept to a more difficult concept (e.g., Sidney, 2020). Undergraduates (N = 171) were randomly assigned in a 3 (feedback timing: delayed feedback, immediate feedback, or no feedback) x 2 (knowledge activation: activate or not) between-subjects design to examine the effects of feedback and prior knowledge on learning and performance. I found that feedback and activating relevant prior knowledge led to higher learning scores, and feedback increased performance scores. However, knowledge activation moderated the effects of feedback such that if knowledge was not activated, immediate feedback enhanced learning; if knowledge was activated, then delayed/no feedback had a neutral impact on learning. Thus, this study replicates prior research that prior knowledge moderates the effect of feedback timing on learning. However, it contributes that prior knowledge can be defined as a broad range of foundational concepts learners bring to a learning task, not just specific knowledge about the task.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)