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Effects of Visual Signaling on Pre-College Students’ Engineering Learning Performance and Attitudes: Peer Versus Adult Pedagogical Agents Versus Arrow Signaling

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Engineering Education Research in K-12

Tagged Divisions

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering and Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.543.1 - 22.543.11



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Paper Authors

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Gamze Ozogul Arizona State University


Martin Reisslein Arizona State University Orcid 16x16

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Martin Reisslein is an Associate Professor in the School of Electrical, Computer, and Energy Engineering at Arizona State University (ASU), Tempe. He received the Dipl.Ing. (FH) degree from the Fachhochschule Dieburg, Germany, in 1994, and the M.S.E. degree from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, in 1996; both in electrical engineering. He received his Ph.D. in systems engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 1998. During the academic year 1994 - 1995, he visited the University of Pennsylvania as a Fulbright scholar. From July 1998 through October 2000, he was a scientist with the German National Research Center for Information Technology (GMD FOKUS), Berlin and lecturer at the Technical University Berlin. From October 2000, through August 2005, he was an Assistant Professor at ASU. From January 2003, through February 2007, he was editor-in-chief of the IEEE Communications Surveys and Tutorials. He maintains an extensive library of video traces for network performance evaluation, including frame size traces of MPEG-4 and H.264 encoded video, at He is a member of the ASEE and a senior member of the ACM and the IEEE.
Address: School of Electrical, Computer, and Energy Engineering, Goldwater Center, MC 5706, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-5706; telephone: (+1)480-965-8593; fax (+1)480-965-8325; e-mail:

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Amy Marcelle Johnson University of Memphis

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Amy Johnson is an experimental psychology Ph.D. student (cognitive track) working in the Institute for Intelligent Systems at the University of Memphis. Her research interests relate to Cognitive and Educational Psychology, including self-regulated learning, intelligent tutoring systems, cognitive load theory, and the cognitive processes underlying the integration of verbal and pictorial information in multimedia and hypermedia environments.

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Effects of visual signaling on pre-college students’ engineering learningperformance and attitudes: Peer versus adult pedagogical agents versus arrow signalingIntroduction: Providing students with multiple representations of an engineering concept canfacilitate their learning process. However, multiple representation environments can also increasethe extraneous cognitive load in novice students trying to comprehend and integrate the multiplerepresentations. Visual signaling can help in this integration effort. Two experiments with a totalof 339 middle school students were conducted to investigate the comparative effects of visualsignaling on pre-college students’ engineering learning. The studies tested the agent effecthypothesis that visual signaling with an animated pedagogical agent (APA) more effectivelysupports novice students’ learning than signaling with an arrow. Further, in line with social-cognitive research, the effects of peer and adult APA on students’ learning were examined.Experiment 1: Participants and method: Participants were a total of 190 7th and 8th grade middle-school students. All students learned about electrical circuit analysis with an agent-basedinstructional program that included circuit diagrams, equations characterizing the circuits, andcorresponding Cartesian graphs. The independent variable was the type of signaling, namelypeer-agent signaling (N = 62), arrow signaling (N = 61), or no visual signaling (N =67).Dependent variables were performance on the posttest, difficulty ratings, and student attitudes.Results: An ANOVA of the posttest scores showed a main treatment effect, F(2, 187) = 3.80,MSE = 75.0, p = .02, η² = .04. Post-hoc tests showed that the agent group produced significantlyhigher posttest scores than the control group (p = .01), and marginally significant higher posttestscores than the arrow group (p = .08). An ANOVA of the perceived difficulty ratings showed asignificant difference between the treatment groups, F(2, 187) = 4.60, MSE = 5.59 , p = .01, η² =.05. Follow-up post-hoc tests showed a significance difference between the agent and no visualsignaling groups as well as between the arrow and no visual signaling groups.Experiment 2: Participants and method: Participants were a total of 149 7th and 8th grademiddle-school students. The method and procedure were identical with Experiment 1, except thatthe peer-male agent was replaced with an adult-male agent. There were 54 students in the adult-agent group, 50 students in the arrow group, and 45 students in the no visual signaling group.Results: A significant difference was observed on time-on-task, F(2, 146) = 3.52, MSE =4564.29, p = .03, whereby the arrow group spent significantly less learning time than the othertwo groups. Further ANOVAs showed no significant differences in posttest scores nor perceiveddifficulty ratings between groups.Comparative analysis and results: A follow-up independent sample t-test of the posttestcompared only the peer-agent (PA, N = 62) and the adult-agent (AA, N = 54) conditions andshowed a marginal significant difference; t (114) = 1.84, p= .07; whereby, the PA group scoredmarginally significantly higher than the AA group.Main Conclusion: The findings of the experiments support the APA signaling hypothesis in thatthe deictic movements of a peer APA promoted better learning than arrow signaling; whereas,the agent effect vanished when using an adult-agent. Further conclusions and discussion will beincluded in full paper.

Ozogul, G., & Reisslein, M., & Johnson, A. M. (2011, June), Effects of Visual Signaling on Pre-College Students’ Engineering Learning Performance and Attitudes: Peer Versus Adult Pedagogical Agents Versus Arrow Signaling Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17824

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