Difference between revisions of "REAP Study on Personalization of Readings by Topic (Fall 2006)"

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Revision as of 15:52, 20 December 2006

REAP Study on Personalization of Readings for Increased Interest


Intrinsic motivation and personal interest have been shown to lead to deeper processing, the use of learning strategies, and better learning outcomes (Lepper, 1988). Therefore, it seems reasonable to try to increase interest in a tutoring environment. Previous studies have shown both positive (Cordova & Lepper, 1997) and negative (Clark & Mayer, 2003) effects of attempts to increase interest. Clark and Mayer (2003) state that adding interest but irrelevant material may distract or disrupt the learner.

This study investigated the effects of personalizing practice readings by topic. The REAP tutor for ESL vocabulary can prefer practice readings that match personal interests as specified in a questionnaire. However, if this preference is included as a factor in reading selection, then other factors, such as the density of practice opportunities in a reading, are necessarily given less weight. Finding a reading for a student is like searching for an optimal point in a multidimensional space. In practice, the tutor never finds optimal readings, but must weigh different factors against each other (e.g., reading difficulty, length, density of practice opportunities, etc.). Adding personalization as another factor may significantly affect the tutor's ability to find readings of high quality according to other factors.


Intrinsic Motivation: Motivation to learn for learning's own sake rather than some external goal.

Extrinsic Motivation: Motivation for learn in order to satisfy an external goal, such as completing a task or passing an assessment.

Personalization: The preference of practice materials to match the personal interests of the learner. In this context, this term is used as it is in information retrieval rather than as in Mayer's work (Clark & Mayer, 2003) where it means using casual, direct language.

Research question

Do the benefits of personalization of practice readings by topics of interest outweigh the costs in a tutoring system for ESL vocabulary practice?

Dependent variables

Immediate post-test scores for practiced words.

Number of words practiced

Overall post-test scores (essentially a product of the previous two)

Long-term retention test scores similar to post-test but administered months later.

Transfer of knowledge: sentence production tasks for target words, correct use of words in writing assignments for other courses.

Independent variables

Personalization of readings by topics of interest. In the control condition, the tutor did not use potential personal interest as a factor in its selection of reading materials. In the treatment condition, the tutor did use interest as a factor. All other selection criteria were the same in both conditions. Time on task was also the same.


Since intrinsic motivation seems to be important in language learning, the benefits of personalization will outweigh the costs.


Results pending acceptance of paper.


Submitted paper to appear here.

Annotated bibliography

Clark, R. C. and Mayer, R. E. (2003). e-Learning and the Science of Instruction. Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.

Cordova, D. I. & Lepper, M. R. (1996). Intrinsic Motivation and the Process of Learning: Beneficial Effects of Contextualization, Personalization, and Choice. Journal of Educational Psychology. Vol. 88,l No. 4, 715-730.

Lepper, M. (1988). Motivational Considerations in the Study of Instruction. Cognition and Instruction. 5(4), 289-309.