Sam Spaulding Dissertation Defense

Dissertation Title: Lifelong Personalization for Social Language/Literacy Companions: Interactive Student Modeling Across Tasks and Over Time


Personalized student modeling helps promote student learning and engagement. To advance the sophistication of personalized modeling, we require personalized interaction data from a student. In order to elicit useful quantities and kinds of personalized student data, researchers have employed long-term interaction designs, which occur over several sessions at different times. This thesis broadens the scope of single-task "long-term personalization", introducing "multi-task personalized" interactions, which occur across different task contexts. Both "long-term" and "multi-task" personalized interaction designs are mirrored by an associated shift in algorithm and model design: continual learning, which accounts for the temporal sequence in which data is received and assumes a dynamic or non-stationary modeling target, and transfer learning, which accounts for the task in which training data originated and uses data from one 'source' task to more quickly learn a model in a different 'target' task. When we combine these two algorithmic paradigms, yielding flexible personalized models that can model individuals over time and across tasks, we call this "lifelong personalization". In this thesis, I evaluate the impact of adopting continual and transfer learning methods in designing adaptive, personalized models of students over time and across tasks. By evaluating new methods for flexible, adaptive student personalization within a suite of custom-designed games for promoting young children language and literacy skills, this thesis contributes both algorithmic and human-centered insights for the future practice of educational human-robot interactions.

Committee members: 

Professor Cynthia Breazeal (advisor)Professor of Media Arts & Sciences at MIT
Professor Rosalind Picard Professor of Media Arts & Sciences at MIT
Professor Julie Shah 
Associate Professor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT
Professor Robin Morris 
Regent’s Professor of Psychology at Georgia State University
Hae Won Park,
 Research Scientist, MIT Media Lab

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