(The FASEB Journal. 1999; 13(4):A18)

CIRCSIM-TUTOR: A “Smart” Tutor about Blood Pressure Regulation

Joel Michael, et al.
Rush University, Chicago, IL

CIRCSIM-TUTOR is a teaching program about the baroreceptor reflex. Unlike its predecessor (CIRCSIM), it internally generates most of the text needed to carry on a tutorial dialog, and it understands answers typed by the student. It also has a complex set of tutoring rules derived from studies of more than 100 transcripts of actual tutoring sessions conducted by two of the authors. CIRCSIM-TUTOR requires the user to predict the qualitative changes that will occur to seven cardiovascular parameters as the result of one of the described disturbances to the system. After the student has made predictions about one of the three phases of the response, the tutor conducts a dialog with the student to correct any errors that were present. CIRCSIM-TUTOR can thus deliver context specific help that addresses the difficulties encountered by each individual student. CIRCSIM-TUTOR has been used by two groups of first-year medical students. Each student took a pre-test, a post-test and completed a survey. Comparison of the pre- and post-test responses suggest that CIRCSIM-TUTOR is effective in correcting student misunderstandings of the events involved in the baroreceptor reflex. Survey results reveal that students find CIRCSIM-TUTOR easy to use and effective as a learning resource, in spite of its unsophisticated language generation. (Supported by the Cognitive Science Program, Office of Naval Research Grant No. N00014-94-1-0338.)