Better to be frustrated than bored: The incidence, persistence, and impact of learners’ cognitive–affective states during interactions with three different computer-based learning environments

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We study the incidence (rate of occurrence), persistence (rate of reoccurrence immediately after occurrence), and impact (effect on behavior) of students’ cognitive–affective states during their use of three different computer-based learning environments. Students’ cognitive–affective states are studied using different populations (Philippines, USA), different methods (quantitative field observation, self-report), and different types of learning environments (dialogue tutor, problem-solving game, and problem-solving-based Intelligent Tutoring System). By varying the studies along these multiple factors, we can have greater confidence that findings which generalize across studies are robust. The incidence, persistence, and impact of boredom, frustration, confusion, engaged concentration, delight, and surprise were compared. We found that boredom was very persistent across learning environments and was associated with poorer learning and problem behaviors, such as gaming the system. Despite prior hypothesis to the contrary, frustration was less persistent, less associated with poorer learning, and did not appear to be an antecedent to gaming the system. Confusion and engaged concentration were the most common states within all three learning environments. Experiences of delight and surprise were rare. These findings suggest that significant effort should be put into detecting and responding to boredom and confusion, with a particular emphasis on developing pedagogical interventions to disrupt the “vicious cycles” which occur when a student becomes bored and remains bored for long periods of time.