Research and Development

Adaptive Instructional Systems and Attention Training


Attention span is the amount of time that learners can spend concentrating on tasks. Sustained attention develops through childhood and into adulthood, with a period of accelerated development occurring during early and middle childhood (Slattery, O’Callaghan, Ryan, Fortune, & McAvinue, 2022).

Attention training is a part of education. Learners are trained to remain focused on discussion topics for extended periods of time and to develop listening and analytical skills in the process. For over a century, there has been keen interest in improving children’s attention in educational contexts.

Adaptive instructional systems, a comparably recent development, adapt instruction based upon learners’ states of engagement, arousal, motivation, prior knowledge, anxiety, and engaged concentration (Sottilare & Goodwin, 2017).

A tutoring strategy for learners in states of engaged concentration might be to “do nothing” because they would already be in ideal states for learning. However, a longer-term tutoring strategy might be to strengthen learners’ capabilities to maintain their states of sustained attention and concentration.

Attention Training

How can adaptive instructional systems scheduling learners’ homework items contribute to increasing their attention spans and concentration?

Computer-administered and strategically, adaptively scheduled educational exercises and activities could be organized into gamified sprints, each sprint containing one or more stages. Learners would be encouraged to only take a break from or to conclude their schoolwork at the completion of a sprint stage and not in the middle of one.

To encourage the sustained, uninterrupted completion of schoolwork, the gamification could be such that a learner would have to repeat an entire sprint stage from the beginning – though not necessarily with the exact same items – if they didn’t finish it before taking a break or concluding. That is, checkpoints or save points could be provided only after sprint stages.

Adaptive instructional systems would control when sprints were presented to learners, the number of stages and items that would be in each, and their other properties including whether or not they would have countdown timers for successful completions. Informed by models of learners, adaptive instructional systems would be able to create and to utilize sprints to encourage capable learners to complete just one more item or just a few more items.

The goal posts for individual learners’ daily and weekly educational exercises and activities would be placed by adaptive instructional systems to be, on average, just a bit ahead of their comfort zones but within their performance capabilities.

Cognitive Load and Fatigue

What differentiates homework items from one another in terms of their attentional, concentrative, and other cognitive demands? For each item, for each learner, for a pace of progression, which cognitive reservoirs are depleted and to which extents? At which rates do individual learners’ various cognitive reservoirs replenish? Which cognitive reservoirs exist alongside redundant others, and which do not?

Cognitive load can be defined as a multidimensional construct representing the load that performing a particular task imposes on a learner’s cognitive system. The construct has a causal dimension reflecting the interaction between task and learner characteristics and an assessment dimension reflecting the measurable concepts of mental load, mental effort, and performance. Task characteristics that have been identified in previous research include task format, task complexity, uses of multimedia, time pressure, and the pacing of instruction (Paas, Tuovinen, Tabbers, & Van Gerven, 2003).

Xie and Salvendy (2000) distinguished between instantaneous load, peak load, accumulated load, average load, and overall load. Instantaneous load represents the dynamics of cognitive load, which fluctuate each moment that a learner works on a task. Peak load is the maximum value of instantaneous load while working on a task. Accumulated load is the total amount of load that a learner experiences during a task. Average load represents the mean intensity of load during the performance of a task. Overall load is the experienced load based on the whole working procedure or the mapping of instantaneous load or accumulated and average load in the learner’s brain.

Cognitive fatigue can be understood to be an “executive failure to maintain and optimize performance over acute but sustained cognitive effort resulting in performance that is lower and more variable than the individual’s optimal ability” (Holtzer, Shuman, Mahoney, Lipton, & Verghese, 2010). Cognitive fatigue typically develops gradually over time as a person engages in prolonged and demanding mental activities.

Cognitive fatigue may be assessed either subjectively or objectively. Subjective cognitive fatigue involves learners’ perceptions of their exhaustion. Objective cognitive fatigue is measured by changes in cognitive performance relative to a baseline (Karim, Pavel, Nikanfar, Hebri, Roy, Nambiappan, Jaiswal, Wylie, & Makedon, 2024).

While learners can express subjective cognitive fatigue to adaptive instructional systems at any point, considered, here, are automatically detecting learners’ instantaneous, accumulated, and overall cognitive load and objective cognitive fatigue as they progress through and complete strategically, adaptively scheduled homework items from one or more courses.

Related Work

For over a century, there has been keen interest in improving children’s attention in educational contexts. There have been, thus far, three broad approaches to strengthening attention: attention network training, attention state training, and attention strategy training.

The first approach, attention network training – also referred to as cognitive training or brain training – involves the repetitive practice of cognitive tasks specifically thought to exercise neural networks related to attention.

Adaptive instructional systems could, in theory, intersperse attention-related cognitive tasks into learners’ multi-course, multi-objective schedules of homework items. However, a review of 14 attention network training intervention studies from 1999 to 2021 found that these cognitive tasks, these approaches, did not reliably improve sustained attention capacity (Slattery, O’Callaghan, Ryan, Fortune, & McAvinue, 2022).

The second approach, attention state training, involves practice designed to train brain states thought to influence attention and other networks. Attention state training may also involve networks but, importantly, does not include cognitive tasks specifically designed to train attentional networks.

Adaptive instructional systems could strategically schedule homework items and incorporate gamification, e.g., sprints, to contribute to the strengthening of attention span and concentration. Such techniques can be used in combination with other attention state training activities such as physical activity and meditation. Adaptive instructional systems could also intersperse meditative and mindfulness activities during learners’ homework activities.

The third approach, strategy training, focuses on practicing strategies that momentarily boost attention.

With respect to adaptive instructional systems and gamification, previous works include explorations into uses of: avatars, badges, progress bars, levels, narratives / stories, special effects, non-player characters, tasks / quests, timers, leaderboards, bonuses / rewards / trophies / collectibles, points, roles, virtual currencies, and maps (Ramadhan, Warnars, & Razak, 2023; Seaborn & Fels, 2015).


Adaptive instructional systems can incorporate gamification to strategically, adaptively schedule learners’ homework items from one or more courses, e.g., into sprints, to motivate learners to sustain attention and concentration.

Over the course of time, these processes should increase learners’ capabilities to their maximum potentials. As a result, learners’ performances in other areas for which sustained attention and concentration are prerequisites should also tend to improve.


Holtzer, Roee, Melissa Shuman, Jeannette R. Mahoney, Richard Lipton, and Joe Verghese. "Cognitive fatigue defined in the context of attention networks." Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition 18, no. 1 (2010): 108-128.

Karim, Enamul, Hamza R. Pavel, Sama Nikanfar, Aref Hebri, Ayon Roy, Harish R. Nambiappan, Ashish Jaiswal, Glenn R. Wylie, and Fillia Makedon. "Examining the landscape of cognitive fatigue detection: A comprehensive survey." Technologies 12, no. 3 (2024): 38.

Paas, Fred, Juhani E. Tuovinen, Huib Tabbers, and Pascal W. M. Van Gerven. "Cognitive load measurement as a means to advance cognitive load theory." Educational Psychologist 38, no. 1 (2003): 63-71.

Ramadhan, Arief, Harco L. H. S. Warnars, and Fariza H. A. Razak. "Combining intelligent tutoring systems and gamification: A systematic literature review." Education and Information Technologies (2023): 1-37.

Seaborn, Katie, and Deborah I. Fels. "Gamification in theory and action: A survey." International Journal of Human-computer Studies 74 (2015): 14-31.

Slattery, Éadaoin J., Eoin O’Callaghan, Patrick Ryan, Donal G. Fortune, and Laura P. McAvinue. "Popular interventions to enhance sustained attention in children and adolescents: A critical systematic review." Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 137 (2022): 104633.

Sottilare, Robert A., and Gregory A. Goodwin. "Adaptive instructional methods to accelerate learning and enhance learning capacity." In International Defense and Homeland Security Simulation Workshop of the I3M Conference. 2017.

Xie, Bin, and Gavriel Salvendy. "Prediction of mental workload in single and multiple tasks environments." International Journal of Cognitive Ergonomics 4, no. 3 (2000): 213-242.

Adaptive Instructional Systems and Recreational Mathematics


Mathematics is the queen of the sciences and vital to nations’ education objectives. How can it be made more enjoyable and fun for learners of all ages?

Comparative Mathematics Curriculum

In the United States, while mathematics curriculum varies across schools and districts, traditionally, high-school mathematics has been separated by topics, each topic typically lasting for an entire school year. Students might study algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus as separate courses.

In nearly all other countries throughout the world, a more integrated approach is followed. In integrated approaches, high-school students take mathematics courses which cover a variety of mathematical topics.

In integrated and holistic curricular approaches, adaptive instructional systems for scheduling educational exercises and activities would seemingly have greater opportunities for making use of variety to alleviate the tedium of rote exercise.

Recreational Mathematics

Singmaster (1992) described recreational mathematics as being a treasury of problems which make mathematics more fun and he noted that, in medieval arithmetic texts, recreational questions were interspersed with more straightforward problems to provide breaks in the hard slog of learning.

How can the ancient art of interspersing fun and enjoyable items be analyzed and understood in a modern scientific manner?

Mathematics Education

Rowlett, Smith, Corner, O'Sullivan, and Woldock (2019) indicated that teaching using games has been shown to improve engagement and attitudes and that recreational mathematics has the potential to develop and expand mathematical skills, including problem-solving, and to deepen understanding.

Artificial Intelligence

Lopez-Morteo and Lopez (2007) indicated that uses of electronic learning environments for recreational mathematics learning objects positively affect student attitudes towards mathematics. They believed that such approaches have “the potential to promote the mathematics learning process, basically on its motivational aspects.”

McNamara, Jackson, and Graesser (2010) hypothesized that intelligent tutoring systems could be rendered more engaging to learners, and thus more effective in promoting learning by incorporating motivational components. They examined “benefits of incorporating game-based components within established tutoring systems to improve motivational aspects.”

They indicated several constructs related to and intertwined with motivation including self-regulation, self-efficacy, interest, and engagement. In addition to modeling learners’ mathematical proficiencies, learners could be modeled with respect to their affect, mood, self-efficacy, interest, engagement, flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 1988), and motivation.


Recreational mathematics puzzles and games, making mathematics more fun, can be scheduled and interspersed by adaptive instructional systems, e.g., educational recommender systems and intelligent tutoring systems, to alleviate the tedium of rote exercise, the slog of learning, and to enhance affect, mood, self-efficacy, interest, engagement, flow, and motivation.


Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. "The flow experience and its significance for human psychology." Optimal Experience: Psychological Studies of Flow in Consciousness 2 (1988): 15-35.

Lopez-Morteo, Gabriel, and Gilberto Lopez. "Computer support for learning mathematics: A learning environment based on recreational learning objects." Computers & Education 48, no. 4 (2007): 618-641.

McNamara, Danielle S., G. Tanner Jackson, and Art Graesser. "Intelligent tutoring and games (ITaG)." In Gaming for Classroom-based learning: Digital Role Playing as a Motivator of Study, pp. 44-65. IGI Global, 2010.

Rowlett, Peter, Edward Smith, Alexander S. Corner, David O'Sullivan, and Jeff Waldock. "The potential of recreational mathematics to support the development of mathematical learning." International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology 50, no. 7 (2019): 972-986.

Singmaster, David. "The unreasonable utility of recreational mathematics." In Lecture for the First European Congress of Mathematics, Paris. 1992.

Alignment and Legal Information Retrieval


The challenge addressed here is that of ensuring that all applicable rules, laws, and regulations are loaded into artificial-intelligence agents' working memories as they encounter wide, potentially open-ended, sets of situations.

By agents being able to search for, retrieve, and load applicable rules, laws, and regulations into their working memories, they could be in alignment with these items and subsequently select actions in accordance with them.

Conversational search engines for rules, laws, and regulations could, through dialogue, ask questions about narrated situations to better retrieve applicable search results. Through dialogue, search results could be accompanied by explanation or argumentation connecting them to input situations.


The goal of artificial-intelligence alignment is to ensure that artificial intelligence systems are properly aligned with human values (Gabriel, 2020).

This goal can be phrased as: (1) agents doing what they are instructed to do, (2) agents doing what they are intended to do, (3) agents doing what humans' behavior reveals them to prefer, (4) agents doing what humans would, if rational and informed, want them to do, (5) agents doing what is in the best interests of humans, objectively, or (6) agents doing what they morally ought, as defined by human individuals and society.

"If law is leveraged as a set of methodologies for conveying and interpreting directives and a knowledge base of societal values, it can play a unique role in aligning AI with humans" (Nay, 2022).

Agents are expected to comply with rules, laws, and regulations. The number of rules, laws, and regulations is expected to be large. For each rule, law, and regulation, for each considered action, agents are expected to verify that that action is in compliance. Ideally, agents will be able to act in real-time while performing these computations.

Legal Information Retrieval

"In any given matter, before legal reasoning can take place, the reasoning agent must first engage in a task of 'law search' to identify the legal knowledge – cases, statutes, or regulations – that bear on the questions being addressed. This task may seem straightforward or obvious, but upon inspection, it presents difficult problems of definition and is challenging to represent in a tractable formalization that can be computationally executed" (Dadgostari, Guim, Beling, Livermore, & Rockmore, 2021).

Legal search engines could be of use for agents to search for and retrieve those rules, laws, and regulations applicable to their internal states, world models, and working memory contents.

Multi-agent Systems

Conversational legal search engines could interface as agents participating in multi-agent systems.


Agents' internal states, world models, and working memory contents and the transcripts from multi-agent systems' dialogues could be evaluated to determine whether applicable rules, laws, and regulations were properly loaded and available.

Event logs involving agents' internal states, world models, and working memories could be created, these perhaps accompanying multi-agent transcripts or recordings of environments.

Development and operations processes for ensuring that applicable rules, laws, and regulations are loaded by agents and multi-agent systems could be increasingly computer-aided or automated.


Dadgostari, Faraz, Mauricio Guim, Peter A. Beling, Michael A. Livermore, and Daniel N. Rockmore. "Modeling law search as prediction." Artificial Intelligence and Law 29 (2021): 3-34.

Gabriel, Iason. "Artificial intelligence, values, and alignment." Minds and Machines 30, no. 3 (2020): 411-437.

Nay, John J. "Law informs code: A legal informatics approach to aligning artificial intelligence with humans." Northwestern Journal of Technology and Intellectual Property 20 (2022): 309.

Agents with Internal States


With respect to creating believable artificial-intelligence agents, rule-based approaches have been explored for four decades and modern approaches include uses of large language models (Park, O’Brien, Cai, Morris, Liang, & Bernstein, 2023).

Generative artificial-intelligence models hold the potential to advance believable agent architectures through the integration of various emotional models (Hutson & Ratican, 2023). Emotional models can be utilized in the training, fine-tuning, prompting, and evaluation of generative models.

