For beginning programmers, inadequate problem solving and planning skills are among the most salient of their weaknesses. In this paper, we test the efficacy of natural language tutoring to teach and scaffold acquisition of these skills. We describe ProPL (Pro-PELL), a dialogue-based intelligent tutoring system that elicits goal decompositions and program plans from students in natural language. The system uses a variety of tutoring tactics that leverage students' intuitive understandings of the problem, how it might be solved, and the underlying concepts of programming. We report the results of a small-scale evaluation comparing students who used ProPL with a control group who read the same content. Our primary findings are that students who received tutoring from ProPL seem to have developed an improved ability to solve the composition problem and displayed behaviors that suggest they were able to think at greater levels of abstraction than students in the read-only group.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Computer Science(all)