John R. Anderson
Albert T. Corbett
Kenneth R. Koedinger
Ray Pelletier

John R. Anderson
Department of Psychology
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, Pa 15213


This paper reviews the ten year history of tutor development based on the ACT theory (Anderson, 1983, 1993). We developed production system models in ACT of how students solved problems in LISP, geometry, and algebra. Computer tutors were developed around these cognitive models. Construction of these tutors was guided by a set of eight principles loosely based on the ACT theory. Early evaluations of these tutors usually but not always showed significant achievement gains. Best case evaluations showed that students could achieve at least the same level of proficiency as conventional instruction in one-third of the time. Empirical studies showed that students were learning skills in production-rule units and that the best tutorial interaction style was one in which the tutor provides immediate feedback, consisting of short and directed error messages. The tutors appear to work better if they present themselves to students as non human tools to assist learning rather than as emulations of human tutors. Students working with these tutors display transfer to other environments to the degree that they can map the tutor environment into the test environment. These experiences have coalesced into a new system for developing and deploying tutors. This system involves first selecting a problem-solving interface, then constructing a curriculum under the guidance of a domain expert, then designing a cognitive model for solving problems in that environment, then building instruction around the productions in that model, and finally deploying the tutor in the classroom. New tutors are being built in this system to achieve the NCTM standards for high school mathematics in an urban setting.

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