Dynamics of Student Cognitive-Affective Transitions During a Mathematics Game

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Researchers of interactive learning environments have grown increasingly interested in designing these systems to become more responsive to differences in students’ cognitive-affective states. They believe that the detection of and adaptation to student cognition and affect may boost student learning gains and enhance the quality of students’ overall learning experience. A growing body of research focuses specifically on the study of cognitive-affective dynamics, defined as the natural ways in which a student’s cognitive-affective states change over time. These types of studies help designers identify desirable (virtuous) cycles that they want to foster and undesirable (vicious) cycles that they want to dissuade. In this study, the author examined the dynamics of the cognitive-affective states exhibited by Filipino students as they used the pre-algebra game MATH BLASTER 9-12. The author focused on the cognitive-affective states of boredom, confusion, delight, engagement, frustration, neutrality, and surprise. Using quantitative field observations, the author determined which of these states tended to persist or transition into other states over time. It was found that boredom was the only state that tended to persist. Boredom tended not to lead to engagement. Students who were confused were not likely to stay confused but were likely to transition into engagement. Students who were delighted were not likely to become confused. From these findings and based on comparisons with related work, it is concluded that boredom is a persistent and undesirable state. Confusion is not persistent and is desirable because it leads to further engagement with the content.