Symposium on the occasion of the Honorary Doctorate for Kurt VanLehn

Kurt VanLehn

Technologies for learning

Symposium on the occasion of the honorary doctorate for Kurt VanLehn

Wednesday March 25, 2015, 13:00 - 18:00.

On March 26, 2015, the dies of Utecht University, Kurt VanLehn will receive an honorary doctorate of Utrecht University. Johan Jeuring will act as the honorary promotor. We organise a symposium on the occasion of this honorary doctorate on the day before the ceremony.


13:00 - 13:30 Wouter van Joolingen
  Drawing-based modelling: Rethinking Science Education: engaging young children in modelling practices
13:30 - 14:00 Harold van Rijen
  How to drive innovation in academic curricula
14:00 - 14:30 Paul Drijvers
  Instruments in learning
14:30 - 15:00 Break
15:00 - 15:30 Serious games at Utrecht University
  • Johan Jeuring - Communicate!
  • Wieger Bakker - Simulations and Simulation gaming
  • Pim Bellinga and Daniel Janssen - I hate statistics
15:30 - 16:00 Bastiaan Heeren
  Software technology for learning and teaching
16:00 - 16:45 Kurt VanLehn
  An intelligent tutoring system for constructing computational models of dynamic systems
16:45 - 17:30 Drinks

The abstracts of the presentations appear at the bottom of this page.


The symposium takes place in the Aula of the Academiegebouw of Utrecht University.


Register via email to Geraldine Leebeek before March 18, 2015. Registration is free.


For information about the symposium, contact Johan Jeuring.


Wouter van Joolingen:

Learning science by creating models is becoming an important approach to science education.. This is part of the wish to make science education more inquiry oriented in order to interest more people for a career in science and technology. Dynamic models play a central role in science as a main vehicle to express and evaluate our understanding of complex systems. Therefore, the ability to reason with and about models and to create models of dynamic systems is an important higher order thinking skill. In teaching young children how to model, the choice for model representation is an important one. Representations vary from mathematical formula, programming languages and diagrammatic representations.

In the presentation I will present SimSketch, an approach in which children can create dynamic, multi-agent models, based on drawings. By representing systems in drawings, assigning behavior to elements of the drawing and simulate the resulting model, children can express and test their ideas about natural and artificial systems. In the presentation I will both present conceptual and technical issues related to SimSketch as well as studies in which children have used SimSketch to represent systems such as the Solar System, traffic, evolution and the spreading of diseases. The system will be presented in its context of application in actual science teaching.

Paul Drijvers:

Technologies for learning are not always the panacea for educational difficulties that we might have expected them to be. More and more, we acknowledge the subtle interplay between the students’ use of technology, the task at stake, and the targeted cognitive processes. To do justice to this subtlety, the metaphor of a musical instrument is used: like a grand piano is not a guarantee for beautiful music, a technological tool in itself is not enough to foster learning. An integrated process of co-emerging techniques and insights, called instrumental genesis, is needed. In this presentation, some examples of instrumental genesis are presented for the case of cognitive tools for mathematics, such as computer algebra systems, applets and dynamics geometry systems.

Bastiaan Heeren:

In this talk I will discuss how software technology can contribute to learning and teaching. In particular, I will discuss how we can support learning using digital technologies: learning environments, intelligent tutoring systems, serious games, etc. Such environments diagnose or assess student actions or student products, and give hints or worked-out solutions to a student. In all of these environments, we need to encode what constitutes desirable behavior of a student. Based on a description of a desirable way to solve an exercise, we need to find out if a student is making progress, or strays away from the goal. We use rewrite strategies and parsing techniques to diagnose the steps from a student. Student actions are interpreted as rewrite steps, and we parse these steps against rewriting strategies, possibly including buggy steps or strategies.

Kurt VanLehn:

Modeling is an important STEM practice. In the USA, it is one of 7 practices required across all grade levels by both the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and the Next Generation Science Standards. This project focuses on a particularly important type of modeling: constructing computational models of dynamic systems. This is a required topic for degrees in engineering, management, policy and others. In 1983, a simple graphical notation for the underlying systems of differential equations was developed, along with an editor, prediction generator, and other tools. The original system, Stella, and its clones are now used in many college courses, but the interesting opportunity is to use such tools in high schools. Despite nearly 30 years of effort, this opportunity remains open. The problem is that it takes so long for students to acquire skill in constructing models that there is little time left to use their skill to learn about STEM topics. Intelligent tutoring systems (ITS) have an excellent track record for speeding up the acquisition of cognitive skills, so this project has developed an ITS for teaching students how to construct models of dynamics systems. The system, Dragoon, features immediate feedback and hints of several kinds, embedded assessment of student knowledge at the level of individual knowledge components, post-solution reflective debriefings, forums for collaborative discussion, an open learner model for motivating students, and a real-time dashboard for teachers to orchestrate their classes. Dragoon provides tools for non-programmers to author problems and worksheets. Such content, and Dragoon, have been evaluated in the following high schools classes: biology, chemistry, earth science, physics (twice) and physiology. Dragoon has also been used four times in two undergrad courses (sustainability; modeling). Effect sizes have ranged from small to large (d=1.06).

Harold van Rijen:

This year, the Utrecht University has started the program ‘Educate-IT’ which aims to enhance blended learning in the academic curricula. A similar program ‘Learning without limits’ was started in 2012 at the University Medical Center Utrecht to develop, implement and support  the use of digital tools for students and teachers for a broad range of ubiquitous blended learning activities.
Both programs are based on a decentralized implementation model, in which teachers can innovate their courses with central didactic and technical support, combined with educational research.
The aims and structure of the programs will be presented, with examples of products and outcomes.

Start date and time
End date and time
Academiegebouw, Domplein 29, Utrecht

Geraldine Leebeek,