$1.4 million grant awarded to UofM’s AutoTutor for Adult Reading Comprehension

August 19, 2020 - AutoTutor for Adult Reading Comprehension (AutoTutor-ARC) has received a $1.4 million grant to continue its development from the Institute of Educational Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education. Dr. John Sabatini, distinguished research professor in the Department of Psychology and Institute for Intelligent Systems, is principal investigator; Dr. Art Graesser, professor emeritus in the Department of Psychology and Institute for Intelligent Systems, is co-principal investigator.

With this four-year grant, researchers will further develop AutoTutor-ARC’s lessons and assessment tools.

In the United States, one in six adults is a struggling reader with a low level of proficiency. Adult literacy programs face many obstacles such as being underfunded, having difficulty retaining students and catering to diverse populations. AutoTutor-ARC is a proposed web-based intelligent training system to meet these challenges.

“Our work on this IES grant will help struggling adult readers throughout the country improve their reading comprehension skills through AutoTutor and other digital technologies,” said Graesser.

The AdultEd Research Team titled the project “Developing a Technology-based, Reading Comprehension Instruction System for Adult Literacy Students.” Within the project, AutoTutor-ARC incorporates conversational agents, dozens of lessons with practice questions and embedded tests to monitor student learning. The researchers will develop tutorial lessons for adult students to encourage digital literacy skills and a toolkit dashboard for literacy providers and their students. 

The dashboard will better integrate technology into literacy programs by enabling efficient planning and tracking of students’ progress throughout the lessons. These developments will come alongside updates to AutoTutor-ARC’s software and evaluations of its progress through the experiences of literacy programs and adult learners. In doing so, the research will evaluate the use of the web-based system as a teacher-led supplement to classroom instruction and as a distance learning platform for adult use outside the classroom.

Other grant awardees are Dr. Daphne Greenberg of Georgia State University and Dr. Tenaha O’Reilly of Educational Testing Service.