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TbiTutor: An Intelligent Tutoring System to Improve Educational Outcomes in Youth with TBI

Research Assistant Amanda Perez and Project Director Catrin Rode

Nationally, over 150,000 students between the ages of 15 and 25 are currently living with long-lasting cognitive impairments as a result of a traumatic brain injury (TBI). In addition, over 110,392 veterans have returned from duty in the last 10 years with at least one incidence of TBI.

As they return to their homes and communities, many of these youth rely on high school and community college educators to support them through the challenges that follow the injury. The most common TBI-related sequelae related to school performance are memory and executive dysfunction, which often result in a progressive lag in academic achievement.

As a function of shortened hospital stays and the chronic nature of problems arising from TBI, the primary service providers for adolescents with TBI are families and schools. Often however, neither parents nor schools are properly prepared for the challenges that students with TBI encounter in schools, nor are they provided with evidence-based tools or interventions to effectively address those challenges. This lack of resources is further amplified by the budgetary and time constraints many schools and families experience.

To address this need for an intervention that can effectively help students to achieve their academic goals when they return to educational settings after TBI, we plan to develop a cloud-based intelligent tutoring system: TbiTutor. The TbiTutor is grounded in a conceptually sound model composed of three components: (1) strong theoretical foundation in the literature of student learning and cognition, (2) evidence-based design principles and functionality that allows the TbiTutor to adapt to the needs of students with limitations in cognition and executive functioning, and (3) an innovative combination of natural language processing (NLP) and text mining technology for effective delivery.

The goal of TbiTutor is to provide a learning environment that places minimal demands on the executive functioning system and to therefore allow the learner to allocate all memory and attention resources to the learning activities rather than to managing the learning process.

TbiTutor will be developed through an iterative development process with input from youth with TBI, and an expert advisory board. We will evaluate TbiTutor’s potential to improve academic performance as well as its feasibility in the natural environment on a sample of 74 students. At the end of the development project, we will have developed the TbiTutor program for use in a scale-up randomized control study to establish the program’s long-term effectiveness.

Funded by: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services -
National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR)
Project Director: Catrin Rode, PhD
Project Contact: rodec@cbirt.org​