Considered here are hybrid artificial-intelligence architectures which leverage both large language models and other rule-based systems or ancillary models to manage their internal states.

For agents, internal states have uses and applications which include the simulation of ethological drives, desires, motivations, emotions, and moods. Internal states can also enhance task-solving (Wu, Yue, Zhang, Wang, & Wu, 2024).

Possibilities for transitioning agents’ internal states include consulting large language models informed by agents’ prompts, timers, cues, and other game or program logic.

Upon changes or updates to agents’ rule-based components or ancillary models representing aspects of their internal states, agents’ prompts for large language models could be modified, i.e., their task or instruction descriptions or their character or persona descriptions. Such modifications to agents’ prompts would enable stateful aspects to their dialogue and behavior.


Hutson, James, and Jay Ratican. "Leveraging generative agents: Autonomous AI with simulated personas for interactive simulacra and collaborative research." Journal of Innovation and Technology 2023, no. 15 (2023).

Park, Joon Sung, Joseph O’Brien, Carrie Jun Cai, Meredith Ringel Morris, Percy Liang, and Michael S. Bernstein. “Generative agents: Interactive simulacra of human behavior.” In Proceedings of the 36th Annual ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology, pp. 1-22. 2023.

Wu, Yiran, Tianwei Yue, Shaokun Zhang, Chi Wang, and Qingyun Wu. “StateFlow: Enhancing LLM task-solving through state-driven workflows.” arXiv preprint arXiv:2403.11322 (2024).

Multi-agent Question-answering Systems


Agents representing ideological stances, positions, perspectives, or schools of thought can serve in multi-agent systems which generate encyclopedic answers to end-users' complex questions.

Agent Design, Reuse and Selection

Large language models can generate content while role-playing, or impersonating, characters and personas (Shanahan, McDonell, & Reynolds, 2023). They can be fine-tuned using the works of individual philosophers to subsequently generate virtually indistinguishable responses (Schwitzgebel, Schwitzgebel, & Strasser, 2023). They can generate content from specified stances, positions, perspectives, and schools of thought. They can also generate content aligned with the attitudes and opinions of described groups, sub-populations, or demographics of interest (Santurkar, Durmus, Ladhak, Lee, Liang, & Hashimoto, 2023).

When should agents be searched for, retrieved, reused, designed, created, or varied? Which agents should be consulted when generating encyclopedic answers to end-users’ complex questions? Which agents’ responses would prove most valuable to consolidate, summarize, or synthesize into resultant encyclopedic answers? Should it be anticipated that selected teams of agents will recur across questions?

Automatically and manually designed agents, beyond potentially differing in terms of their models, training, fine-tuning, and prompts, could be provided with differing libraries of documents and could weigh, rank, or prioritize these documents differently.

Should agents and their libraries of documents be logically consistent and ideologically coherent? How will agents synthesize multiple challenging, potentially conflicting documents on complex issues and the arguments in them? Will these capabilities, additionally or instead, be emergent capabilities of orchestrated multi-agent systems?

Multi-agent Orchestration

Processes and strategies from multiple-text comprehension, reading group discussions, the Socratic method, the dialectic method, consensus building, group decision-making, and synthesis writing are anticipated to be of use to manager, facilitator, or moderator agents orchestrating teams of other agents, some representing individuals, groups, stances, positions, perspectives, or schools of thought.

Multiple-text comprehension results from processes and strategies with which readers make sense of complex topics or issues based on information presented in multiple texts. These processes and strategies are necessary when readers encounter multiple challenging, conflicting documents on complex issues (Anmarkrud, Bråten, & Strømsø, 2014; List & Alexander, 2017).

Reading group discussion strategies can enhance multiple readers’ comprehensions of texts. Transcripts from these multi-agent processes should prove valuable to consolidate, summarize, or synthesize (Goldenberg, 1992; Berne & Clark, 2008).

The principles and guidelines of the Socratic method include: the use of open-ended questions, clarifications of terms, providing examples and evidence, challenging arguments, summarization, drawing conclusions, and reflecting on the process. These key principles are realized through strategies such as: definition, generalization, induction, elenchus, hypothesis elimination, maieutics, dialectic, recollection, irony, and analogy (Chang, 2023).

The dialectic method involves dialogues between groups holding different points of view about subjects but wishing to arrive at truths through reasoned argumentation. With respect to multi-agent systems, formal, computational, and game-theoretic approaches have been and remain topics of ongoing research (Wells, 2007). The advancement of large-language-model-based agents has inspired a renewed interest in multi-agent argumentation and debate (Du, Li, Torralba, Tenenbaum, & Mordatch, 2023; Wang, Yue, & Sun, 2023; Wang, Du, Yu, Chen, Zhu, Chu, Yan, & Guan, 2023).

Processes which to build rational consensus and related decision-making procedures may be brought to bear during the orchestration of multi-agent systems (Lehrer & Wagner, 2012).

Synthesis writing is a set of processes and strategies through which the contents of multiple texts, including agent-generated contents, can be integrated into resultant output texts (Van Ockenburg, van Weijen, & Rijlaarsdam, 2019; Van Steendam, Vandermeulen, De Maeyer, Lesterhuis, Van den Bergh, & Rijlaarsdam, 2022). Argumentative synthesis writing combines intratextual and intertextual integration processes and strategies to generate texts from diverse sources, perspectives, and arguments (Mateos, Martín, Cuevas, Villalón, Martínez, & González-Lamas, 2018).

Document Generation

Teams of agents could search for, retrieve, reuse, or generate new documents and subcomponents combining natural language, structured knowledge, source code, multimedia, charts, diagrams, and infographics.

Let us consider computational notebooks, e.g., Mathematica and Jupyter notebooks, and hypermedia encyclopedia articles. Relationships between these include that encyclopedia articles have layouts with respect to their subcomponents and that these subcomponents could be results of generative computations described in computational-notebook cells.

Building upon previous research into the automatic generation of open-domain encyclopedia articles while considering these relationships, a preliminary approach is presented here to utilize planners to orchestrate agentic systems to search for, retrieve, reuse, or generate new layouts and content-related macroplans (Bao, 2023; Qiao, Li, Zhang, He, Kang, Zhang, Yang, et al., 2023; Wu, Bansal, Zhang, Wu, Zhang, Zhu, Li, Jiang, Zhang, & Wang, 2023).

Content-related macroplans would be provided to subordinate agentic systems orchestrated by the aforementioned manager, facilitator, or moderator agents. Individual agents in these subordinate teams would either: (1) interact with one another via natural language with these interactions then consolidated, summarized, or synthesized, or (2) otherwise engage with one another on collaborative software platforms such that their structured interactions would automatically result in natural-language content.

The production, preservation, aggregation, analysis, and maintenance of citations to referenced materials through these processes would be subjects of continuing research (Gao, Yen, Yu, & Chen, 2023).

Specialized agents would be invoked to produce kinds of computational-notebook cells positioned in layouts from which document subcomponents, e.g., multimedia, charts, diagrams, and infographics, could be searched for, retrieved, reused, or generated (Dibia, 2023).

Documents and their individual subcomponents would be subsequently editable, each having one or more accompanying computational-notebook cells, a changelog or revision history, and a discussion forum or other collaborative space. This would enhance the subsequent reusability and revisability of generated documents and their subcomponents while enabling man-machine collaboration scenarios.

Man-machine Collaboration

Transcripts of multi-agent processes could be preserved and accompany resultant documents and their subcomponents. These transcripts could be forum-based, having multiple threads of structured discussions, or could be more intricate.

