Exploring Participative Learner Modelling and Its Effects on Learner Behaviour
Morales Gamboa, Rafael
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The educational benefits of involving learners as active players in the learner modelling process have been an important motivation for research on this form of learner modelling, henceforth referred to as participative learner modelling. Such benefits, conceived as the promotion of learners’ reflection on and awareness of their own knowledge, have in most cases been asserted on the grounds of system design and supported only by anecdotal evidence. This dissertation explores the issue of whether participative learner modelling actually promotes learners’ reflection and awareness. It does so by firstly interpreting ‘reflection’ and ‘awareness’ in light of “classical” theories of human cognitive architecture, skill acquisition and meta-cognition, in order to infer changes in learner abilities (and therefore behaviour) amenable to empirical corroboration. The occurrence of such changes is then tested for an implementation of a paradigmatic form of participative learner modelling: allowing learners to inspect and modify their learner models. The domain of application centres on the sensorimotor skill of controlling a pole on a cart and represents a novel type of domain for participative learner modelling. Special attention is paid to evaluating the method developed for constructing learner models and the form of presenting them to learners: the former is based on a method known as behavioural cloning for acquiring expert knowledge by means of machine learning; the latter deals with the modularity of the learner models and the modality and interactivity of their presentation. The outcome of this research suggests that participative learner modelling may increase the abilities of learners to report accurately their problem-solving knowledge and to carry out novel tasks in the same domain—the sort of behavioural changes expected from increased learners’ awareness and reflection. More importantly perhaps, the research suggests a viable methodology for examining the educational benefits of participative learner modelling. It also exemplifies the difficulties that such endeavours will face.