ComMentor: Socratic Tutoring for High-Level Command Skills


U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences (contract DASW01-01-C-0039)


Armor officers (primarily captains) and their instructors


Under extreme stress, time pressure, and uncertainty, battlefield commanders must assess complex, ambiguous tactical situations, prioritize goals, and pursue these goals by issuing orders, reports, and requests. These tactical decision-making skills cannot be taught simply as methods and procedures to be followed. Becoming an expert requires extensive practice of command reasoning skills in a variety of situations, as well as coaching and feedback from instructors. The U.S. Army Research Institute has developed a training methodology that emphasizes repeated exposure to small challenging vignettes, enabling drill on command decision-making. Their approach is similar in spirit to Tactical Decision Games or Quick Decision Exercises. However, expert instructors who can provide this type of coaching are scarce, so few commanders are able to benefit from this type of training.


To make this type of training more widely available, Stottler Henke developed the Command Mentoring Intelligent Tutoring System (ComMentor) that emulates the Socratic teaching methods used by expert instructors. Specifically, ComMentor presents tactical scenarios to students and prompts them to enter their responses via graphical user interfaces, form-structured text, and tactical maps. In general, there is no single correct answer to a scenario, so ComMentor evaluates each student’s reasoning skills by comparing their solutions and rationale with fragments characterizing expected appropriate and inappropriate student responses supplied by experts. ComMentor uses these assessments, along with structured arguments, to control its line of Socratic questioning, hinting, and feedback to enhance the student’s high-level thinking habits.


ComMentor has completed active development. A pair of detailed scenarios were developed. Resulting technology is being applied in a number of ongoing projects related to training and support for group work processes.

Related Applications

Socratic tutoring is an effective teaching method for enhancing the student’s critical analysis and problem-solving skills required by complex tasks and situations for which there is no procedure or single correct answer.

Additional information


Video demonstrations: Window Media Video (WMV)

Introduction (17MB, 19 mins)
Detailed tutoring demo (44MB, 31 mins)
Authoring demo (6MB, 9 mins)

Video demonstrations: AVI with TSCC Codec 

“Intelligent Tutoring for Command Thinking Skills” in Army Research Institute Newsletter (May 2003)      

I/ITSEC 2004 conference paper: Discussion Control in an Automated Socratic Tutor       

I/ITSEC 2002 conference paper: Automated Socratic Tutors for High-level Command Skills