People and artificial-intelligence agents could interact in these multi-threaded, structured discussion forums or collaboration spaces. Man-machine interactions could potentially result in automatic updates to documents or their subcomponents.

Automatically-generated content could include hyperlinks, context menu items, or other means of navigating from portions of content to any relevant argumentation or procedures in the accompanying multi-threaded, structured discussion forums or collaboration spaces.

Changelogs or revision histories could accompany documents and their subcomponents. People and artificial-intelligence agents could provide rationale, explanations, or justifications in them for modifications made to reusable, revisable documents and their subcomponents.

People could be provided with opportunities to provide structured feedback or open-ended, natural-language comments about portions of documents, sections, paragraphs, sentences, or content selections, and about other document subcomponents. These feedback, comments, and annotations could be displayed for only those opting into viewing them or quality-filtered subsets. When displayed, these could be expandable margin notes proximate to relevant document content.

People desiring to provide feedback or comments about document could additionally be provided with opportunities to interact with dialogue systems conducting contextual and adaptive surveys and opinion polls.


How should encyclopedic answers to end-users’ complex questions be evaluated? How should agents’ performances in coordinated dialogues, debates, and processes be evaluated? How should their contributions to collaborative document-generation processes be evaluated?

With evaluation frameworks and rubrics, components of automatically or manually designed and varied agents could be independently measured and compared. These kinds of scientific architectures could empower teams of humans to continuously improve multi-agent systems.

Large language models have been evaluated with respect to their exhibited moral beliefs (Scherrer, Shi, Feder, & Blei, 2023).

Algorithmic fidelity is defined to be the degree to which the complex patterns of relationships between ideas, attitudes, and socio-cultural contexts within a model accurately mirror those within a range of human sub-populations (Argyle, Busby, Fulda, Gubler, Rytting, & Wingate, 2023).

Value stability, the adherence to roles, characters, or personas during unfolding interactions, is argued to be another dimension of large language model comparison and evaluation alongside knowledge, model size, and speed (Kovač, Portelas, Sawayama, Dominey, & Oudeyer, 2024).

With respect to resultant encyclopedic answers, desired qualities include: verifiability and accuracy, objectivity, and neutrality, plurality, diversity, fairness, balance, and comprehensiveness with respect to relevant points of view (McGrady, 2020).

Related Work

Socratic assistants have been explored for both moral enhancement and educational purposes (Lara & Deckers, 2020). The manager, facilitator, or moderator agents, discussed above, could coordinate teams comprised of artificial-intelligence agents, humans, or combinations of both.

Artificial intelligence systems for facilitation with respect to group meetings and discussions have been previously researched in the form of group support systems (Bostrom, Anson, & Clawson, 1993).

Educational applications of the technologies under discussion include intelligent tutoring systems for teams (Sottilare, Burke, Salas, Sinatra, Johnston, & Gilbert, 2018) and artificial-intelligence-enhanced pedagogical discussion forums (Butcher, Read, Jensen, Morel, Nagurney, & Smith, 2020).

Artificial intelligence systems capable of debating with humans are a subject of ongoing research (Slonim, Bilu, Alzate, Bar-Haim, Bogin, Bonin, & Choshen, 2021).

Modular systems containing multiple interlocutors, each with their own distinct points of view reflecting their training in a diversity of concrete wisdom traditions, have been previously considered (Volkman & Gabriels, 2023).


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Wang, Haotian, Xiyuan Du, Weijiang Yu, Qianglong Chen, Kun Zhu, Zheng Chu, Lian Yan, and Yi Guan. "Apollo's oracle: Retrieval-augmented reasoning in multi-agent debates." arXiv preprint arXiv:2312.04854 (2023).

Wells, Simon. "Formal dialectical games in multiagent argumentation." PhD thesis, University of Dundee, 2007.

Wu, Qingyun, Gagan Bansal, Jieyu Zhang, Yiran Wu, Shaokun Zhang, Erkang Zhu, Beibin Li, Li Jiang, Xiaoyun Zhang, and Chi Wang. "AutoGen: Enabling next-gen LLM applications via multi-agent conversation framework." arXiv preprint arXiv:2308.08155 (2023).

Role-playing Language Agents


Personas for role-playing language agents can be categorized into three distinct categories: demographic personas, character personas, and individualized personas (Chen, Wang, Xu, Tuan, Zhang, Shi, & Xie, 2024). Demographic personas focus on groups of people sharing common characteristics. Character personas represent well-established, widely-recognized individuals. Individualized personas refer to digital profiles built and continuously updated based on personalized user data.

Character Profiling

Character profiling is summarizing profiles for characters from fictional stories (Yuan, Yuan, Cui, Lin, Wang, Xu, Chen, & Yang, 2024).

A character profile encompasses attributes, relationships, events, and personality. The basic attributes of a character encompass gender, skills, talents, objectives, and background. A character’s interpersonal relationships are a vital aspect of their profile. Events cover the experiences that characters have been part of or impacted by, marking a critical dimension of their profile. Personality refers to the lasting set of characteristics and behaviors that form an individual’s unique way of adapting to life (Yuan, Yuan, Cui, Lin, Wang, Xu, Chen, & Yang, 2024).

Other studies into persona-based decision-making similarly involve descriptions of characters, composed of the characters’ basic situations and storylines, and characters’ memories of current scenes, which can offer more detail (Xu, Wang, Chen, Yuan, Yuan, Liang, Chen, Dong, & Xiao, 2024).


The evaluation of role-playing language agents has two primary categories of criteria: role-playing capability evaluation and persona fidelity evaluation. Role-playing capability evaluations concern aspects such as anthropomorphic abilities, attractiveness, and usefulness, which encompass more granular dimensions including conversation ability, engagement, persona consistency, emotion understanding, theory of mind, and problem-solving ability. Persona fidelity evaluation concentrates on whether individual agents well replicate the intended personas, including their knowledge, linguistic habits, personality, beliefs, and decision-making (Chen, Wang, Xu, Tuan, Zhang, Shi, & Xie, 2024).

With respect to the evaluation of character profiling, there are internal and external evaluation. Internal evaluation involves factual consistency examination, comparing the model-summarized character profiles with reference profiles. External evaluation involves motivation recognition, thoroughly evaluating whether the summarized character profiles enhance models’ understanding of characters’ essences, investigating whether character profiles generated by models effectively aid in comprehending characters’ motivations behind their decisions (Yuan, Yuan, Cui, Lin, Wang, Xu, Chen, & Yang, 2024).


Chen, Jiangjie, Xintao Wang, Rui Xu, Siyu Yuan, Yikai Zhang, Wei Shi, Jian Xie et al. "From persona to personalization: A survey on role-playing language agents." arXiv preprint arXiv:2404.18231 (2024).

Xu, Rui, Xintao Wang, Jiangjie Chen, Siyu Yuan, Xinfeng Yuan, Jiaqing Liang, Zulong Chen, Xiaoqing Dong, and Yanghua Xiao. "Character is destiny: Can large language models simulate persona-driven decisions in role-playing?." arXiv preprint arXiv:2404.12138 (2024).

Yuan, Xinfeng, Siyu Yuan, Yuhan Cui, Tianhe Lin, Xintao Wang, Rui Xu, Jiangjie Chen, and Deqing Yang. "Evaluating character understanding of large language models via character profiling from fictional works." arXiv preprint arXiv:2404.12726 (2024).

