Say What? Learner Reactions to Unexpected Agent Dialogue Moves
For maximally efficient and effective conversation-based intelligent tutoring systems, designers must understand the expectations carried by their intended learners. Strategies programmed into the agents may be interpreted differently by the learners. For example, conversational heuristics in these systems may be biased against false alarms in identifying wrong answers (potentially accepting more incorrect answers), or they may avoid directly answering learner-generated questions in an attempt to encourage more open-ended input. Regardless of pedagogical merit, the learner may view these agents’ dialogue moves as bugs rather than features and respond by disengaging or distrusting future interactions. We test this effect by orchestrating situations in agent-based instruction of electrical engineering topics (through an intelligent tutoring system called AutoTutor) where the pedagogical agent behaves in ways likely counter to learner expectations. To better understand the learning experience of the user, we then measure learner response via think-aloud protocol, eye-tracking, and direct interview. We find that, with few exceptions, learners do not reason that the actions are meant as instructional or technical strategies, but instead broadly understood as errors. This indicates a need for either alteration of agent dialogue strategies, or else additional (implicit or explicit) introduction of the strategies to productively shape learners’ interactions with the system.