A Pen Based Statics Tutoring System
- Author(s): Lee, Chia-Keng
- Advisor(s): Stahovich, Thomas F.
- et al.
We present an intelligent pen-based tutoring system for Statics - the sub-discipline of engineering mechanics
concerned with the analysis of mechanical systems in equilibrium under the action of forces. The system
scaffolds students in the construction of free-body diagrams and equilibrium equations for planar devices
comprised of one or more rigid bodies.
While there has been extensive research in intelligent tutoring systems, most existing systems rely
on traditional WIMP (Windows, Icons, Menus, Pointer) interfaces. With these systems, students typically
select the correct problem solution from among a set of predefined choices. With our pen-based interface, by
contrast, students are guided in constructing solutions from scratch, mirroring the way they solve problems
in ordinary practice, which recent research suggests is particularly important for effective instruction.
Our system embodies several innovations including a novel instructional technique that focuses
students' attention on a system boundary as a tool for constructing free body diagrams, a tutorial feedback
system based on "buggy rules" that attempt to diagnose and correct problem-solving errors typical of novice
students, and a hierarchical feedback system which promotes independent problem-solving skills. In winter
2010, the tutoring system was used by 100 students in an undergraduate Statics course at our university.
Results from pre- and posttests reveal measurable learning gains even after only a short exposure to the
system. In an attitudinal survey, students reported that, while there is room for improvement, the interface was preferable to a WIMP interface and the methodology implemented in the system was valuable for