A synthesis of the pedagogical agent literature

The 4th edition of the Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology recently arrived at my office.

Handbook or research on educational communications and technology

My graduate student and I have a chapter in this 1000-page volume (!) that attempts to summarize the 2005-2011 literature focusing on pedagogical agents and virtual characters. We believe that this chapter can help orient individuals to the field and its research literature. The approach that we followed was simple: We first analyzed the claims made about pedagogical agents in the literature. Then, we presented the empirical evidence surrounding those claims.

The abstract summarizes our findings:

In this chapter we synthesize the pedagogical agent literature published during 2005–2011. During these years, researchers have claimed that pedagogical agents serve a variety of educational purposes such as being adaptable and versatile; engendering realistic simulations; addressing learners’ sociocultural needs; fostering engagement, motivation, and responsibility; and improving learning and performance. Empirical results supporting these claims are mixed, and results are often contradictory. Our investigation of prior literature also reveals that current research focuses on the examination of cognitive issues through the use of experimental and quasi-experimental methods. Nevertheless, sociocultural investigations are becoming increasingly popular, while mixed methods approaches, and to a lesser extent interpretive research, are garnering some attention in the literature. Suggestions for future research include the deployment of agents in naturalistic contexts and open-ended environments, and investigation of agent outcomes and implications in long-term interventions.

As always, a pdf of the paper is available below.

Veletsianos, G. & Russell, G. (2014). Pedagogical Agents. In Spector, M., Merrill, D., Elen, J., & Bishop, MJ  (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology, 4th Edition (pp. 759-769). Springer Academic.


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1 Comment

  1. Reading this made me think of the Microsoft Office 2001 paper clip as a pedagogical agent =) I am interested to see how the proliferation of MOOCs plays into pedagogical agents, as the lit review noted here came prior to the LMS version of the phenomenon. Also, how does anthropromorphization play into it — are avatars more successful than bots?

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