intelligent tutoring systems, mood, performance, machine learning, regression analysis


The ultimate goal of this research was to improve student performance by adjusting an Intelligent Tutoring System's (ITS) coaching strategy based on the student's mood. As a step toward this goal, this study evaluated the relationships between each student's mood variables (pleasure, arousal, dominance and mood intensity), the coaching strategy selected by the ITS and the student's performance. Outcomes included methods to increase the perception of the intelligent tutor to allow it to adapt coaching strategies (methods of instruction) to the student's affective needs to mitigate barriers to performance (e.g. negative affect) during the one-to-one tutoring process. The study evaluated whether the affective state (specifically mood) of the student moderated the student's interaction with the tutor and influenced performance. This research examined the relationships, interactions and influences of student mood in the selection of ITS coaching strategies to determine which strategies were more effective in terms of student performance given the student's mood, state (recent sleep time, previous knowledge and training, and interest level) and actions (e.g. mouse movement rate). Two coaching strategies were used in this study: Student-Requested Feedback (SRF) and Tutor-Initiated Feedback (TIF). The SRF coaching strategy provided feedback in the form of hints, questions, direction and support only when the student requested help. The TIF coaching strategy provided feedback (hints, questions, direction or support) at key junctures in the learning process when the student either made progress or failed to make progress in a timely fashion. The relationships between the coaching strategies, mood, performance and other variables of interest were considered in light of five hypotheses. At alpha = .05 and beta at least as great as .80, significant effects were limited in predicting performance. Highlighted findings include no significant differences in the mean performance due to coaching strategies, and only small effect sizes in predicting performance making the regression models developed not of practical significance. However, several variables including performance, energy level and mouse movement rates were significant, unobtrusive predictors of mood. Regression algorithms were developed using Arbuckle's (2008) Analysis of MOment Structures (AMOS) tool to compare the predicted performance for each strategy and then to choose the optimal strategy. A set of production rules were also developed to train a machine learning classifier using Witten & Frank's (2005) Waikato Environment for Knowledge Analysis (WEKA) toolset. The classifier was tested to determine its ability to recognize critical relationships and adjust coaching strategies to improve performance. This study found that the ability of the intelligent tutor to recognize key affective relationships contributes to improved performance. Study assumptions include a normal distribution of student mood variables, student state variables and student action variables and the equal mean performance of the two coaching strategy groups (student-requested feedback and tutor-initiated feedback ). These assumptions were substantiated in the study. Potential applications of this research are broad since its approach is application independent and could be used within ill-defined or very complex domains where judgment might be influenced by affect (e.g. study of the law, decisions involving risk of injury or death, negotiations or investment decisions). Recommendations for future research include evaluation of the temporal, as well as numerical, relationships of student mood, performance, actions and state variables.


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Graduation Date



Proctor, Michael


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science

Degree Program

Modeling and Simulation








Release Date

March 2009

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)

Included in

Engineering Commons