Feedback, scaffolding, syntactic structure and an ILS algebra tutor

Year: 2002

Author: Norton, Stephen, Cooper, Tom J, McRobbie, Campbell

Type of paper: Refereed paper

The support for the use of computers in teaching and learning is widespread. Some educationalist say that the most powerful use of computing technology is as a tool for cognitive amplification or to enable students to explore mathematical concepts, and through this exploration construct mathematical understandings. Others note that the increasing power of computers enables them to exhibit artificial intelligence that can be used as surrogate tutors of mathematics. The most recent of such programs are Integrated Learning Systems (ILS) that present lessons, assess student responses and provide remedial feedback as well as monitor student progress. This study examines how a student used the feedback and cognitive scaffolding potential of a new generation ILS algebra tutor, The Learning Equation, in her learning. It was found that the student did not follow the carefully constructed intended sequence of learning provided by the ILS. However, she used a just-in-time approach to accessing feedback and a reliance on syntactic structure that enabled her to use the software in a way that accounted for most of her cognitive support needs.