The Andes Physics Tutoring System: Lessons Learned

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The Andes system demonstrates that student learning can be significantly increased by upgrading only their homework problem-solving support. Although Andes is called an intelligent tutoring system, it actually replaces only the students' pencil and paper as they do problem-solving homework. Students do the same problems as before, study the same textbook, and attend the same lectures, labs and recitations. Five years of experimentation at the United States Naval Academy indicates that Andes significantly improves student learning. Andes' key feature appears to be the grain-size of interaction. Whereas most tutoring systems have students enter only the answer to a problem, Andes has students enter a whole derivation, which may consist of many steps, such as drawing vectors, drawing coordinate systems, defining variables and writing equations. Andes gives feedback after each step. When the student asks for help in the middle of problem-solving, Andes gives hints on what's wrong with an incorrect step or on what kind of step to do next. Thus, the grain size of Andes' interaction is a single step in solving the problem, whereas the grain size of a typical tutoring system's interaction is the answer to the problem. This report is a comprehensive description of Andes. It describes Andes' pedagogical principles and features, the system design and implementation, the evaluations of pedagogical effectiveness, and our plans for dissemination.