An Investigation of the Effect of a Pedagogical Agent on Achievement Motivation, Affect and Learning for Primary School Students.

  • Margareta Gorter

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Previous research showed that learning with a pedagogical agent is beneficial for increasing learning outcomes in virtual learning environments (Schroeder & Adesope, 2015). Pedagogical agents are virtual characters who will guide the students in these environments (Heidig & Clarebout, 2011; Schroeder et al., 2013). Nevertheless, previous research had examined mostly the character and qualities of these pedagogical agents demonstrating the direct effect on learning retention and transfer. They did not demonstrate the effect of just using a pedagogical agent in a virtual learning environment. Beside this, only limited research showed the motivational and emotional benefits of learning with a pedagogical agent (Heidig & Clarebout, 2011). Most of the studies are done with college students and very few research is done for pupils of primary schools (Heidig & Clarebout, 2011).
The present study aims to investigate the effect of working with a pedagogical agent on emotion, achievement motivation and learning outcomes of pupils at primary schools.
In this experiment a total of 132 pupils of grade 7 and 8 of primary schools were recruited from three primary schools in the Netherlands by a letter from the experimenter and distributed by their teacher. The participants were randomly assigned to either the experimental condition (n = 63) or the control condition (n = 58). Before the experiment memory capacity was measured by the digit span test of Cowan (Cowan et al., 2005) and prior knowledge by solving probability problems. During the experiment all the pupils watched an instructional video about solving probability problems. In the experimental group a pedagogical agent was added in the instructional video. In the video of the control group instruction was just with a voice. After the instructional video pupils did practice to solve probability problems. Next to solving the problems, pupils got questionnaires about self-efficacy, motivation, emotion, cognitive load and social presence. At the end the pupils did solve eight probability problems testing retention and transfer.
The key variables are measured by Patterns of Adaptive Learning Scales (Midgley et al., 2000), Situational Interest Scale (Linnenbrink-Garcia et al., 2010), Positive And Negative Affect Schedule (Watson et al., 1988), Achievement Emotion Questionnaire (Pekrun et al., 2011), CLI scale (Leppink et al., 2013), CL scale (Klepsch et al., 2017), Social Presence (Kreijns et al., 2018).
The experimental group reported just a slight higher learning outcome on retention and transfer, emotion, motivation and cognitive load than the control group. But none of the results were statistically significant. The outcome on social presence was significant higher at the experimental group than the outcome of the control group.
The current study did not confirm that working with a virtual pedagogical agent will increase motivation, positive emotions on learning and learning outcome. This could be due to the difficulty of the task or the instructional design. Working with a pedagogical agent did not decrease cognitive load. The current study did confirm that working with a pedagogical agent did increase social presence. Additional research is required to investigate how a pedagogical agent can be a benefit for learning.

Date of Award15 Jul 2021
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorKate Xu (Supervisor)


  • Pedagogical Agent
  • Self-efficacy
  • Motivation
  • Emotion
  • Social Presence
  • Cognitive load
  • Primary School Pupils

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