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Reflection and Learning Robustness in a Natural Language Conceptual Physics Tutoring System

Ward, Arthur (2010) Reflection and Learning Robustness in a Natural Language Conceptual Physics Tutoring System. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This thesis investigates whether reflection after tutoring with the Itspoke qualitative physics tutoring system can improve both near and far transfer learning and retention. This question is formalized in three major hypotheses. H1: that reading a post-tutoring reflective text will improve learning compared to reading a non-reflective text. H2: that a more cohesive reflective text will produce higher learning gains for most students. And H3: that students with high domain knowledge will learn more from a less cohesive text.In addition, this thesis addresses the question of which mechanisms affect learning from a reflective text. Secondary hypotheses H4 and H5 posit that textual cohesion and student motivation, respectively, each affect learning by influencing the amount of inference performed while reading.These hypotheses were tested by asking students to read a reflective/abstractive text after tutoring with the Itspoke tutor. This text compared dialog parts in which similar physics principles had been applied to different situations. Students were randomly assigned among two experimental conditions which got ``high' or ``low' cohesion versions of this text, or a control condition which read non-reflective physics material after tutoring.The secondary hypotheses were tested using two measures of cognitive load while reading: reading speeds and a self-report measure of reading difficulty.Near and far transfer learning was measured using sets of questions that were mostly isomorphic vs. non-isomorphic the tutored problems, and retention was measured by administering both an immediate and a delayed post-test. Motivation was measured using a questionnaire.Reading a reflective text improved learning, but only for students with a middle amount of motivation, confirming H1 for that group. These students also learned more from a more cohesive reflective text, supporting H2. Cohesion also affected high and low knowledge students significantly differently, supporting H3, except that high knowledge students learned best from high, not low cohesion text.Students with higher amounts of motivation did have higher cognitive load, confirming hypothesis H5 and suggesting that they engaged the text more actively. However, secondary hypothesis H4 failed to show a role for cognitive load in explaining the learning interaction between knowledge and cohesion demonstrated in H3.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Ward, Arthurartward@cs.pitt.eduAKW13
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairLitman, Dianelitman@cs.pitt.eduDLITMAN
Committee MemberLesgold, Alanal@pitt.eduAL
Committee MemberSchunn, Christianschunn@pitt.eduSCHUNN
Committee MemberKatz, Sandrakatz@pitt.eduKATZ
Date: 1 October 2010
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 23 June 2010
Approval Date: 1 October 2010
Submission Date: 8 June 2010
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Intelligent Systems
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: cohesion; ITS; learning; tutoring
Other ID:, etd-06082010-143656
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:46
Last Modified: 19 Dec 2016 14:36


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