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Open Access Publications from the University of California

How does Sustaining and Interleaving Visual Scaffolding Help Learners? A Classroom Study with an Intelligent Tutoring System


Integrating visual representations in an interactive learning activity effectively scaffolds performance and learning. However, it is unclear whether and how sustaining or interleaving visual scaffolding helps learners solve problems efficiently and learn from problem solving. We conducted a classroom study with 63 middle-school students in which we tested whether sustaining or interleaving a particular form of visual scaffolding, called anticipatory diagrammatic self-explanation in an Intelligent Tutoring System, helps students’ learning and performance in the domain of early algebra. Sustaining visual scaffolding during problem solving helped students solve problems efficiently with no negative effects on learning. However, in-depth log data analyses suggest that interleaving visual scaffolding allowed students to practice important skills that may help them in later phases of algebra learning. This paper extends scientific understanding that sustaining visual scaffold does not over-scaffold student learning in the early phase of skill acquisition in algebra.

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