Pedagogical Alignment of Large Language Models

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In this paper, we introduce the novel concept of pedagogically aligned Large Language Models (LLMs) that signifies a transformative shift in the application of LLMs within educational contexts. Rather than providing direct responses to user queries, pedagogically-aligned LLMs function as scaffolding tools, breaking complex problems into manageable subproblems and guiding students towards the final answer through constructive feedback and hints. The objective is to equip learners with problem-solving strategies that deepen their understanding and internalization of the subject matter. Previous research in this field has primarily applied the supervised finetuning approach without framing the objective as an alignment problem, hence not employing reinforcement learning through human feedback (RLHF) methods. This study reinterprets the narrative by viewing the task through the lens of alignment and demonstrates how RLHF methods emerge naturally as a superior alternative for aligning LLM behaviour. Building on this perspective, we propose a novel approach for constructing a reward dataset specifically designed for the pedagogical alignment of LLMs. We apply three state-of-the-art RLHF algorithms and find that they outperform SFT significantly. Our qualitative analyses across model differences and hyperparameter sensitivity further validate the superiority of RLHF over SFT. Also, our study sheds light on the potential of online feedback for enhancing the performance of pedagogically-aligned LLMs, thus providing valuable insights for the advancement of these models in educational settings.

Ryan Watkins