Technology Assessment in Education and Training

By Eva L. Baker; Harold F. O'Neil Jr. | Go to book overview

4
Evaluating Intelligent Tutoring
Systems

J. Wesley Regian Valerie J. Shute

Armstrong Laboratory, Human Resources Directorate, Brooks Air Force Base, Texas It has long been claimed that automated instruction has the potential for mass delivery of effective and efficient instruction (e.g., Pressey, 1926, 1927; Skinner, 1957; Woolf, 1988). Over the years, a variety of theoretical approaches have been adopted to pursue that potential (e.g., Burton & Brown, 1982; Carroll, 1963; Cohen, J. Kulik, & C. C. Kulik, 1982; Lewis, McArthur, Stasz, & Zmuidzinas, 1990; Sleeman & Brown, 1982; Wenger, 1987). As early as 1926, Pressey described a device that sought to apply then-contemporary learning theory to the task of automated instruction. The mechanical device, loaded with multiple-choice questions and answers by the teacher, would drill the student on the questions and provide immediate feedback in order to support learning:

The somewhat astounding way in which the functioning of the apparatus seems to fit in with the so-called "laws of learning" deserves mention in this connection. The "law of recency" operates to establish the correct answer in the mind of the subject, since it is always the last answer which is the right one. The "law of frequency" also cooperates; by chance the right response tends to be made most often, since it is the only response by which the subject can go on to the next question. Further, with the addition of a simple attachment the apparatus will present the subject with a piece of candy or other reward upon his making any given score for which the experiment may have set the device; that is the "law of effect" also can be made, automatically, to aid in the establishing of the right answer. ( Pressey, 1926, p. 375)

Pressey's ideas were probably viewed by some as quite promising, given their relationship to then-current learning theory, but they were never applied or even evaluated in any rigorous sense. Today, intelligent tutoring systems (ITS) epitomize the notion of theory-based, individualized, automated instruction. Many of us are just as excited about the potential of ITS as Pressey was about his teaching

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