Developing educational software to assess if autistic children can benefit from access to open learner models and emotional feedback on learning.

Mark Brosnan, Hilary Johnson, Emma Ashwin, Beate Grawemeyer, Laura Benton

Summary: This project brings together research in user interface (UI) design and human computer interaction (HCI), with research in psychology, autism and learning. It is a new collaboration specifically formed to address two novel research questions related to the development and evaluation of technologically mediated learning by children with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). The first question concerns whether allowing ASD children access to models of their learning held by the system (i.e. open learner models), improves their learning experience and achievements. The second question relates to whether learning in ASD children is facilitated by the presence of an interface persona displaying emotions whilst providing feedback and help on the children's learning achievements. Mathematics is the discipline chosen for investigating the learning achievements, as ASD children have strengths, and therefore confidence, in this subject. Groups of non-ASD children matched on age and ability are acting as a baseline or control group. The research is multidisciplinary. From a user interface and HCI perspective there is an emphasis on user-centred design and usability in designing the functionality, representation of, and interaction with, the open learner models (OLM) and interface personas. From both HCI and psychology perspectives the impacts on learning for both ASD and non-ASD children are of interest. A further novelty of the research is investigating the challenges of involving ASD children as partners in designing the learning technology they will use.

Thankyou for your interest in our project. Below are some publications from the project:

Clustering of external representations in young people with autism spectrum disorder

The impact of Autism Spectrum Disorder on the Categorisation of External Representations

Social functioning, systemising ability and emotion recognition in autism spectrum conditions

Developing IDEAS: Supporting children with autism within a participatory design team

IDEAS: An Interface Design Experience for the Autistic Spectrum

Designing for themselves: Investigating the capability of children with ASD to become effective design partners


Contact details:
Full Name:
Dr Mark Brosnan (PI)
Department of Psychology
Job Title:
Director of Research
+44 (0) 1225 386081
+44 (0) 1225 386752
E-mail Address:

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