Improving student learning of genetics content by developing and researching a layered learner guidance system.


Tools and curricula involving games, models, and simulations engage students in rich investigations and open up many new possibilities for deep learning. Digital curricula also collect streams of data, which offer the potential to inform real-time interactions in the classroom. Intelligent tutoring systems can aggregate these data to develop complex models of students and their thinking, apply these models probabilistically to detectors and pedagogical decision maps, and develop intricate suggestions for further instruction.

Our goal is to improve student learning of genetics content by developing and researching a layered learner guidance system that aids students and informs student-student and student-teacher interactions. GUIDE is a hybrid system that partners an intelligent tutoring system (ITS) with the pedagogical expertise of the classroom teacher and existing classroom networks of peer support. Such a system can bring to bear the rich user models of ITS and leverage their aggregated knowledge of the class as a whole. As such, this system—teacher and students plus ITS—can act as a critical new guide for student learning support, expanding opportunities for assisting students effectively when they encounter problems, offering insights related to class-wide activity, strategizing for effective next steps, and permitting new exploration into how to enhance and deepen student learning.

We have partnered with North Carolina State University to develop GUIDE, and are implementing this system within Geniverse, a proven digital learning environment built to support high school genetics. Geniverse is a game-like environment intended for use in the classroom; the GUIDE system interfaces directly with Geniverse, using and processing student interactions with the software to inform interactions in the classroom.


We’re researching how an ITS-based learner guidance system can best expose information about student practices and conceptual understanding to improve support of student learning in the classroom context, and ultimately improve students’ knowledge and practices.


View, launch, and assign activities developed by this project at the STEM Resource Finder.

Project Funder
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DRL-1503311. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
Principal Investigator
Chad Dorsey, Frieda Reichsman, James Lester, Eric N. Wiebe
Project Partners
Years Active