The DSCoVAR project: Dynamic Support of Contextual Vocabulary Acquisition for Reading (DSCoVAR)

Falk School, Spring 2015 Study

The Spring 2015 study is now closed to applications. Thanks for your interest!

About the Project

DSCoVAR ("Discover") is a three-year project funded by the U.S. Dept. of Education whose goal is to develop effective tools for helping middle-school students learn new words from context. We've developed a Web-based intelligent tutoring system that shows examples of a new word being used in different sentences. Students will take a short test about their word knowledge, will read example sentences, and will answer simple questions about what they think a new word means.

We'll be conducting a research study using an initial version of this system at the Falk School this spring.

The study at the Falk School is being run by University of Pittsburgh researchers led by Prof. Charles Perfetti, an internationally-renowned expert on reading and language learning. The DSCoVAR system was developed in collaboration with researchers from the University of Michigan and Georgia State University.

Our software has two main parts. First, it teaches students strategies they can use when they see a word they don't recognize. Our study will help us understand which strategies lead to most effective learning. Second, it has interactive training sessions that students can use to practice these strategies. The data we gather from this study will help researchers understand how middle-school students learn new words from context, and which strategies and conditions are most effective.

Here are some sample screenshots from the tutor, showing (1) part of a lesson on learning from context and (2) an example of how students can give and receive feedback from the system as they learn.

Who can participate?

Why participate?
Questions and Answers

Q: How much time will the study take for my child?
A: The study sessions will take place after school in the Falk School Computer Lab, between 3:30 and 4:30pm. We will need your child's participation for six sessions, with each session being about 30-45 minutes. Typically, there will be one session per week during the after-school program. These weeks do not all need to be consecutive, so if your child is sick or needs to miss a session, you can either (depending on the session) skip a week or make up that session on another day that week.

Q: Will students be paid for their participation?
A: Yes. Students will earn a gift card for participating.

Q: I'm concerned about privacy: what data will you collect and how will it be used?
A: The tutor system will log a student's progress through each session, such as which modules they have completed, and their responses to questions about words. All data generated by the study is stored using a random ID. The resulting datasets are not linked to your child's name or any other identifying data. Researchers will use the data to help understand which learning strategies are most effective.

Please contact Kim Muth ( if you have any further questions.

The Spring 2015 study is now closed to applications. Thanks for your interest!

The Spring 2015 study is now closed to applications. Thanks for your interest!

The study is funded by the U.S. Dept. of Education, Institute for Education Sciences. Please see this link for more detailed information about the scientific aims of the project and the personnel involved.


The DSCoVaR project is supported by an IES Development award from the U.S. Dept. of Education (IES grant R305A140647).
U.S. Department of Education Institute for Education Sciences