Animated agents in K-12 engineering outreach: Preferred agent characteristics across age levels

Amy Johnson, Matthew D. Didonato, Martin Reisslein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Animated agents have been found to positively impact student learning and/or perceptions within computer-based learning environments. However, there is little research on the agent characteristics preferred by K-12 students. The main purpose of this study was to examine student preferences for individual pedagogical agents and their preferences for various agent characteristics. Student preferences for the following agent characteristics were assessed using survey methodology: agent gender, age, realism, clothing, personality, speech pace, and tutoring approach. A total of N = 565 students from elementary through high school watched a computer-based multimedia overview of engineering. Four engineering disciplines were introduced by four animated agents: a young female, young male, old female, and old male agent. Immediately after viewing the computer-based overview, students completed surveys assessing preferences for the four agents and for individual agent characteristics. Results indicated that all students preferred agents and specific external agent characteristics that are close to their own external characteristics and favored internal agent characteristics that they felt would promote understanding of the domain. These findings suggest that animated agents used in computer-based K-12 engineering outreach should be close to the student's external characteristics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1807-1815
Number of pages9
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2013


  • Age levels
  • Agent characteristics
  • Animated agent
  • K-12 outreach

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • General Psychology


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