The Recommendation of Advice and Wisdom


Wise people share advice and wisdom in the forms of allegories, anecdotes, aphorisms, apologues, fables, folklore, historical analogues, jokes, literature, lyrics, parables, poems, proverbs, quotations, stories, and witticisms. It is a multidisciplinary challenge to build artificial intelligence systems capable of these tasks.

Towards solving this challenge, a new approach is presented: story-based search and recommendation. In this approach, individuals provide stories to retrieve content that is to be useful for selected story characters. The stories they provide could be real-world stories and the characters they select, in these cases, could be themselves or other people. Interestingly, individuals’ social media posts and feeds could be of similar use for establishing contexts for search and recommendation.

While the comprehension of story and social situations are key to the contextual search for and recommendation of advice and wisdom, there is a need for overarching architectures, frameworks, and models for artificial intelligence systems to best do so at scale. Intelligent coaching systems are indicated to be of use in these regards.

Search and recommender system approaches are considered here, in addition to dialogue systems and chatbots, because intelligent coaching systems, at scale, are envisioned as extensively reusing items, e.g., messages of advice, rather than utilizing natural-language generation algorithms to contextually produce new such messages for individuals in an on-the-fly manner.

Applications of the technologies under discussion include social media, education, library and information science, knowledge management, and history.

Story-based Search and Recommendation

In story-based search and recommendation, individuals provide stories to retrieve content that is to be useful for selected story characters. These provided stories can be fictional or real-world stories.

Use case scenarios for fictional stories include their uses in training, testing, and evaluation. These datasets could utilize metadata for indicating stories’ reading levels and other developmental narratological factors.

Use case scenarios for real-world stories include those where individuals seek to retrieve content for themselves and those where individuals, e.g., peers, teachers, or guidance counselors, seek to retrieve content for other individuals or audiences.

Stories provide a natural means of establishing cognitive contexts. Viewing them in this way, active or conversational story comprehension can be considered. Narratees can ask questions of narrators during conversational processes of narration. Vague or partial cognitive story comprehension contexts can inform narratees’ processes of forming questions for narrators about unfolding narratives.

In incremental story-based search and recommendation, individuals engage in dialogues, narrating to artificial intelligence systems, and receive dynamically updating lists of recommended content for selected story characters. These recommended items could include question items and individuals could select these to have systems ask them them in unfolding dialogues. As individuals narrate to and answer questions from artificial intelligence systems incrementally comprehending their stories, content recommendations for selected characters would be provided.

Story and Social Comprehension

In order for artificial intelligence systems to be able to search for and recommend content for selected characters in provided stories, these systems should be able to comprehend stories.

One thing which separates machine reading comprehension from text processing is inferencing. Taxonomies describing reading-related inferences make distinctions between: automatic and strategic; online and offline; text-connecting, knowledge-based, and extratextual; local and global; coherence and elaborative; unconscious and conscious; bridging; text-connecting and gap-filling; coherence, elaborative, knowledge-based, and evaluative; and anaphoric, text-to-text, and background-to-text (Kispal, 2008).

Types of reading-related inferences include: referential, case structure role assignment, antecedent causal, superordinate goal, thematic, character emotion, causal consequence, instantiation noun category, instrument, subordinate goal action, state, reader’s emotion, and author’s intent (Graesser, Singer, & Trabasso, 1994).

Situation models, types of mental models, were devised to understand comprehension. These models are applicable to both story and social comprehension (Morrow, Bower, & Greenspan, 1989; Zwaan, Magliano, & Graesser, 1995; Zwaan & Radvansky, 1998; Wyer Jr, 2003).

Early research into machine story comprehension produced artificial intelligence systems which applied scripts, plans, plot units, and thematic structures. Examples of such systems include: SAM, PAM, FRUMP, and BORIS (László, 2008).

More recently, character networks can be extracted from stories (Labatut & Bost, 2019). In these dynamic networks, nodes correspond to characters and edges to the interactions between them. These nodes and edges can be mapped to embedding vectors (Lee & Jung, 2020; Hoang, Jeon, You, Yoon, Jung, & Lee, 2023).

Similarly, individuals in dynamic social-media networks can be mapped to embedding vectors (Pan & Ding, 2019; Hoang, Jeon, You, Yoon, Jung, & Lee, 2023).

Human lives can be viewed as sequences of events and represented in a way which shares a structural similarity with language. In the “life2vec” approach, resultant embedding spaces were found to be robust and highly structured (Savcisens, Eliassi-Rad, Hansen, Mortensen, Lilleholt, Rogers, Zettler, & Lehmann, 2023).

Characters in fictional and real-world stories could be mapped to corresponding “life2vec” vectors. These vectors would be updated as pertinent events occurred. With computational representations of situational contexts which include embedding vectors for characters, story-based contextual recommendations could be made for selected characters.

Systems capable of predicting stories’ trajectories and inferring characters’ mental states would make better story-based contextual recommendations (Gordon, Bejan, & Sagae, 2011; Chaturvedi, Peng, & Roth, 2017). The “life2vec” approach has shown promise with respect to both its predictive capabilities and its modeling of individuals’ personality nuances.

Inferring the goals and objectives of story characters and individuals will prove critical for contextually providing that content which is to be of the most use to them (Richards & Singer, 2001; Trabasso & Wiley, 2005). Computational approaches to these topics are explored in artificial intelligence with respect to robotic systems (Van-Horenbeke & Peer, 2021) and broader applications (Mao, Liu, Zhao, Ni, Lin, & He, 2023).

Beyond extracting character networks from stories, knowledge graphs could be extracted, mapped with embedding vectors, and subsequently utilized (Andrus, Nasiri, Cui, Cullen, & Fulda, 2022).

Narrative Psychology

Narrative psychology includes multiple parallel approaches: cognitive, psychometric, hermeneutic, scientific, and computational (László, 2008). Considered here are overlaps between artificial intelligence and those scientific and computational approaches of narrative psychology.

The contents and styles of the stories that individuals tell about their lives are of considerable importance. As story-based search and recommendation systems are constructed and continue to advance, opportunities for computer-aided and automated narrative coaching are expected to arise.

Narrative coaching works with coachees at three primary levels: (1) drawing on narrative psychology to understand and connect to the narrator, (2) drawing on narrative structure to understand and elicit the material in the narrated stories, and (3) drawing on narrative practices to understand and harvest the dynamics of the narrative field. The goal is to help coachees to forge new connections between their stories, their identity, and their behaviors in order to generate and embody new options in these three domains (Drake, 2010).

Mentoring and Coaching

Established theoretical models from mentoring and coaching will be of use for designing artificial intelligence systems which process stories or social media data to contextually search for and recommend items in a personalized manner for characters or individuals at scale.

Definitions of mentoring and coaching vary throughout the literature and have been the subjects of considerable debate (Passmore, Peterson, & Freire, 2016). For clarity, and for discussing artificial intelligence systems which can perform pertinent tasks, generic definitions of coaching and mentoring are offered here.

Mentoring is a relationship in which a mentor shares their knowledge, skills, and experience with a person, a mentee, to help them to progress.

Intelligent mentoring systems have been considered with respect to education, self-regulated learning, lifelong learning, career counseling, and beyond. With respect to mentoring beyond the scopes of educational courses or programs, challenges include the collection and integration of data from multiple sources to construct and maintain models of mentees (Kravčík, Schmid, & Igel, 2019).

Coaching is a form of human development in which a coach supports learners, clients, or coachees to achieve specific personal or professional goals by providing training and guidance. Coaching differs from mentoring by its focus on specific tasks or objectives, as opposed to a focus on more general goals or overall development. Applications of coaching include: business and executive, career, co-coaching, dating, education, financial, health and wellness, homework, life, relationship, religious, sports, vocal, and writing.

