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A Social-Cognitive Framework for Designing Pedagogical Agents as Learning Companions
Educational Technology Research and Development (2006)
  • Yanghee Kim, Utah State University
  • Amy L. Baylor
Teaching and learning are highly social activities. Seminal psychologists such as Vygotsky, Piaget, and Bandura have theorized that social interaction is a key mechanism in the process of learning and development. In particular, the benefits of peer interaction for learning and motivation in classrooms have been broadly demonstrated through empirical studies. Hence, it would be valuable if computer-based environments could support a mechanism for a peer-interaction. Though no claim of peer equivalence is made, pedagogical agents as learning companions (PALs) -- animated digital characters functioning to simulate human-peer-like interaction -- might provide an opportunity to simulate such social interaction in computer-based learning. The purpose of this paper is first to ground the instructional potential of PALs in several social-cognitive theories, which include distributed cognition, social interaction, and Bandura’s social-cognitive theory. The paper discusses how specific concepts of the theories might support various instructional functions of PALs, acknowledging concepts that PALs cannot address. Next, based on the theoretical perspectives, the paper suggests seven key constituents for designing PALs that in human-peer interactions have proven significant: PAL competency, interaction type, gender, affect, ethnicity, multiplicity, and feedback. Finally, the paper reviews the current status of PAL research with respect to these constituents and suggests where further empirical research is necessary.
  • social cognition,
  • social cognitive theory,
  • pedagogical agents,
  • learning companions,
  • embodied conversational agents,
  • virtual peers,
  • agent design,
  • Virtual agents,
  • Human computer interaction
Publication Date
January 1, 2006
Publisher Statement
Originally published by Springer Verlag. Publisher's PDF available through remote link. Paper awarded 2005 Young Scholar Award.
Citation Information
Kim, Y., & Baylor, A. L. (2006). A social cognitive framework for designing pedagogical agents as learning companions. Educational Technology Research and Development (ETR&D), 54(06), 569-596. Paper awarded 2005 Young Scholar Award by ETR&D and the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT).