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Scaffolding Deep Comprehension Strategies Through Point&Query, AutoTutor, and iSTART

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Educational Psychologist Volume 40, Number 4, ISSN 0046-1520


It is well-documented that most students do not have adequate proficiencies in inquiry and metacognition, particularly at deeper levels of comprehension that require explanatory reasoning. The proficiencies are not routinely provided by teachers and normal tutors so it is worthwhile to turn to computer-based learning environments. This article describes some of our recent computer systems that were designed to facilitate explanation-centered learning through strategies of inquiry and metacognition while students learn science and technology content. Point&Query augments hypertext, hypermedia, and other learning environments with question-answer facilities that are under the learner control. AutoTutor and iSTART use animated conversational agents to scaffold strategies of inquiry, metacognition, and explanation construction. AutoTutor coaches students in generating answers to questions that require explanations (e.g., why, what-if, how) by holding a mixed-initiative dialogue in natural language. iSTART models and coaches students in constructing self-explanations and in applying other metacomprehension strategies while reading text. These systems have shown promising results in tests of learning gains and learning strategies.


Graesser, A.C., McNamara, D.S. & VanLehn, K. (2005). Scaffolding Deep Comprehension Strategies Through Point&Query, AutoTutor, and iSTART. Educational Psychologist, 40(4), 225-234. Retrieved January 28, 2020 from .

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