Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Neil T. Heffernan, Advisor

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Joseph E. Beck, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Ivon Arroyo, Committee Member




An approach to education gaining popularity in the modern classroom, adaptive tutoring systems offer interactive learning environments in which students can access immediate feedback and rich tutoring while teachers can achieve organized assessment for targeted interventions. Yet despite the benefits that these systems provide, a number of questions remain regarding the optimal inner workings of adaptive platforms. What is the recipe for optimal student performance within these platforms? What elements should be taken into consideration when designing these learning environments? Can facets of these platforms be harnessed to increase students’ motivation to learn and to improve both immediate and robust learning gains? This thesis combines work conducted over the past two years through versatile approaches toward the goal of enhancing student motivation and learning within the ASSISTments platform. Approaches considered include a) enhancing motivation and performance through altered feedback using hypermedia elements, b) instilling motivational messages alongside media enhanced content and feedback, c) allowing students to choose their feedback medium, thereby exerting control over their assignment, d) altering content delivery by interleaving skills to enhance solution strategy development, and e) establishing partial credit assessments to drive motivation and proper system usage while enhancing student modeling. After a brief introduction regarding the main tenants of this research, each chapter highlights a randomized controlled trial focused around one of these approaches. All studies presented have been conducted or are still running within ASSISTments. Much of this work has already been published at peer reviewed conference venues, some with stringent acceptance rates as low as 25% for full papers. Two of the studies presented here are second iterations of previously published work that are still in progress, and only preliminary analyses are available. A chapter on conclusions and future work is included to discuss the contributions that have been made to the Learning Sciences community thus far, and to briefly discuss potential directions for my continued research.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Social Science & Policy Studies

Project Type


Date Accepted





ASSISTments, Adaptive Tutoring, Partial Credit, Interleaving, Learning, Feedback Medium, Choice