Promoting academic reading engagement through a Virtual Tutee System
Park, Seung Won
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Reading is fundamental in college learning. College students are often expected to study and learn through readings so that they can develop a deeper understanding of a topic. However, it is frequently reported that college students demonstrate poor engagement in academic readings. Despite the significance of academic reading in a college environment, very few empirical studies have been conducted to improve college students’ engagement in academic readings. This dissertation focuses on the development, implementation, and evaluation of an instructional tool, a Virtual Tutee System (VTS), to promote college students’ reading engagement and performance. The VTS is a web-based tutoring environment that allows students to teach a virtual character about what they read and learn from academic texts. The VTS has been developed grounded on the peer tutoring literature and motivation theory. A series of studies were conducted to evaluate and refine the VTS. This dissertation adopts the alternative format and consists of three journal-style manuscripts. The first manuscript (Chapter 2) describes the theoretical foundations underlying the design of the VTS and introduces its design framework. The design framework of the VTS is composed of four design principles and corresponding guidelines. The second manuscript (Chapter 3) presents two field trials of the initial VTS prototype. The VTS prototype was developed based on the design framework and implemented in an introductory educational technology class at a large public university in the southeastern United States. The two field trials identified some design errors of the VTS and the VTS prototype was revised accordingly. The third manuscript (Chapter 4) reports on an empirical study that assessed the effects of the revised VTS on reading motivation, engagement, and performance. This study used a mixed methods approach: survey instruments yielded quantitative data, and an open-ended survey and student interviews were used to collect qualitative data. The results of the study indicated that students who used the VTS demonstrated deeper cognitive engagement in reading and higher performance on the reading assignments than those who did not use the VTS. The dissertation concludes with implications of the study and future research directions (Chapter 5).