, Volume 2, Issue 2-3, pp 89-105
Date: 17 Nov 2007

SEEK Web tutor: fostering a critical stance while exploring the causes of volcanic eruption

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We investigated the impact of a Web tutor on college students’ critical stance and learning while exploring Web pages on science. Critical stance is an aspect of self-regulated learning that emphasizes the need to evaluate the truth and relevance of information as the learner engages in systematic inquiry to answer challenging questions. The Web tutor is called SEEK, an acronym for Source, Evidence, Explanation, and Knowledge. The SEEK Tutor was designed to promote a critical stance through several facilities in a computer environment: spoken hints on a mock Google™ search page, on-line ratings on the reliability of particular Web sites, and a structured note-taking facility that prompted them to reflect on the quality of particular Web sites. We conducted two experiments that trained students how to take a critical stance and that tracked their behavior while exploring Web pages on plate tectonics to research the causes of the volcanic eruption of Mt. St. Helens. The SEEK Tutor did improve critical stance, as manifested in essays on the causes of the volcanic eruption, and did yield learning gains for some categories of information (compared with comparison conditions). However, many measures were unaffected by either the presence of the SEEK Tutor or by prior training on critical stance. We anticipate that robust improvements on critical stance and learning will require more training and/or some expert feedback and interactive scaffolding of critical stance in the context of specific examples.

This work was conducted while Tenaha O’Reilly was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Memphis.