Researchers Work To Improve Reading, Science Education�

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Alumni Return to Campus for Homecoming

University Launches CyLab to Ensure Global Cybersecurity

Four Robots Inducted into New Robot Hall of Fame

Awards Honor Top Journalists

First-Year Students Find Treasure in EUREKA

Carnegie Mellon Leads Charge to Rewire America

University Enters Field of Hip-Hop Music

Red Team Preparing for Robotics Race Across the Desert

New House Receives LEED Certification

Kemnitzer Joins Design School as Nierenberg Chair

Language Educator Named Paul Mellon Professor

Researchers Work to Improve Reading, Science Education
-NSF Grant to Enhance Computerized Reading Tutor
-Psychology To Assist Middle School Science Education

News Briefs

Panel Discusses Role in Orthodoxy Culture

ETC Open House

HR Wins National Technology Award

West Coast Campus Celebrates Expansion

Heinz Student Wins Capitol Hill Fellowship

McGivney Inducted into Hispanic Hall of Fame

Stats Professor Chairs National Committee

ECE Professor Wins Pake Prize

University Honored by Clean Cities Program

Trick Tapped for New Leadership Role

Researchers Receive $2.5 Million for Bio-Molecular Imaging

Entries Sought for MLK Writing Awards

University Announces Partnership with Sri Lanka

Andrews Earns Award for Advances in Automated Reasoning

Carnegie Mellon, Pittsburgh CLO Host Musical Theater Legend

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Researchers Work To Improve Reading, Science Education


$6 Million NSF Grant To Enhance Computerized Reading Tutor

A team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh has received a $6 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to enhance an intelligent, automated Reading Tutor that listens to children read and verbally assists them when it hears them stumble.

The four-year grant will be used to improve and integrate speech and user-modeling technologies in the Reading Tutor, which has been developed over more than a decade by Carnegie Mellon's Project LISTEN (Literacy Innovation that Speech Technology ENables), led by research professor Jack Mostow. The Reading Tutor displays stories on a computer screen, uses a speech recognizer to listen to children as they read aloud and responds with spoken and graphical assistance when necessary.

Mostow, principal investigator on the Reading Tutor project, is working with co-principal investigators Joseph E. Beck, a postdoctoral fellow in the Robotics Institute; Albert T. Corbett, an associate research professor in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute; Mosur Ravishankar, a senior systems scientist in the Institute for Software Research International; and Rollanda O'Connor, associate professor and reading expert in the Instruction and Learning Department of the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

"What we do with this grant will improve how the Reading Tutor listens to children read aloud, assesses their skills, intervenes and helps them learn to read," said Mostow. "Children who use the Reading Tutor have improved significantly more in reading comprehension and other skills than statistically matched controls. But the Reading Tutor's effectiveness is limited by an inability to accurately hear and model the students with whom it is interacting.

"This work will integrate and extend methods from speech technology, cognitive psychology, user modeling and intelligent tutors," he said. "Its ability to listen enables novel continuous assessments of students' reading progress."

The Reading Tutor is being used in eight Pittsburgh schools and one in North Carolina. According to Mostow, it has helped to improve the reading skills of hundreds of children in the Pittsburgh area. About 600 elementary school students used the Reading Tutor in the 2002-2003 school year, logging about 4,000 hours in more than 26,000 tutoring sessions.

"The Reading Tutors have listened to students read millions of words and have answered hundreds of thousands of requests for help on difficult words and sentences," Mostow said. "The project has the potential to improve literacy for thousands of children who use the Reading Tutor as we work to enhance it, as well as many more who will use it thereafter."

The grant will enable the researchers to build on the more than $6 million in previous support since Project LISTEN began in the early 1990s. While the NSF has been the key sponsor, the project has also received funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Heinz Endowments.

The NSF project reviews said the proposal to enhance the Reading Tutor was "excellent, and should definitely be funded if at all possible. It builds on the successful history of Project LISTEN and extends and improves it. It is real science."

The new grant is funded by two federal programs–the Interagency Education Research Initiative (IERI) and NSF's Information Technology Research Program (ITR).

IERI is supported jointly by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. IERI supports scientific research that investigates the effectiveness of educational interventions in reading, mathematics and the sciences as they are implemented in varied school settings with diverse student populations.

NSF's Information Technology Research program supports innovative fundamental research at the frontiers of science and engineering through the creative and innovative use and further development of information technology.

For more information on Project LISTEN, see

Anne Watzman


Psychology Department To Assist Middle School Science Education

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded a three-year, $750,000 grant to researchers in the Department of Psychology to fund a project aimed at improving middle school science education.

The goal of the project is to train teachers to apply cognitive models of scientific reasoning to their lesson plans in order to raise students' performance on high-stakes standards tests. Carnegie Mellon is a world leader in cognitive psychology.

The project will be conducted at the schools funded through the Extra Mile Education Foundation. The foundation's mission is to obtain financial resources to provide the opportunity for a quality, values-centered education for children in four urban Pittsburgh elementary schools: Holy Rosary in Homewood; St. Agnes in Oakland; St. Benedict the Moor in the Hill District; and St. James in Wilkinsburg.

"The Extra Mile Education Foundation is delighted to be working with Junlei Li and David Klahr," said Ambrose P. Murray, executive director of the foundation.

"Extra Mile has been the beneficiary of Carnegie Mellon's expertise and assistance in other areas throughout the years. Their project will strengthen science instruction for our middle school students and we are grateful for this opportunity," Murray said.

Nearly all students at the four Extra Mile schools are African American and non-Catholic, and face numerous disadvantages. Low-income African American children have historically underperformed on science achievement tests, Li said.

"If we are successful in that kind of environment, our success is more likely to be reproduced in other environments," Li said.

Researchers will spend six months observing science instruction in grades five through eight. Then they will develop and teach full-semester lesson plans.

"Very few researchers are willing to assume the role of classroom teacher for an extended period, in order to become familiar with real students in real classrooms. That's what makes this project so unusual," Klahr said.

During the final phase, the researchers will train teachers in lesson planning and instructional methods they have developed. Similar studies in the past often have been conducted in the artificial confines of the psychology laboratory, utilizing one-on-one instruction and tests that the researchers designed, Klahr said. The Carnegie Mellon project, however, promises to yield results that teachers can use in their actual classrooms to improve students' performance on the off-the-shelf standardized tests that most schools use.

"If teaching is fundamentally improved, students can do well," Li said.

Jonathan Potts


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