Smithtown: An Intelligent Tutoring System

By Raghavan, Kalyani; Katz, Arnold | T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education), August 1989 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Smithtown: An Intelligent Tutoring System

Raghavan, Kalyani, Katz, Arnold, T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Smithtown: An Intelligent Tutoring System

This article describes Smithtown, one of a family of new instructional aids known as intelligent tutoring systems (ITSs). It employs artificial-intelligence methods to assist students in beginning-economics courses to improve their problem-solving skills.

Ther is no need to dwell on the importance of a sound understanding of economics for intelligent dealings in a complex modern society. Extremely heavy college enrollments in introductory economics courses, year-in and year-out, tend to belie the difficulties of most students in understanding this subject. Smithtown is an interesting development because it gives instructors new insights into student learning processes while at the same time helping students to more enjoyably master the principles of economic reasoning.

Intelligent tutoring systems like Smithtown increase students' involvement in the learning process of "interrogation and confrontation."

Up to now, most of the work with ITSs has been done in the controlled environments of learning laboratories with elaborate workstations too expensive to install on a large scale. The PC version that we outline here evolves from this research but has been specifically adapted to more affordable micro-computers for classroom use. The first section of the article discusses some of the underlying rationale of the ITS approach. Succeeding sections describe the structure of the PC version (written in object-oriented Smalltalk/V) and the future directions prompted by its promising results.

Smithtown's Rationale

Smithtown aims to help students master the basic principles of microeconomics and understand how scientific reasonng can help them to become better observers and interpreters of economic behavior.

The program was initially developed at the University of Pittsburgh Learning Research & Development Center (LRDC) by Valerie Shute, Robert Glaser and Kalyani Raghavan, and coded in object-oriented LOOPS as a research tool for studying induction and the discovery behaviors of students exploring a new domain. The development had as a main objective the gaining of new insights into the acquisition of skills such as: being aware of the implications of varying one variable while keeping others constant; collecting baseline data to observe change; and collecting sufficient information to formulate and test hypotheses.

It was recognized at the outset, however, that the project had significant potential for expanding subject-matter learning as well as improving discovery skills through the practice of problem-solving and computer-implemented diagnoses of learning problems. The program, as it has evolved, continues to perform this dual function--as an important tool for studying learning processes and as a help to students in overcoming learning difficulties.

In addition to being more research oriented, an ITS differs from traditional computer-assisted instruction (CAI) programs in not being as highly structured. Whereas CAI programs tend to be organized around decision trees, an ITS allows for more open-ended programs.

The Smithtown ITS, for example, provides the student with a set of discovery tools and invites the performance and analysis of self-directed experiments. These can be interrupted at any point to test hypotheses that evaluate understanding. The program uses artificial-intelligence techniques to monitor students' reasoning, to track errors to their source and, based on the diagnoses, to offer advice on strengthening problem-solving skills. The learning of the subject matter happens incidentally as a byproduct of the more effective use of discovery tools.

The Program Structure

The PC adaptation to be described is less elaborate than the LRDC version of SMithtown. However, it contains most of the key elements. The program begins by situating students in the imaginary community of Smithtown, where they may manipulate outcomes in a series of consumer markets by changing the prices of commodities or other environmental factors such as population, per capita income or number of suppliers.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Smithtown: An Intelligent Tutoring System


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?