Background: Off-task behavior can be defined as any behavior that does not involve the learning task or material, or where learning from the material is not the primary goal. One suggested path for understanding how to address off-task behavior is to study classrooms where off-task behavior is less common, particularly in Asia, in order to understand why off-task behavior is less common in those settings.
Purpose: In this paper, we discuss three studies that examine the differences in the off-task behavior of students using intelligent tutoring software in the Philippines and the United States. We investigate whether Filipino students using intelligent tutors exhibit significantly less off-task behavior than their American counterparts, in line with the previously observed patterns of off-task behavior in traditional classrooms in East Asia and Southeast Asia. Using identical intelligent tutors in both countries allows us to control for confounds due to differences in curricula.
Research Design: In the first study, approximately matched cohorts of students in classrooms in the United States and Philippines used the same educational software (the Scatterplot Tutor) for an equal amount of time and according to an identical research protocol. In the second and third studies, students in the Philippines used different intelligent tutoring systems for a fixed amount of time.
Data Collection and Analysis: As students used the software, researchers used a quantitative field observation protocol to record their behaviors. From the quantitative field observations, we computed an approximate percentage of time that each student was off-task and then calculated the average time off-task for each group under study. An additional behavior, gaming the system (intentional misuse of educational software) was also coded.
Findings: In the first study, students in the United States were off-task, on average, seven times more than students in the Philippines. Interestingly, however, the proportion of gaming the system was higher in the Philippines than in the United States. In the second and third studies, the incidence of off-task behavior was comparable to the frequency of off-task behavior in the Philippines in the first study, and substantially lower than the frequency of off-task behavior in the United States in the first study or in prior research on off-task behavior in the United States.
Conclusions / Recommendations: The results of the first study suggest that the previously observed differences in off-task behavior between the United States and Asia cannot be attributed simply to differences in curricula. Understanding the relative roles of cultural factors and past experiences with adaptive educational technology in student off-task behavior is an important area of future work.