• Innovative method for assessing adults with learning difficulties

    November 12, 2020

    University of Oviedo research staff have developed a protocol that helps to understand how people with learning difficulties learn, by obtaining information about their perceptions, emotions and behaviour

    En la parte superior, por la izquierda, Estrella Fernández, Rebeca Cerezo y Michelle Taub. En la parte inferior, Roger Azevedo, Cristina Gómez y Miguel Sánchez.

    A research team from the University of Oviedo has designed a new protocol that aims to help understand the problems faced by people with learning difficulties by analysing how they learn. It is a novel method because it is multimodal - that is, it records psychophysiological variables, personal perceptions, emotions and behaviours - and because it provides evidence of the person's learning process before, during and afterwards. This approach will allow each person's problem to be addressed in the most appropriate way. The research, published in the magazine "JoVE: Journal of Visualized Experiments", was carried out by Rebeca Cerezo, Estrella Fernández, Cristina Gómez and Miguel Sánchez-Santillán from the University of Oviedo, and Michelle Taub and Roger Azevedo from the University of Central Florida.

    The method uses a combination of interviews and psychometric tests, as well as analysis of how the learner interacts with a computer. Thus, where they click the mouse, when, and in what order, is recorded and an infrared system is used to record their eye movements, where they focus and stop, and so on. Their psychogalvanic response (electrical conductance of the skin) is recorded using a recording sensor on the fingers of one hand, to see when and what type of activities make them most anxious or stressed. Facial expressions are also recorded with a camera, and will be automatically analysed to find out which emotions predominate while they are carrying out the tasks. Lastly, self-report questionnaires are administered every so often, in which subjects are asked what they are thinking.

    All this is recorded, according to time and actions, in a large database, with complex analyses being carried out - including the use of statistical and data-mining techniques, and reporting on how the person was acting at a given time, or what the subject thought, felt and did for most of the time. This makes it possible to ascertain if the person is making correct use of the resources and strategies available to him or her.

    Learning disabilities are a widespread concern among modern societies, as they have a major impact on sufferers, in terms of both academic and professional performance. However, unlike with previous levels of education, there are very limited assessment protocols for adults with learning difficulties, and those that are available do not usually take into account metacognitive or self-management aspects of learning, and nor are they normally approached from a multi-modal assessment approach.