Date of Award

Spring 2001

Document Type

Restricted Thesis

Terms of Use

© 2001 Eve Manz. All rights reserved. Access to this work is restricted to users within the Swarthmore College network and may only be used for non-commercial, educational, and research purposes. Sharing with users outside of the Swarthmore College network is expressly prohibited. For all other uses, including reproduction and distribution, please contact the copyright holder.

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Educational Studies Department, Psychology Department

First Advisor

K. Ann Renninger

Second Advisor

Christine Massey

Third Advisor

Zipora Roth


A model of knowledge as theory-like and learning as comparable to theory change has added to the psychological discourse the enduring metaphor of child-as-theorist. In particular, this metaphor has implied that children learn through a process of theory revision mediated by an interaction between current conceptual structure and perception of environmental data. One of the tools that has been suggested to promote this type of learning is that of conceptual conflict (e.g. Hewson and Hewson, 1984); the exposure of the child to feedback that is discrepant with his or her current conception. The purpose of this study was to explore the potential of conceptual conflict for promoting change in young children's understanding of shadows. Children's theorizing in response to discrepant feedback was examined under two conditions, one which was hypothesized to encourage explicit theorizing and one which provided only minimal support. The two conditions were compared both on pretest and posttest performance and through a microgenetic analysis of learning during experience with discrepant feedback. Children in the more supportive condition appeared to learn more both during the experience session and on posttest measures. Further analysis of the performance of children in this condition suggested that while these children were theorizing in response to their experience, their learning was best characterized as the construction of new correlations rather than as deep conceptual change. These results have significant implications both for instruction and for further research.