Reducing mind-wandering during vicarious learning from an intelligent tutoring system

Caitlin Mills, Nigel Bosch, Kristina Krasich, Sidney K. D’Mello

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Mind-wandering is a ubiquitous phenomenon that is negatively related to learning. The purpose of the current study is to examine mind-wandering during vicarious learning, where participants observed another student engage in a learning session with an intelligent tutoring system (ITS). Participants (N = 118) watched a prerecorded learning session with GuruTutor, a dialogue-based ITS for biology. The response accuracy of the student interacting with the tutor (i.e., the firsthand student) was manipulated across three conditions: Correct (100% accurate responses), Incorrect (0% accurate), and Mixed (50% accurate). Results indicated that Firsthand Student Expertise influenced the frequency of mind-wandering in the participants who engaged vicariously (secondhand students), such that viewing a moderately-skilled firsthand learner (Mixed correctness) reduced the rate of mind-wandering (M = 25.4%) compared to the Correct (M = 33.9%) and Incorrect conditions (M = 35.6%). Firsthand Student Expertise did not impact learning, and we also found no evidence of an indirect effect of Firsthand Student Expertise on learning through mind-wandering (Firsthand Student Expertise → Mind-wandering → Learning). Our findings provide evidence that mind-wandering is a frequent experience during online vicarious learning and offer initial suggestions for the design of vicarious learning experiences that aim to maintain learners’ attentional focus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationArtificial Intelligence in Education - 20th International Conference, AIED 2019, Proceedings
EditorsSeiji Isotani, Eva Millán, Amy Ogan, Bruce McLaren, Peter Hastings, Rose Luckin
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)9783030232030
StatePublished - 2019
Event20th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Education, AIED 2019 - Chicago, United States
Duration: Jun 25 2019Jun 29 2019

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics)
Volume11625 LNAI
ISSN (Print)0302-9743
ISSN (Electronic)1611-3349


Conference20th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Education, AIED 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited States


  • Attention
  • Intelligent tutoring systems
  • Mind-wandering
  • Task-unrelated thought
  • Vicarious learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • General Computer Science


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