Research has shown that being able to explain information from texts to yourself (self-explanation) significantly improves reading comprehension. iSTART teaches self-explanation strategies through a series of videos and game-based practice exercises. Self-explanation strategies allow students to develop a deeper understanding of the complex concepts explained in the text. Furthermore, students who self-explain texts are more successful at solving problems, more likely to generate inferences, and construct more coherent mental models.
The system is intended to support effective learning, increase motivation to learn, and sustain engagement over a long-term interaction with the system. Multiple studies have been conducted assessing the benefits to using iSTART. Users of the systems have demonstrated significant increases in both knowledge and performance during and after use.
In a series of five strategy instruction modules, students learn explicit strategies for comprehending text through self-explanation. Strategy instruction is provided via lesson videos presented by animated characters.
Practice games give students the opportunity to identify strategies that examples use (or fail to use), and to generate self-explanations using strategies taught in lesson videos. Identification games help students understand and remember strategies, and generative games help students apply those strategies. Each game is designed to be replayable so that students can engage in extended, deliberate practice.
Coached practice allows students to practice generating self-explanations from a library of texts selected from different domains. After submitting a self-explanation, students receive formative feedback that rates their self-explanation. Students are also given metacognitive prompts to help them become more aware of their strategy use and performance.