A study of interaction in a tutor/student dyad using computer assisted instruction (CAI)
Middleton, Jane Robinson
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This case study of the interaction between a tutor/researcher and an older student/subject who struggled to read her textbooks, focused primarily on factors that contributed to the co-construction of a zone of proximal development (ZPD) while using a computer software program designed to improve word recognition in older students (defined as age 9 and beyond). A secondary purpose was to determine if the software program, which could be used as a stand-alone supplement to the regular instructional program, would result in improved reading performance on a series of assessments without tutor assistance. The third purpose was to determine whether the student’s performance on the series of assessments would improve measurably when she was assisted by the tutor as the software program presented the instructional content. Findings from this study suggest that the tutoring dyad successfully co-constructed and sustained performance in the ZPD during three sessions, which were marked by the student’s increased verbal interaction, indications of sub-vocalization during internalization, a positive affective state, and assumption of increased responsibility for her own learning as indicated by questioning her tutor. With the use of the software as a stand-alone tool, the student experienced intense periods of anxiety and frustration, even though there were small gains noted in sound/symbol recognition of some phonemes. While working with tutorial assistance, assessment gains were more pronounced in reading accuracy and comprehension when reading connected texts. The use of the computer software to present the instructional content was introduced to reduce the demands on the tutor, but the findings indicate its use interfered with the co-construction of the ZPD and did not reduce the tutorial demands. Further study of naturalistic tutoring dyads focusing on the integration of cognition, motivation, and self-regulation toward goal orientation is suggested.