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Ask Systems: Interrogative Access to Multiple Ways of Thinking

Educational Technology Research and Development Volume 59, Number 1, ISSN 1042-1629


The purpose of this paper is to familiarize instructional designers and researchers with a useful design and research paradigm known as "Ask Systems." Ask Systems are interrogative interfaces to information and learning environments that model conversations with a skilled, reflective practitioner (Schon, The reflective practitioner, "1983") or teacher. By selecting questions to answer, users access information or scaffolds that help them to solve a problem, perform a task, or comprehend domain knowledge. Ask Systems are potentially effective for designing interactive learning systems because question asking is one of the most fundamental skills in learning that affects comprehension and problem solving (Graesser et al., in: Britton and Graesser (eds.) Models of understanding text, "1996b"; Graesser et al., Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education, 3:235-241, "1992"). By selecting questions to answer, students may also learn how to generate their own meaningful questions, because the quality of student-generated questions is strong predictor of domain knowledge and problem solving (Graesser and Olde, Journal of Educational Psychology, 95(3):524-536, "2003"). Ask Systems are demonstrated that represent a variety of learning and task structures, including frequently asked questions, problem solving, metacognition, causal understanding, and multiple perspectives. Although empirical research on Ask Systems is very limited, they appear to represent a potentially effective paradigm for designing instruction and conducting research in a variety of learning environments.


Jonassen, D.H. (2011). Ask Systems: Interrogative Access to Multiple Ways of Thinking. Educational Technology Research and Development, 59(1), 159-175. Retrieved May 21, 2019 from .

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