My Science Tutor Overview
My Science Tutor is the first intelligent tutoring system to engage elementary school children in natural spoken dialogs with a virtual science tutor, leading to learning gains equivalent to those obtained with expert human tutors. During MyST dialogs, Marni asks students open-ended questions about science shown in illustrations, animations and interactive simulations. By analyzing students’ spoken answers to determine what they do and don’t know, and scaffolding learning with new questions and media, Marni helps students build on their existing knowledge to reason about the science and construct accurate science explanations.
Development of My Science Tutor was supported by grants from the Department of Educations’ Institute for Education Sciences (IES; 2007-2011) and the National Science Foundation (NSF: 2007-2012). These grants led to development of sixteen tutoring sessions, lasting 15 to 20 minutes, in five different areas of science in 3rd, 4th and 5th grades. Two summative evaluations of MyST were conducted in the final year of each project. In first evaluation, Marni engaged students in spoken dialogs throughout the tutoring session, with Marni asking questions about science displayed in media. In the second evaluation, Marni first explained science to students through narrated multimedia presentations, either individually or in small groups, and then engaged them in question-answer dialogs about the science. In both evaluations, students improved their science learning by about half a grade level, with results equivalent to human tutoring. Students reported they enjoyed working with Marni, felt she was a good tutor, and reported increased motivation to study science in the future. Based on these positive results, BLT is now conducting a 4 year replication and efficacy study funded by the IES. This study will engage over 2000 students in over 36,000 dialogs sessions in five areas of science. Reports and publications of the MyST project can be found here: Reports and Publications.