Center for the Advancement of Well-Being
The College of Humanities and Social Sciences

A Pilot Study to Assess the Critical Components of a Transformative Self-Regulated Learning Assistant

Systematic learning is a major, essential component of human life, at all ages. Our universal ability to learn separates us from animals and from machines and (according to Longman Dictionary of American English) constitutes the essence of the notion of intelligence. How do we learn to learn? Should every student have a conscious control of the acquisition and deployment of own learning skills? The answer, in our view, is definitely "yes". The method called "Self-Regulated Learning" (SRL) is a critical strategic thinking process for supporting and promoting students' abilities to learn and solve problems. SRL includes a variety of processes: goal setting, self-monitoring, self-evaluation, etc. In most cases, the failure of a student to achieve academically can be attributed to immature SRL skills. In order to help students to develop SRL skills, we recently proposed to build a computer-based SRL assistant called "Cognitive Constructor". This electronic agent will implement a model of student SRL and will use this model to diagnose, scaffold and transform SRL of individual students.

The idea of the current project is relatively modest compared to the Cognitive Constructor goal. Our objective is to understand and to measure the effects of the overt and covert components of SRL assistance on student learning. Here "overt SRL" is understood as explicit interaction between the student and the electronic agent during problem solving, which involves goal setting, hints, planning, adaptive guidance, self-monitoring, help seeking, etc. On the other hand, "covert SRL" is understood as internal modeling of the student mental states by the electronic agent used in order to make the feedback more adaptive and more intelligent. The two components can be turned on and off independently in a relatively simple emulation of Cognitive Constructor that will be built for our research purposes. The main research question is whether each of these components produces a significant improvement of student learning abilities over time. GMU undergraduate college students will be used as participants in all experiments. We expect that the collected pilot data will help us to win the necessary funds to build Cognitive Constructor.



Kenneth De Jong is a professor of Computer Science and Associate Director of the Krasnow Institute George Mason University. Dr. De Jong's research interests include evolutionary computation, adaptive systems and machine learning. He is an active member of the Evolutionary Computation research community with a variety of papers, Ph.D. students, and presentations in this area. He is also responsible for many of the workshops and conferences on Evolutionary Algorithms. He is the founding editor-in-chief of the journal Evolutionary Computation (MIT Press), and a member of the board of ACM SIGEVO. He is the recipient of an IEEE Pioneer award in the field of Evolutionary Computation and a lifetime achievement award from the Evolutionary Programming Society.


Anastasia Kitsantas is an Associate Professor and coordinator of the Educational Psychology program in the College of Education and Human Development. She received her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology with a specialization in Development, Learning, and Instruction in 1996 from the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New. She has taught at James Madison University in the School of Psychology, and at Florida State University in the department of Educational Research. Her research interests focus on social cognitive processes, and self-regulated learning in academic and athletic/ health related settings. Her publications include works on the development of self-regulation, self-regulated strategies, student motivational beliefs, peak performance, and instructional processes. She has been an active participant in many international student and scholarly groups (served as the co-chair of the Studying and Self-Regulated Learning Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association) and she is the recipient of a George Mason University Teaching Excellence Award. She has extensive experience in research methodology specializing in experimental designs.


Alexei Samsonovich, a Research Assistant Professor at Krasnow Institute for Advanced Studies at GMU, represents a combination of expertise in cognitive science, neuroscience and computational sciences. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Arizona, where together with Drs. Bruce McNaughton and Lynn Nadel he made a classical contribution to the theory of hippocampal spatial maps and human memory, and then started working on a computational model of human consciousness. During the last five years the main focus of his research supported by DARPA grants has been on biologically-inspired cognitive architectures (BICA). Since 2008, Dr. Samsonovich is chairing the AAAI Fall Symposia on BICA.

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