Empathic Robot for Group Learning: A Field Study

Patricia Alves-Oliveira, Pedro Sequeira, Francisco S. Melo, Ginevra Castellano, Ana Paiva

This work explores a group learning scenario with an autonomous empathic robot. We address two research questions: (1) Can an autonomous robot designed with empathic competencies foster collaborative learning in a group context? (2) Can an empathic robot sustain positive educational outcomes in long-term collaborative learning interactions with groups of students? To answer these questions, we developed an autonomous robot with empathic competencies that is able to interact with a group of students in a learning activity about sustainable development. Two studies were conducted. The first study compares learning outcomes in children across 3 conditions: learning with an empathic robot; learning with a robot without empathic capabilities; and learning without a robot. The results show that the autonomous robot with empathy fosters meaningful discussions about sustainability, which is a learning outcome in sustainability education. The second study features groups of students who interact with the robot in a school classroom for two months. The long-term educational interaction did not seem to provide significant learning gains, although there was a change in game-actions to achieve more sustainability during game-play. This result reflects the need to perform more long-term research in the field of educational robots for group learning.

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