🎉 NEWS 🎉

(May 2024) Our lab’s work will be presented/published at CHI, ISLS, CogSci, IDC (LDT), and EARLI SIG16 conferences! See Publications for more info.

(April 2024) AlgeSPACE project on SIC news and university news

(Mar 2024) Our lab will offer two new seminars in SS2024 – check them out here.

(Mar 2024) We will be at the Tag der digitalen Bildung (The Digital Education Day) in Saarland!

(Feb 2024) We have launched AlgeSPACE — a collection of free interactive exercises for teaching and learning how to solve systems of equations.

(Oct 2023) New grant (with Sarah Malone) on co-designing a learning dashboard on AI in Education with university students at Saarland.

(Sep 2023) Won the PRESTO (“Sakigake”) grant! (€300K) We will work on participatory design research with school students and teachers in Germany and Japan to design an intelligent system with a focus on student agency.

(Aug 2023) Echo has joined the lab as a postdoc from ASU! Learn more about her.

(Apr 2023) Starting a new role as a Visiting Professor at Hokkaido University in Japan!

(Mar 2023) Gave a talk at CAIS in Bochum

(Feb 2023) Gave a talk at ETH Zürich (FLI Colloquia)

(Dec 2022) Launched the “Future+Learning” working group with Lis Sylvan and Sandra Cortesi @BKC Harvard

(Nov 2022) Moved to Germany to start my TT position at Saarland University!

(June 2021) Our ISLS paper was nominated for Best Design Paper!

(April 2021) We were at the ED Games Expo! Here’s our entry.

(Dec 2020) Won the Fred Mulder Open Education Practice Award!

(Nov 2020) Gave a talk at Keio Univ.

(Nov 2020) Won an AECT award!

(Nov 2020) Presented at OpenEd20

(Oct 2020) Made a tape diagram template (available under CC-BY-NC)

Diagrammatic Self-explanation


Visual representations are a powerful tool used for teaching and learning across STEM domains. However, it has been reported that visuals are not universally effective – students having low prior knowledge often do not benefit from learning with visuals.

To tackle this problem, we’ve created an intelligent tutoring system (ITS) for algebra that provides scaffolding support so that students with lower prior knowledge can easily and effectively use the visual support to make sense of the problem and the solution steps. In the tutor, students are asked to self-“explain” their solution steps in the form of diagrams, which we call diagrammatic self-explanation. We tested the effectiveness of this approach on student learning, particularly learning of conceptual knowledge in algebra. Our recent controlled classroom study confirmed that diagrammatic self-explanation helped students who had lower prior knowledge in solving algebra problems gain conceptual knowledge.

The design of diagrams is based on research findings from our earlier user research with teachers and middle school students, which involved semi-structured interviews, low-fi (physical) and high-fi (digital) prototypes, and think aloud. Specifically, we conducted “Pedagogical Affordance Analysis” to elicit pedagogically-meaningful features of the diagram and added “signifiers” so that students with low prior knowledge can find important conceptual information provided through the diagrams. More information can be found in the second paper listed below.


The project has won 2 awards!

Interested in making your own diagrams? Use this template


Relevant papers

  • Nagashima, T., Bartel, A. N., Silla, E. M., Vest, N. A., Alibali, M. W., & Aleven, V. (2020). Enhancing conceptual knowledge in early algebra through scaffolding diagrammatic self-explanation. In Proceedings of the International Conferences of the Learning Sciences (ICLS2020), Nashville, TN.
  • Nagashima, T., Yang, K., Bartel, A. N., Silla, E. M., Vest, N. A., Alibali, M. W., & Aleven, V. (2020). Pedagogical Affordance Analysis: Leveraging teachers’ pedagogical knowledge for eliciting pedagogical affordances and constraints of instructional tools. In Proceedings of the International Conferences of the Learning Sciences (ICLS2020). Nashville, TN. 
First prototype exploring how "manipulable" diagrams can help students identify conceptual knowledge
Final design of the diagram with features added to emphasize conceptual information in the visual