The Invention Coach: Integrating Data and Theory in the Design of an Exploratory Learning Environment

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Jenna Marks
Deena Bernett
Catherine C. Chase


This design case describes the development of the Invention Coach, an intelligent exploratory learning environment (ELE) for the constructivist activity of Invention. The Invention Coach scaffolds students as they invent mathematical formulas to describe contrasting cases. In this paper, we detail our process and rationale for three key design decisions made with the goal of providing optimal guidance for Invention: (a) engaging in systematic analysis of teachers guiding students as a starting point for development; (b) developing a style of guidance that problematizes students’ work through constraints, contrasts, and prompts for explanation; and (c) structuring the space through a nonlinear, modular set of activities focused on problem subgoals. We revisit the age-old assistance dilemma, discussing the unique difficulties of designing guidance and support in a computer environment for exploratory learning. Throughout, we discuss the tensions between providing adequate guidance and encouraging student exploration. We end by considering the trade-offs and unforeseen challenges that have come out of our design.


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How to Cite
Marks, J., Bernett, D., & Chase, C. C. (2016). The Invention Coach: Integrating Data and Theory in the Design of an Exploratory Learning Environment. International Journal of Designs for Learning, 7(2).
K-12 Classroom Implementation
Author Biography

Jenna Marks, Teachers College, Columbia University

Jenna Marks is a Ph.D. student in Cognitive Studies in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.


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