Why Do Only Some Events Cause Learning During Human Tutoring?

Kurt VanLehn, Stephanie Siler, Charles Murray, Takashi Yamauchi, William B. Baggett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

289 Scopus citations


Developers of intelligent tutoring systems would like to know what human tutors do and which activities are responsible for their success in tutoring. We address these questions by comparing episodes where tutoring does and does not cause learning. Approximately 125 hr of tutorial dialog between expert human tutors and physics students are analyzed to see what features of the dialog are associated with learning. Successful learning appears to require that the student reach an impasse. When students were not at an impasse, learning was uncommon regardless of the tutorial explanations employed. On the other hand, once students were at an impasse, tutorial explanations were sometimes associated with learning. Moreover, for different types of knowledge, different types of tutorial explanations were associated with learning different types of knowledge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)209-249
Number of pages41
JournalCognition and Instruction
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychology(all)


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