Individuals’ specific goals and objectives could be inferred by artificial intelligence systems and/or obtained through direct interactions using established theoretical models. Systems could interact with individuals using natural-language dialogues or by means of adaptive input forms. With detailed knowledge of individuals’ goals and objectives, intelligent coaching systems could better contextually recommend items for them.

The PRACTICE model details the following steps: problem identification, development of realistic goals, generation of alternative solutions, consideration of each solutions’ consequences, targeting of the most feasible solution, implementation of the chosen solution, and evaluation (Palmer, 2007). When goal-setting, SMART principles suggest that individuals’ goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (Doran, 1981).

To best obtain and maintain knowledge of individuals’ dynamic and unfolding goals and objectives, over time, frameworks for the design of intelligent coaching systems describe system attributes for developing strong and efficacious relationships: trust, empathy, transparency, predictability, reliability, ability, benevolence, and integrity (Terblanche, 2020).

Other models from positive psychological coaching can guide the design of intelligent coaching systems including: authentic happiness coaching, the flow-enhancing model, the co-active coaching model, positive organizational psychology, and the good work and good mentoring approach (Passmore, Peterson, & Freire, 2016).

Areas where intelligent coaching systems are expected to excel include evidence-based coaching and continual improvement. In these regards, multi-armed and contextual bandits address the primary difficulty of sequential decision-making under uncertainty, namely, the exploitation versus exploration dilemma. Exploitation involves choosing the best option based upon current knowledge of a system, while exploration involves trying out new options that may lead to better outcomes in the future at the expense of an exploitation opportunity. Applications of these techniques include: healthcare, e.g., clinical trials, recommender systems, information retrieval, and dialogue systems (Bouneffouf & Rish, 2019).


Research into advice can be organized into four paradigms: the message, discourse, psychological, and network paradigms. Each of these provides different insights about the characteristics, functions, and outcomes of advice (MacGeorge, Feng, & Guntzviller, 2016).

The message paradigm focuses on qualities of advice messages and on the effort to predict supportive outcomes for recipients, often between peers.

The discourse paradigm provides insights into the structure and interpretation of advice in interactions.

The psychological paradigm focuses on cognitive and emotional processes which predict the uses of advice in decision-making.

The network paradigm highlights the utility of advice, often in organizational settings, as well as emergent global outcomes which arise from exchanges of advice.

Social Media

In the future, users of social media could be provided with means of browsing content pertinent to the situations described in their recent or selected posts, content aligned with their preferences and aesthetic tastes, while having the capability to provide feedback on the contextual recommendations and on the content recommended.

Artificial intelligence systems could provide multiple personas, each having different values, styles, or configurations with respect to content recommendation. In this way, individuals could browse and select from values, styles, and configurations using anthropomorphized personas. Opting into and out of content recommendation services could be as easy for individuals as friending and unfriending artificial intelligence personas.

At least initially, individuals might receive paginated lists of recommended items. Eventually, more advanced systems might be able to more intelligently sort items, refine items, and even decide upon single items.

Personalization and user modeling can be of use for enhancing contextual content recommendations. With personalization, systems can select and prioritize items aligned with individuals’ preferences and aesthetic tastes. Individual users, their preferences, and their aesthetic tastes can be represented using embedding vectors (Pan & Ding, 2019; Rizkallah, Atiya, & Shaheen, 2021).

Individuals should be able to provide feedback about contextual recommendations and the content recommended by means of using “like” buttons, upvoting mechanisms, input forms, or follow-up dialogues. Artificial intelligence systems could learn from and continuously improve using these and other sources of feedback.

While personalized content from artificial intelligence personas might be sent to individuals’ direct message inboxes, individuals should be able to easily repost or share these contents alongside any of their positive or negative comments, reactions, opinions, or evaluations.

Towards determining the value provided by contextually recommended content, artificial intelligence systems could observe individuals’ trajectories in embedding spaces after their encounters with recommended content. Encounters with recommended content could accompany individuals’ other social media data.

Research into moderating large language models is applicable to moderating story-based search and recommendation systems (Rebedea, Dinu, Sreedhar, Parisien, & Cohen, 2023). With respect to input moderation, for example, regions in situation spaces could be defined by system administrators as being inappropriate for their systems to provide content, advice or items of wit and wisdom, for.

Other Applications

In addition to their commercial applications, the technologies under discussion have applications to education, library and information science, knowledge management, and history.

With respect to education, contextually recommended items of advice and wisdom can provide educational value to individuals. Educational recommender systems have been previously explored for recommending academic advice, courses, educational programs, exams, learning resources, online learning opportunities, papers, pedagogical resources, professions, programming problems, study sequences or syllabuses, teaching practice resources, and schools or universities (Urdaneta-Ponte, Mendez-Zorrilla, & Oleagordia-Ruiz, 2021).

With respect to social-emotional learning and character education, representing learners’ paths as trajectories through embedding spaces could provide a new and powerful tool for understanding when best to use which pedagogical strategy.

With respect to library and information science, contextually recommended content, e.g., excerpts and quotations from literary works, could include hyperlinks to relevant books and materials.

With respect to knowledge management, organizations could index, search for, and retrieve content utilizing story-based contexts.

With respect to history, historians could contextually retrieve content, e.g., historical events and analogues, pertinent to contemporary societal-scale narratives.

Related Work

Recommending quotations for dialogue systems and writing tasks are being researched (Ahn, Lee, Jeon, Ha, & Lee, 2016; MacLaughlin, Chen, Ayan, & Roth, 2021).

Improving recommender systems by incorporating social contextual information is being explored (Ma, Zhou, Lyu, & King, 2011) and so too are context-aware recommender systems for social networks (Suhaim & Berri, 2021).

Research is underway into advice-related interactions between individuals and artificial intelligence systems (Liao, Oh, Feng, & Zhang, 2023).


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Adaptive Instructional Systems, Interactive Storytelling, and Character Education


In response to calls for more rigorous approaches for character education programs and their evaluation (Person, Moiduddin, Hague-Angus, & Malone, 2009; Sojourner, 2012), interactive stories are indicated as being useful as exercises for both instructing and assessing learners.

Adaptive instructional systems can administer these exercises to learners. To provide personalized and optimized instruction and assessment, these systems model learners. Modeling learners is particularly useful for the domains of character education and social and emotional learning. This article discusses the adaptive game-based psychometric assessment of intrapersonal values, interpersonal values, and civic virtues.

By introducing exercises to character education and social and emotional learning programs, these educational programs can be more precisely evaluated and continuously improved.

Interactive Storytelling

Types of interactive stories include: guided play, role-playing games, the case method, decision games, simulations, literature and literary discussions, story-based items, digital gamebooks, interactive films, and serious games.

These latter four types of interactive stories – story-based items, digital gamebooks, interactive films, and serious games – can be administered by computer and, accordingly, it is straightforward to record and to analyze learners’ decisions and responses. For these reasons, these latter four types are focused on herein.

Opportunities for learners to interact with interactive stories can be provided before, during, or after story content, with learners’ responses potentially shaping the stories as they unfold. The instructional value of interactive stories greatly surpasses that of ordinary stories as, after being presented with choices, learners can be presented with consequences of their decisions.

In addition to presenting learners with choices resembling “what ought character X do next?”, interactive stories could present after-the-fact questions resembling “did character X do the right thing?” and present follow-up questions resembling “why or why not?”.

