Title: Integrating parallel analysis modules to evaluate the meaning of answers to reading comprehension questions

Authors: Detmar Meurers, Ramon Ziai, Niels Ott, Stacey M. Bailey

Addresses: Seminar fur Sprachwissenschaft, Universitat Tubingen, Wilhelmstrasse 19, 72072 Tubingen, Germany. ' Sonderforschungsbereich 833, Universitat Tubingen, Nauklerstrasse 35, 72072 Tubingen, Germany. ' Sonderforschungsbereich 833, Universitat Tubingen, Nauklerstrasse 35, 72072 Tubingen, Germany. ' The MITRE Corporation, 7515 Colshire Dr., McLean, VA 22102, USA

Abstract: Contextualised, meaning-based interaction in the foreign language is widely recognised as crucial for second language acquisition. Correspondingly, current exercises in foreign language teaching generally require students to manipulate both form and meaning. For intelligent language tutoring systems to support such activities, they thus must be able to evaluate the appropriateness of the meaning of a learner response for a given exercise. We discuss such a content-assessment approach, focusing on reading comprehension exercises. We pursue the idea that a range of simultaneously available representations at different levels of complexity and linguistic abstraction provide a good empirical basis for content assessment. We show how an annotation-based NLP architecture implementing this idea can be realised and that it successfully performs on a corpus of authentic learner answers to reading comprehension questions. To support comparison and sustainable development on content assessment, we also define a general exchange format for such exercise data.

Keywords: content assessment; shallow semantic analysis; textual entailment; meaning comparisons; ICALL; intelligent CALL; computer-assisted language learning; intelligent tutoring systems; reading comprehension; parallel analysis modules; comprehension questions; contextualised interactions; meaning-based interactions; foreign languages; second languages; language acquisition; language teaching; language form; language meaning; learner responses; complexity; linguistic abstraction; natural language processing; annotation-based architecture; NLP architecture; learner answers; exchange formats; exercise data; visualisation; continuing education; life-long learning; automatic free-text evaluation.

DOI: 10.1504/IJCEELL.2011.042793

International Journal of Continuing Engineering Education and Life-Long Learning, 2011 Vol.21 No.4, pp.355 - 369

Published online: 16 Oct 2014 *

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