Wheel-Spinning: Students Who Fail to Master a Skill

  • Joseph E. Beck
  • Yue Gong
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 7926)


The concept of mastery learning is powerful: rather than a fixed number of practices, students continue to practice a skill until they have mastered it. However, an implicit assumption in this formulation is that students are capable of mastering the skill. Such an assumption is crucial in computer tutors, as their repertoire of teaching actions may not be as effective as commonly believed. What if a student lacks sufficient knowledge to solve problems involving the skill, and the computer tutor is not capable of providing sufficient instruction? This paper introduces the concept of “wheel-spinning;” that is, students who do not succeed in mastering a skill in a timely manner. We show that if a student does not master a skill in ASSISTments or the Cognitive Tutor quickly, the student is likely to struggle and will probably never master the skill. We discuss connections between such lack of learning and negative student behaviors such as gaming and disengagement, and discuss alterations to ITS design to overcome this issue.


mastery learning student modeling wheel-spinning 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph E. Beck
    • 1
  • Yue Gong
    • 1
  1. 1.Worcester Polytechnic InstituteUSA

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