EXP: Developing a Tutor to Guide Students as they Invent Deep Principles with Contrasting Cases

PI: Catherine Chase
Teachers College, Columbia University
Award Details

This is a project to develop a tutor that will teach the skills of innovation through invention. The Invention Tutor will simulate the guidance of a well-trained inquiry teacher, who asks critical questions and gives feedback just at the right time, to push students’ thinking forward. By tracking student trajectories through the Invention process, the Invention Tutor will respond adaptively to student moves. Most importantly, the tutor will eliminate the constraint of needing a large teacher: student ratio to implement the Invention method successfully. This work will have broader impact by scaling up a successful instructional technique, with the ultimate goal of enhancing deep learning and transfer in science domains, for both high and low-achieving student populations. The project also has significant intellectual merit. The research will identify effective forms of support for Invention tasks and expand our understanding of the Invention process itself. More generally, findings will inform the field’s understanding of the process of discovery and how best to guide it. In addition, the Invention Tutor will represent a new kind of tutor that guides open-ended discovery tasks, as opposed to the more typical tutor that guides students to solve well-defined problems.

Innovation is an important 21st century skill. The Invention tutor strives to teach that skill without the high teacher:student ratio typically required when teaching such soft skills. Most intelligent tutoring systems rely on a fixed set of rules that guide how the tutor interacts with students that are derived from a study of the tutor’s discipline and a cognitive task analysis of what is required to learn the subject. The Invention tutor has no such underlying cognitive task analysis and the challenge of building the tutor will lie in uncovering the rules that guide tutor-student interactions and building upon previous tutor-student successful interactions. The intelligent tutoring system will be disseminated through free web access and the data collected in the project will be available for secondary analyses.

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