Getting Started with Controlled Experiments

Topic Overview

Exemplary Controlled Experiments

In keeping with the strategy of learning by example, one of the best ways to learn to do controlled experiments is to look at controlled experiments performed by others.

For incredible examples of controlled experiments in education, I recommend Neil Heffernan’s work on ASSISTments as a researcher’s tool. A full list of controlled experiments completed with ASSISTments can be found here.

I would especially recommend looking at the following studies, both for their demonstration of the design of controlled experiments and for their interesting conclusions:

Controlled and Quasi-Experiments in Education

Controlled experiments are often hard to do in education. We can do controlled experiments in short lab studies, but real learning occurs over much longer time scales. However, over those longer time scales, it’s difficult to have the control necessary over the various lurking variables to perform true controlled experiments.

Here are a few sources on doing controlled experiments in education:

Scholarly Resources

For a little more information on the value, applicability, generalizability, and difficulties in the design of controlled experiment, see the following:

For more comprehensive information, see:

For demonstrations of good experimental design, we recommend using Google Scholar to search for controlled experiments in your chosen area. You’ll generally find several useful examples. Similarly, we’d recommend also searching similarly for quasi-experiments if you’re leaning in that direction. Or, see our own list of exemplary controlled experiments in education.

General Media

These sources would generally not be suitable for use in your assignments, but they may provide a useful general overview of the topic if you find yourself struggling with the more scholarly resources.

To get you started, here a few resources on what Controlled Experiments are and how to design them: