Teaching the Teacher: Tutoring SimStudent Leads to More Effective Cognitive Tutor Authoring

In IJAIED 25 (1)

Publication information


Cognitive tutor authoring tools, Inductive logic programming, Intelligent authoring system, Machine learning, Programming by demonstration, SimStudent


SimStudent is a machine-learning agent initially developed to help novice authors to create cognitive tutors without heavy programming. Integrated into an existing suite of software tools called Cognitive Tutor Authoring Tools (CTAT), SimStudent helps authors to create an expert model for a cognitive tutor by tutoring SimStudent on how to solve problems. There are two different ways to author an expert model with SimStudent. In the context of Authoring by Tutoring, the author interactively tutors SimStudent by posing problems to SimStudent, providing feedback on the steps performed by SimStudent, and also demonstrating steps as a response to SimStudent’s hint requests when SimStudent cannot perform steps correctly. In the context of Authoring by Demonstration, the author demonstrates solution steps, and SimStudent attempts to induce underlying domain principles by generalizing those worked-out examples. We conducted evaluation studies to investigate which authoring strategy better facilitates authoring and found two key results. First, the expert model generated with Authoring by Tutoring is better and has higher accuracy while maintaining the same level of completeness than the one generated with Authoring by Demonstration. The reason for this better accuracy is that the expert model generated by tutoring benefits from negative feedback provided for SimStudent’s incorrect production applications. Second, authoring by Tutoring requires less time than Authoring by Demonstration. This enhanced authoring efficiency is partially because (a) when Authoring by Demonstration, the author needs to test the quality of the expert model, whereas the formative assessment of the expert model is done naturally by observing SimStudent’s performance when Authoring by Tutoring, and (b) the number of steps that need to be demonstrated during tutoring decreases as learning progresses.