The Effect of Motivational Learning Companions on Low Achieving Students and Students with Disabilities

Beverly Park Woolf, Ivon Arroyo, Kasia Muldner, Winslow Burleson, David G. Cooper, Robert Dolan et al.

We report the results of a randomized controlled evaluation of the effectiveness of pedagogical agents as providers of affective feedback. These digital learning companions were embedded in an intelligent tutoring system for mathematics, and were used by approximately one hundred students in two public high schools. Students in the control group did not receive the learning companions. Results indicate that low-achieving students—one third of whom have learning disabilities—had higher affective needs than their higher-achieving peers; they initially considered math problem-solving more frustrating, less exciting, and felt more anxious when solving math problems. However, after they interacted with affective pedagogical agents, low-achieving students improved their affective outcomes, e.g., reported reduced frustration and anxiety.

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