Not every choice or question presented to learners need have one simply correct answer. Some choices or questions may have more than one correct answer and others may have none.

Adaptive Instructional Systems

Adaptive instructional systems are educational technologies which select and sequence exercises to provide learners with individualized and optimized instruction and assessment. Types of adaptive instructional systems include: intelligent tutoring systems, educational recommender systems, and intelligent media.

Horace Mann, a pioneer of public schooling and modern education, felt that “one of the most important concepts for teachers to understand and implement pertaining to character education is the correct use of instructional timing, as well as the proper implementation strategy, when considering moral development in students” (Watz, 2011). Adaptive instructional systems can optimize the instructional timing of interactive story exercises’ instructional strategies.

Interactive story exercises should be administered to their intended audiences so as to be both appropriate to age and stage of development. Across stages of human development, changes occur in terms of moral schemas (Narvaez, 2002), social cognition, theory of mind, and imagination. With respect to the development of imagination, Gajdamaschko (2006) indicates that, according to Vygotsky, the imagination undergoes developmental shifts which profoundly impact learners’ cultural, intellectual, personality, behavioral, and sensemaking capabilities.

Adaptive instructional systems could have amongst their selection criteria that selected exercises be thematically relevant to the topics under discussion in character education courses. To enhance the thematic variety of exercises, however, systems could intersperse exercises from both previous and forthcoming course topics.

Adaptive instructional systems could intersperse interactive story exercises intended for use across multiple character education and social and emotional learning programs, e.g., standardized assessment items.

Adaptive instructional systems could make use of groups of exercises, referred to also as “testlets” or “panels”. These are discussed in Wainer, Dorans, Eignor, Flaugher, Green, Mislevy, Steinberg, and Thissen (2000) and, taken as units of activity construction and analysis, can mitigate context effects, item ordering, and content balancing difficulties.

Modeling Character

Peterson and Seligman (2004) provide a universal catalog of character strengths and virtues. This catalog is inspired from a collection of many dozens of historical and contemporary inventories and it can be of use when designing character education and social and emotional learning programs.

Harvard’s EASEL Laboratory’s Taxonomy Project indicates that the field of social and emotional learning is structured around “a large number of organizational systems or frameworks that often use different or even conflicting terminology to talk about a similar set of skills.” The Taxonomy Project seeks to “create greater precision and transparency in the field of social and emotional learning and to facilitate more effective translation between research and practice”, providing “information and tools that summarize and connect the major frameworks.”

Interactive story exercises and classroom discussions can also support moral literacy. “If we want our children to possess the traits of character which we most admire, we need to teach them what those traits are. They must learn to identify the forms and content of those traits” (Bennett, 1988). The abilities of recognizing character traits in oneself and others in situational contexts – and the related vocabulary skills – are essential components of cultural and moral literacy. Interactive story exercises can instruct and assess with respect to moral literacy and related vocabulary skills by asking learners about the particular traits exhibited by characters in depicted scenarios.

Modeling Learners

Modeling learners is how adaptive instructional systems can best select and sequence interactive stories for individualized and optimized instruction and assessment. Adaptive instructional systems can use the decisions made and responses provided by learners as they play to model their personality traits, intrapersonal values, interpersonal values, and civic virtues.

Existing psychometric instruments for measuring moral development, moral judgment, and moral reasoning include: the moral judgment interview (MJI; Colby, Abrahami, & Kohlberg, 1987), the sociomoral reflection measure (SRM; Gibbs & Widaman, 1982), the defining issues test (DIT, DIT-2; Rest, 1979), and the intermediate concepts measures (ICM; Bebeau & Thoma, 1999). Most of these instruments utilize story-based items, describing complex situations or moral dilemmas and subsequently presenting questions about what story characters ought do next.

Paradeda, Ferreira, Martinho, and Paiva (2017) describe the use of an interactive storytelling scenario to identify personality traits according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator theory. De Lima, Feijó, and Furtado (2018) describe a system which models traits according to the Big Five model. By extracting the decisions made and responses provided during the play of interactive stories, personality traits can be modeled and predicted.

Cutler and Montgomery (2014) describe adaptive psychometric inventories, techniques for including large batteries on surveys while minimizing the number of questions that respondents must answer.

According to Mislevy, Oranje, Bauer, von Davier, Hao, Corrigan, Hoffman, DiCerbo, and John (2014), a challenge today is to extend the accomplishments of psychometrics methodologies, e.g., statistical inference and probability-based reasoning, “from applications to relatively sparse and encapsulated data, for inferences cast in trait and behaviorist psychology, to the richer data made possible in interconnected digital environments, for inferences cast in contemporary sociocognitive psychologies, as encountered for example in game-based assessment.”

Interactive stories can be utilized for modeling and predicting personality traits, intrapersonal values, interpersonal values, and civic virtues. Techniques from computerized adaptive psychometric testing can be of use for providing learners with personalized and optimized sequences of these stories as exercises.

Open learner modeling is encouraged for character education and social and emotional learning programs. Open learner modeling provides learners with access to systems’ models and assessments of their performance and this often has a positive effect on their progress. Open learner modeling can promote reflection, encourage self-assessment, support planning and monitoring, and allow learners to take greater control and responsibility over their learning.

Modeling Exercises and Progressions

Partlan, Carstensdottir, Snodgrass, Kleinman, Smith, Harteveld, and El-Nasr (2018) detail 24 distinct metrics for interactive stories with these metrics organized into three categories: narrative structural complexity, action space, and interactive affordances.

Carstendottir (2020) discusses the modeling of interactive stories and learners’ progressions through them. She describes that the history of interactive storytelling is comprised of two broad approaches, system-centric and player-centric. This article builds on player-centric (learner-centric) approaches to educational interactive storytelling. Beyond branching as a result of learners’ responses or decisions, interactive stories may branch as a result of: models of learners, learners’ mental states (e.g., affect, mood, attention, motivation, engagement, or flow), learners’ response times, settings and configurations, data, variables, program logic, or random numbers.

She indicates that both system-centric and player-centric historical approaches to interactive storytelling have made use of graph-based formalisms. One benefit of graph-based formalisms is that, as learners play interactive-story-based exercises, they traverse paths across their graph-based representations. These paths could be utilized for purposes of mathematical modeling and analysis, e.g., measuring the internal consistency, or statistical interrelatedness, between paths from traversals of different exercises in sets of exercises.

Event-stream processing is another approach to game analytics. In this approach, as learners play games, they produce streams of typed events which can be processed in real-time and/or logged for subsequent analysis.

Mislevy, Corrigan, Oranje, DiCerbo, Bauer, von Davier, and John (2016) detail approaches to game analytics and psychometrics based on evidence and argumentation, providing a number of measurement models with which to synthesize “nuggets of evidence” from across observations. They state that using a measurement model is one way to “accumulate information across multiple sources of evidence, expressed as belief about characteristics of players whether transitory or persistent,” and that so doing “provides tools to sort out evidence in complicated circumstances, quantify its properties, and flexibly assemble evidence-gathering and evidence-accumulating components.”

It will be important to create and utilize a shared, common vocabulary for data logs so that educational data can be readily accumulated and processed from interactive story exercises produced by multiple vendors.

Modeling Choices

Mawhorter, Mateas, Wardrip-Fruin, and Jhala (2014) describe choice models as consisting of the framings of, options presented for, and anticipated and subsequent outcomes associated with choices. With respect to their theory of choice poetics, they outline three main avenues of investigation: mode of engagement, choice idioms, and dimensions of player experience.

