Over the past 13 years, ASSISTments was developed and evaluated with the support of a series of IES and National Science Foundation awards. With a 2003 IES award to Carnegie Mellon University and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), researchers created the first version of ASSISTments. The system was populated with Massachusetts high-stakes mathematics test questions and the tutoring for the questions was authored by WPI staff with assistance from local teachers. After students completed problems assigned by the teacher, reports provided teachers with information about question difficulty and the most commonly submitted wrong answers, initiating class discussions around the completed assignments. In , researchers at WPI received an award to build additional functionalities in the ASSISTments program so that teachers could assign supports (called “skill builders”) to students to help them master content. An additional allowed the researchers to create other features.
With a 2012 IES research grant award, SRI evaluated the efficacy of the ASSISTments program as a homework tool for academic learning. In the study, the researchers took all 7th grade textbooks in the State of Maine and added answers to homework problems into ASSISTments. The demonstrated that teachers changed their homework reviewing behavior, mathematical learning improved an extra three quarters of a year of schooling, and using ASSISTments reliably closed achievement gaps for students with different achievement levels. ASSISTments is currently being evaluated again through two IES studies, with over 120 schools, to attempt to replicate this result.
As of 2020, ASSISTments has been used by approximately 60,000 students with over 12 million problems solved.
Listen to this podcast where ASSISTments co-founder Dr. Neil Heffernan joins Michael Palmer to talk about how his career interweaves great teaching, computer science, and “ASSISTments” – a set of digital tools designed to make homework assignment and evaluation more efficient.Continue Reading