Physics LearnLab Course
The Physics LearnLab Course (PLLC) provides a research facility for studying how students learn physics. It provides baseline data on student activities throughout the physics course, and it hosts specific research studies that measure the improvement in students’ learning caused by changes in the instruction. Students in PLLC classes use the Andes intelligent homework helper to do their homework. Andes not only helps students learn physics, as demonstrated in earlier evaluations, but it also allows the PLLC to collect fine-grained data on student activities while solving their homework problems. Other elements of the course is taught in a traditional manner with lectures, labs, and a commercial paper-based textbook. In-vivo experiments take place either by modifying Andes or by running studies during lab sessions that instructors have “donated” to the PLLC.
Currently, the Physics LearnLab Course is sited in the two-semester Introductory Physics course at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. It consists of 3-5 sections (depending on the experiment) of 25 students each. A major goal is to increase the number courses using Andes and, from that, to increase the number of sites participating in LearnLab studies.
|In Vivo||Pull Out||Lab||Capacity|
|Course||Run||Planned||Run||Planned||Run||Planned||Total # Sections||Total # Students||Max # Studies / Year||Max # Students / Study|
- Scaffolding Problem Solving with Embedded Example to Promote Deep Learning (Ringenberg & VanLehn, 2005)
From its inception in January 2005 to the present, we have achieved the following:
- Content development milestones
- The number of Andes problems assigned by instructors at the Naval Academy has increased from 58% to 100% in the Fall semester, and from 42% to 75% in the Spring semester.
- We have increased the total number of working Andes problems from 350 to 546.
- The number of physics principles has increased from 126 to 232. The number of rules in the physics “Knowledge Base” (the AI system) has increased from 619 to 927. The number of scalar quantities defined in Andes has increased from 85 to 113.
- We shot videos of problems being solved—at least one per problem set—and revised many of the older videos. These act as worked examples. Students who view the videos in a problem set before solving any problems have a much easier time of it.
- Enabling Technologies
- We developed a way to run Andes under OLI. In particular, we found ways to get them to communicate through the USNA firewall, to upload log data and solution files, and to recover gracefully from most crashes.
- We developed a method to control the data that the OLI gradebook exports to spreadsheets so that only the data that instructors wanted was exported in a format they specified.
- Implemented “gating,” a method to force students to solve Andes problems in a pre-determined order. This was needed for the Sandy Katz experiment in fall 2006.
- Andes raw logs can now be converted to the [DataShop] format at the knowledge component level (June 2007). The knowledge components associated with each correct student action (corresponding with a step) and must incorrect action (see transaction) is determined by Andes.
- Advertising Andes in the physics community
- Presentations at the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) conferences in Syracuse, NY, July 2006, Seattle, WA, January 2007, and Greensboro, NC, July 2007.
- Presentations at the American Physical Society Meeting in Denver, CO, March 2007.
- Presented talks on Andes at Southern Methodist University, the Ohio State Unviersity, Rutgers University, US Air Force Academy, and the US Naval Academy.
- Journal and conferences presentations:
- VanLehn, K., Lynch, C., Schulze, K., Shapiro, J.A., Shelby, R., Taylor, L., Treacy, D., Weinstein, A., and Wintersgill, M. The Andes Physics Tutoring System: Lessons Learned. International Journal of Artificial Intelligence and Education, 15 (3).
- Vanlehn, K., Lynch, C., Schulze, K., Shapiro, J. A., Shelby, R. H., Taylor, L., Treacy, D. J., Weinstein, A., and Wintersgill, M. C. The Andes physics tutoring system: Five years of evaluations. The Artificial Intelligence in Education Conference, Amsterdam, 2005.
- VanLehn, K., Koedinger, K., Skogsholm, A., Nwaigwe, A., Hausmann, R. G. M., Weinstein, A., et al. What's in a step? Toward general abstract representations of tutoring system log data. Paper submitted to the 11th International Conference on User Modeling, Corfu, Greece.
- VanLehn, K., Lynch, C., Schulze, K., Shapiro, J.A., Shelby, R., Taylor, L., Treacy, D., Weinstein, A., and Wintersgill, M. (2005). The Andes Physics Tutoring System: Lessons Learned. International Journal of Artificial Intelligence and Education, 15 (3).
