Applying optimal scheduling of practice in the Chinese Learnlab

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Applying optimal scheduling of practice in the Chinese Learnlab study


The vocabulary tutor will be deployed in both Online and Classroom Chinese I classes for an efficacy test. The first 8 units (excluding Unit 1) of each class will be split into two tutors each with content for 4 units. Each of these 4 unit tutors will be an experiment replication, so that the experiment design is replicated twice for each class track. During these 4 unit in-vivo experiments, the tutor will alternate between required units and voluntary units, and the order of this alternation will be randomly assigned by the tutor software for each student. In each tutor, the first unit will be assessed before the 3rd unit and the 2nd unit will be assessed before the 4th unit. This design will allow a comparison of whether requiring the tutor provides an advantage to learning at a long-term interval. The tutor will also administer a brief survey of students to get self-reports of vocabulary study time from students (both inside and outside the tutor). This survey will be given from within the tutor and will take less than 5 minutes total for each 4 unit tutor. The hypothesis is that students will do better when required to use the tutor despite not spending greater overall time studying vocabulary (both inside and outside the tutor). Further, Sue-mei has offered to administer an in class assessment of vocabulary using a paper and pencil test after each 4 unit tutor. This will give a measure of transfer outside the tutor that is hypothesized to reveal similar effects. Another aspect of the design is caused by the fact that many students quit after 15 minutes, which is before the tutor introduces all the items. Since item introduction will be randomized within-subjects, this means that we will be able to conduct within-subjects tests of learning as a function of practice with individual words by the student. This will give another direct measure of the benefit of supplementary practice using the tutor. The probable benefit to students is from learning Chinese vocabulary more easily. All tutor curriculum is matched one-for-one with the words taught in the respective courses.


Research question

Do the optimal schedules of practice produced by the Chinese vocabulary tutor result in measurable difference in performance for students?

Background and significance

Efforts to use practice scheduling algorithms date to the early 60's. One seminal example is Atkinson's (1972) German vocabulary tutor. While these efforts have often produced positive results, such programs have never been employed in the classroom in a consistent fashion. Perhaps this is due to the many practical issues involved with integrating such a system into the context of a course curriculum.

Dependent variables

Normal learning - The tutor functions using an "assistments" type task where every drill practice is also a measure of normal learning. Long-term learning - The experiment includes long-term assessments at various intervals. This includes both in tutor and paper and pencil tests of long-term vocabulary performance. Transfer learning - Long-term assessments may be given (50% of the time) using pairings not drilled by tutor. These transfer tests will show whether and to what extent students can use what is learned int he tutor flexibly in new contexts. Accelerated future learning - Measures of accelerated future learning will be gathered by examining ...

Independent variables

The amount practice for a particular group of subjects. Also, within subjects the amount of practice for any individual item.


The dependent variables will reveal benefits for individuals using the tutor as compared to individuals studying with other methods.


Not yet.


Assuming the tutor is more efficient than other methods, one would expect that students using it would perform better in less time, perform the same in less time, or perform better in the same amount of time.


Optimizing the practice schedule

Annotated bibliography