Natural Language Communication with a Teachable Agent

by   Rachel Love, et al.

Conversational teachable agents offer a promising platform to support learning, both in the classroom and in remote settings. In this context, the agent takes the role of the novice, while the student takes on the role of teacher. This framing is significant for its ability to elicit the Protégé effect in the student-teacher, a pedagogical phenomenon known to increase engagement in the teaching task, and also improve cognitive outcomes. In prior work, teachable agents often take a passive role in the learning interaction, and there are few studies in which the agent and student engage in natural language dialogue during the teaching task. This work investigates the effect of teaching modality when interacting with a virtual agent, via the web-based teaching platform, the Curiosity Notebook. A method of teaching the agent by selecting sentences from source material is compared to a method paraphrasing the source material and typing text input to teach. A user study has been conducted to measure the effect teaching modality on the learning outcomes and engagement of the participants. The results indicate that teaching via paraphrasing and text input has a positive effect on learning outcomes for the material covered, and also on aspects of affective engagement. Furthermore, increased paraphrasing effort, as measured by the similarity between the source material and the material the teacher conveyed to the robot, improves learning outcomes for participants.


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