- Vanlehn, K., Lynch, C., Schulze, K., Shapiro, J. A., Shelby, R. H., Taylor, L., Treacy, D. J., Weinstein, A., and Wintersgill, M. C. (2005). The Andes physics tutoring system: Five years of evaluations. In: G. I. McCalla and C.-K. Looi (Eds.), Proceedings of the Artificial Intelligence in Education Conference. Amsterdam: IOS.
- VanLehn, K., Koedinger, K., Skogsholm, A., Nwaigwe, A., Hausmann, R. G. M., Weinstein, A., et al. (submitted). What's in a step? Toward general abstract representations of tutoring system log data. Paper presented at the 11th International Conference on User Modeling, Corfu, Greece 2006. Submitted to the proceedings.
Our main contact at the US Naval Academy (USNA), Don Treacy, has retired at the end of Spring 2007. Another instructor, Mary Wintersgill, has agreed to take over as our main USNA contact. The students use Open Learning Initiative (OLI) to access Andes, and the instructors use OLI to view gradebooks. Raw log data from Andes is captured by OLI and transferred to the DataShop. Other data, such as hardcopies of midterm exams or audio files from verbal protocols, are collected as needed for specific experiments and stored in locked file cabinets or secure servers. All data is anonymized, only the instructors and one of the Andes developers at Pitt have the mapping with students’ identities.
As of Spring 2007, Andes is being used at the following institutions:
- St. Anselm college, Manchester NH (1 instructor).
- Anne Arundel Community College, Arnold, MD (1 instructor).
- US Air Force Academy (2 instructors, several sections).
- Watchung Hills Regional High School, Warren NJ (1 instructor).
Our major goal continues to be to expand the number of sites and instructors involved in the PLLC. There are simply not enough lab slots and students to meet the existing demand from PLLC experimenters. In addition, our most supportive instructor at the US Naval Academy, Don Treacy, has recently retired. In order to increase involvement in the PLLC, we first need to increase the number of instructors using Andes in their courses. So far, we have had limited success in doing this. Instructors have been reluctant to adopt Andes for the following reasons: instructors want a homework system to cover their entire course; they want Andes problems to fit their instructional style; they want any hints given to be effective; and they want reasonable student actions to be accepted. Finally, Andes is not well-known in the general physics community.
Because we largely achieved the first long-term goal of complete course coverage, we are shifting the focus of our attention to increasing the awareness of Andes in the physics teaching community, increase the quality of hints provided in Andes, improve our quality control process, and provide additional course content requested by new physics instructors.
- Increasing Andes awareness in the physics community
- Present talks and posters at the American Association of Physics Teachers conference in January 2007 and the American Physics Society (APS) meeting in March 2007.
- Continue to visiting physics departments at other universities.
- Publish Andes-based research in the physics education journals.
- Supporting existing Andes instructors: There are a number of non-PLLC instructors using Andes in their classrooms. We need to make their experience with Andes a positive one. Hopefully, a positive experience will lead to interest in participating in LearnLab. This includes:
- Adding instructor-requested homework problems
- Fixing instructor-reported bugs promptly, and
- Including some instructor control over the hinting behavior of Andes.
- Increasing instructor acceptance: In order to increase the number of instructors using Andes, we need to address the following issues:
- Improving hints given to students: Andes is supposed to mimic the hints that an expert (human) tutor would give to students. However, sometimes the hints are misleading or do not help the student better understand the problem at a deep level.
- Improving quality control: Andes is a rather complicated system and our current method of quality control, solving Andes problems by hand and reacting to instructor/student feedback, has proved to be insufficient. We hope to implement a new technique for testing changes to Andes using the logs of student solutions stored at OLI. Also, we plan to search the student log files for Andes errors and evidence of poor hints.
- Non-obvious conventions: Communicating physics and math precisely and unambigously entails using some notational and user interface conventions that user find non-obvious. We call these non-obvious conventions (NOCs; pronounced “knocks”). We need to collect as many non-obvious conventions as we can think of and fix them or highlight them in the videos and other training.
- Lesser priority items: There are a number of improvements to Andes that would lead to increased instructor happiness.
- Vectors in equations: Handling of equivalent variables. And the equations that use them.
- Scale drawing of vectors.
- True but irrelevant entries: Currently these turn red. Instructor should be able to select the color and/or the warning that appears. They should be able to have separate policies for equations and non-equations.