Aspects of mode of engagement include player perspective, motivation, and the particulars of play practice. There could be individual differences with respect to mode of engagement, different types of play and different types of players. A partial list of types of play includes: avatar play, role play, power play, exploratory play, analytical play, and critical play.

Choice idioms are generic structures or patterns for entireties or parts of choices which generally achieve specific effects. A partial list of types of choices includes: dead-end option, false choice, blind choice, dilemma, flavor choice, delayed effect, puzzle choice, and unchoice.

A partial list of dimensions of player experience includes: agency, influence, autonomy, identification, transportation, absorption, responsibility, and regret.

Modeling Situations and Contexts

Situation models are representations, e.g., cognitive or computational representations, of states of affairs such as those relayed through stories. Situation models are relevant for modeling the framings of choices presented to learners in interactive stories. Learners’ situation models can be described as being their mental representations of the states of affairs in stories, e.g., as they encounter choices or questions.

In addition to being relevant to understanding reading and film comprehension, the perception and mental representations of situations and contexts are matters of considerable importance to the behavioral sciences. Cantor (1981), for instance, presents that there may be conceptual prototypes for situations, categories and taxonomies of situations, and that situations may have traits, features, or attributes. She indicates that understanding the perception and mental representations of situations is useful for understanding the processes of generalizing over observations of behaviors as occurring in situational contexts.

Wyer (2003) indicates that situation models are relevant to both social cognition and moral judgment.

Modeling Decision-making Processes

Sanfey and Chang (2008) indicate that “within judgment and decision making, many multiple-processing theories have been proposed, all of which posit different fundamental modes of processing that alternately cooperate and compete in reaching a decision.” They note that while “there are nuances specific to each theoretical conception, for the most part, these dual-process models are all structurally very similar.” These models each include both automatic and volitional processing operating in parallel. Van den Bos (2018) indicates that intuitive and deliberative processes may operate in parallel with respect to moral judgment.

For these reasons, educational data could reasonably include response times, mental chronometry data, from learners’ interactions with the choices presented by interactive story exercises.

Adaptive instructional systems could hypothesize about how competing values or principles were ranked or weighed by learners when making decisions.

Modeling Learning

The modeling, measurement, analysis, and visualization of learners’ course progressions as pertaining to multiple, simultaneous, interrelated course objectives are topics of acute interest.

Models of learners and their course progressions formed by adaptive instructional systems could be of use to educators with respect to course grading. Other potential components for course grading include: the study of the history, theory, and philosophy of character and virtue, classroom discussions and participation, individual and group projects, essays, and overall effort and progress.

Arthur, Kristjánsson, Harrison, Sanderse, and Wright (2016) discuss how educators should measure virtue and evaluate character education programs. They indicate that program evaluators should desire evidence of improvement in virtue literacy, evidence of improvement in moral behavior, evidence of their interrelation, and evidence that educational programs were causal to these improvements.

Interactive story exercises and adaptive game-based psychometric assessment could be important components of a patchwork of methods with which to triangulate upon and measure these factors.

Some exercises could serve as standardized assessment items and be interspersed across different programs by adaptive instructional systems.

A/B testing could be performed between groups of learners whom have participated in character education and social and emotional learning programs and groups whom have not.

While exercises could help to strengthen moral knowledge, moral reasoning, moral sensitivity, moral judgment, and moral literacy, learners must determine to habitually apply these to their real-world behavior.

Modeling Educational Contexts and Climates

Interactive story exercises will seldom be administered in isolation from educational settings. Overarching educational policies, plans, strategies, and school cultures will often contribute to the complex educational contexts and climates in which learners encounter exercises.

Multilevel modeling can be of use for simultaneously modeling learners, groups, classes, schools, districts, states, and countries. Ma, Ma, and Bradley (2008) discuss how multilevel modeling can be of use for investigating school effects.

They use the term “context variables” to refer to the “hardware” of schools, variables such as physical backgrounds (e.g., school location and resources), student bodies (e.g., school socioeconomic and racial-ethnic compositions), and teacher bodies (e.g., teacher education and experience).

They use the term “climate variables”, also often referred to as “evaluative variables”, to refer to the “software” of schools, with characteristics descriptive of learning environments including administrative policies, instructional organization, school operation, and the attitudes, values, and expectations of learners, parents, teachers, and administrators.

They emphasize the importance of understanding the distinction between educational contexts and climates, noting that school-effects research tends to focus on educational climate variables as these are under the direct control of learners, parents, teachers, and administrators.

Computer-aided and Automatic Item Generation

Artificial intelligence technologies can be of use for creating, producing, and evaluating interactive stories, screenplays, storyboards, and production schedules.

Stefnisson and Thue (2018) argue that manually creating interactive stories is inherently difficult and that there is a need for advanced authoring tools. This difficulty is expected to be further pronounced when the matter is, beyond one of creative writing, one of evidence-based and efficacious educational interactive story design and engineering.

Related Work

The first automatic story generation system was Automatic Novel Writer (Klein, Aeschlimann, Balsiger, Converse, Court, Foster, Lao, Oakley, & Smith, 1973) followed by TALE-SPIN (Meehan, 1977), Author (Dehn, 1981), Universe (Lebowitz, 1983), Minstrel (Turner, 1993), Mexica (Pérez y Pérez, 1999), Brutus (Bringsjord & Ferrucci, 1999), and Fabulist (Riedl, 2004).

Interactive drama systems include: Oz (Bates, 1992), DEFACTO (Sgouros, 1997), the Virtual Theater Project (Hayes-Roth, van Gent, & Huber, 1997), I-Storytelling (Cavazza, Charles, & Mead, 2002), Façade (Mateas & Stern, 2003), IDtension (Szilas, 2003), Mimesis (Young, Riedl, Branly, Jhala, Martin, & Saretto, 2004), NOLIST (Bangsø, Jensen, Jensen, Andersen, & Kocka, 2004), OPIATE (Fairclough, 2004), the Interactive Drama Architecture (IDA; Magerko, 2005), FAtiMA (Aylett, Dias, & Paiva, 2006), IN-TALE (Riedl & Stern, 2006), U-Director (Mott & Lester, 2006), SASCE (Nelson, Roberts, Isbell, & Mateas, 2006), Bards (Pizzi, Charles, Lugrin, & Cavazza, 2007), PaSSAGE (Thue, Bulitko, Spetch, & Wasylishen, 2007), DED (Arinbjarnar & Kudenko, 2008), GADIN (Barber & Kudenko, 2009), and Erasmatron (Crawford, 2013).

Riedl and Young (2006) describe techniques for automatically generating, beyond linear stories, branching interactive stories.

Barber and Kudenko (2007) describe a system which adaptively models users to generate interesting dilemma-based stories, noting that such stories require “fundamentally difficult decisions within the course of the story.” In 2009, they presented the GADIN system (Barber & Kudenko, 2009).

Artificial intelligence systems for ethics education include: PETE (Goldin, Ashley, & Pinkus, 2001), AIENS (Hodhod, Kudenko, & Cairns, 2009), Conundrum (McKenzie & McCalla, 2009), and Umka (Sharipova, 2015).


Interactive stories can be utilized as classroom and homework exercises for character education and social and emotional learning programs. Adaptive instructional systems can select and sequence these exercises for learners at scale, providing learners with individualized and optimized instruction and assessment.

Discussed herein were interactive storytelling, adaptive instructional systems, and the modeling of character, learners, exercises and progressions, choices, situations and contexts, decision-making processes, learning, and the educational contexts and climates in which these occur.


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