Teaching Database Design with Constraint-Based Tutors

In IJAIED 26 (1)

Publication information


EER-Tutor, Ill-defined task, KERMIT, Teaching design tasks


Design tasks are difficult to teach, due to large, unstructured solution spaces, underspecified problems, non-existent problem solving algorithms and stopping criteria. In this paper, we comment on our approach to develop KERMIT, a constraint-based tutor that taught database design. In later work, we re-implemented KERMIT as EER-Tutor, and extended its instructional domain. Several evaluation studies performed with KERMIT and EER-Tutor show that they are effective Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITSs). We also comment on various extensions made to EER-Tutor over the years. There are several contributions of our research, such as developing effective problem-solving support for conceptual database design in terms of interface design. Our database design tutors deal with large solution spaces efficiently by specifying constraints that capture equivalent solution states, and using ideal solutions to capture the semantics of the problem. Instead of requiring a problem solver, the ITS checks whether the student’s database schema is correct by matching it to constraints and the ideal solution. Another contribution of our work is in guidelines for developing effective feedback to the student.