Does deep knowledge tracing model interactions among skills?

Shirly Montero, Akshit Arora, Sean Kelly, Brent Milne, Michael Mozer

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Personalized learning environments requiring the elicitation of a student’s knowledge state have inspired researchers to propose distinct models to understand that knowledge state. Recently, the spotlight has shone on comparisons between traditional, interpretable models such as Bayesian Knowledge Tracing (BKT) and complex, opaque neural network models such as Deep Knowledge Tracing (DKT). Although DKT appears to be a powerful predictive model, little effort has been expended to dissect the source of its strength. We begin with the observation that DKT differs from BKT along three dimensions: (1) DKT is a neural network with many free parameters, whereas BKT is a probabilistic model with few free parameters; (2) a single instance of DKT is used to model all skills in a domain, whereas a separate instance of BKT is constructed for each skill; and (3) the input to DKT interlaces practice from multiple skills, whereas the input to BKT is separated by skill. We tease apart these three dimensions by constructing versions of DKT which are trained on single skills and which are trained on sequences separated by skill. Exploration of three data sets reveals that dimensions (1) and (3) are critical; dimension (2) is not. Our investigation gives us insight into the structural regularities in the data that DKT is able to exploit but that BKT cannot.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes
Event11th International Conference on Educational Data Mining, EDM 2018 - Buffalo, United States
Duration: Jul 15 2018Jul 18 2018


Conference11th International Conference on Educational Data Mining, EDM 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited States


  • Deep learning
  • Knowledge tracing
  • Online education
  • Personalized learning
  • Sequential modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Information Systems


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