University of Sussex
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Modelling human teaching tactics and strategies for tutoring systems

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-07, 14:06 authored by Benedict du Boulay, Rosemary Luckin
One of the promises of ITSs and ILEs is that they will teach and assist learning in an intelligent manner. Historically this has tended to mean concentrating on the interface, on the representation of the domain and on the representation of the student’s knowledge. So systems have attempted to provide students with reifications both of what is to be learned and of the learning process, as well as optimally sequencing and adjusting activities, problems and feedback to best help them learn that domain. We now have embodied (and disembodied) teaching agents and computer-based peers, and the field demonstrates a much greater interest in metacognition and in collaborative activities and tools to support that collaboration. Nevertheless the issue of the teaching competence of ITSs and ILEs is still important, as well as the more specific question as to whether systems can and should mimic human teachers. Indeed increasing interest in embodied agents has thrown the spotlight back on how such agents should behave with respect to learners. In the mid 1980s Ohlsson and others offered critiques of ITSs and ILEs in terms of the limited range and adaptability of their teaching actions as compared to the wealth of tactics and strategies employed by human expert teachers. So are we in any better position in modelling teaching than we were in the 80s? Are these criticisms still as valid today as they were then? This paper reviews progress in understanding certain aspects of human expert teaching and in developing tutoring systems that implement those human teaching strategies and tactics. It concentrates particularly on how systems have dealt with student answers and how they have dealt with motivational issues, referring particularly to work carried out at Sussex: for example, on responding effectively to the student’s motivational state, on contingent and Vygotskian inspired teaching strategies and on the plausibility problem. This latter is concerned with whether tactics that are effectively applied by human teachers can be as effective when embodied in machine teachers.


Publication status

  • Published


International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education







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Department affiliated with

  • Informatics Publications


Originality: This paper was novel in that it brought together three methods for deriving computer-tutor teaching strategies and tactics. Rigour: The paper covers both the cognitive and, increasingly importantly, motivational aspects of teaching across a wide span of time and in a comprehensive manner. Significance: The paper offers a set of methodologies for developing pedagogically competent computer-tutors and shows how these methodologies have been applied in a number of examples. Impact: The paper has 30 Google Scholar citations and has been used in Leeds and in Canterbury (NZ) as part of their PhD programmes.

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