Math tutoring software programs that attempt to emulate good human math tutors
Submitted by David J. Rosen on September 18, 2012 - 12:03pm
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Have you read the September 14, 2012 New York Times Education Issue article "The Machines are Taking Over"? http://tinyurl.com/9dbut9w
It's mostly about the development of one (free) computer tutoring program in math, called ASSISTments.
Here are a few excerpts to whet your interest:
In a 1984 paper that is regarded as a classic of educational psychology, Benjamin Bloom, a professor at the University of Chicago, showed that being tutored is the most effective way to learn, vastly superior to being taught in a classroom. The experiments headed by Bloom randomly assigned fourth-, fifth- and eighth-grade students to classes of about 30 pupils per teacher, or to one-on-one tutoring. Children tutored individually performed two standard deviations better than children who received conventional classroom instruction — a huge difference.
ASSISTments incorporates many of the findings made by researchers who, spurred by the 1984 Bloom study, set out to discover what tutors do that is so helpful to student learning. First and foremost, they concluded, tutors provide immediate feedback: they let students know whether what they’re doing is right or wrong. Such responsiveness keeps students on track, preventing them from wandering down “garden paths” of unproductive reasoning.
The second important service tutors provide, researchers discovered, is guiding students’ efforts, offering nudges in the right direction. ASSISTments provides this, too, in the form of a “hint” button.
Dealing with emotion — helping students regulate their feelings, quelling frustration and rousing flagging morale — is the third important function that human tutors fulfill. So Heffernan [the creator of ASSISTments], along with several researchers at W.P.I. and other institutions, is working on an emotion-sensitive tutor: a computer program that can recognize and respond to students’ moods.
Some researchers, like Ken Koedinger, a professor of human-computer interaction and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, take a different view from Heffernan’s: computerized tutors shouldn’t try to emulate humans, because computers may well be the superior teachers
What do you think of this article? What are your thoughts about using digital tutors? Have you tried ASSISTments? If so, what do you think?
David J. Rosen