Bosch receives grant to study potential bias in adaptive learning technology

Nigel Bosch
Nigel Bosch, Assistant Professor

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Assistant Professor Nigel Bosch a three-year, $987,015 grant to study potential bias in adaptive learning software through his project, "Collaborative Research: Exploring Algorithmic Fairness and Potential Bias in K-12 Mathematics Adaptive Learning." Bosch will observe and interview students using adaptive math learning software to discover what aspects of their identity are most salient in the adaptive learning context and then investigate possible algorithmic biases related to the identities that students express. Steven Ritter, founder and chief scientist at Carnegie Learning, will serve as co-principal investigator on the project, which also includes researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Illinois College of Education.

Adaptive learning software works by automatically measuring how much students have learned about a topic, as well as their learning process and experiences, and then adjusting the instruction accordingly. In his research, Bosch has examined demographic differences in how students interact with learning technologies, such as educational games and online courses, with the goal of understanding "how adaptations could be made to better support students for whom the software is currently not working well."

"This new project came about through discussions with some of my collaborators who have also studied biases in learning technology," Bosch said. "We noted that there have been some surprises in previous research when it comes to who is most likely to experience bias where it occurs and decided there was a clear need for a mixed-methods project that will get much deeper into the details of where bias occurs."

Data will be collected on educational software usage patterns for students using the math education platform MATHia.

"We're working with an educational software company, Carnegie Learning, that has a history of researching potential biases in their own software, so they are keenly interested in implementing any improvements we can make, such as new machine learning models that are fairer than their current models," he said. "Their software is used by hundreds of thousands of students across the U.S., so the potential for making high-impact improvements is really exciting."

According to Bosch, results from this project will contribute to scientific understanding of the role of student identity in adaptive learning software, biases in machine learning for educational software, and the effects of applying machine learning methods for bias reduction.

Bosch uses machine learning/data mining methods to study human behaviors, especially in learning contexts. His research examines data such as facial expressions, audio recordings, log file records of user actions, and other sources that provide insight into learners’ behaviors. After earning his PhD in computer science from the University of Notre Dame in 2017, Bosch worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). He is a faculty affiliate of NCSA and Illinois Informatics.

Updated on
Backto the news archive

Related News

iSchool well represented at ASIS&T 2020

iSchool faculty and students will participate in the 83rd Annual Meeting of the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T), which will be held virtually from October 22-November 1. The theme of this year's conference is "Information for a Sustainable World: Addressing Society's Grand Challenges." The meeting is the premier international conference dedicated to the study of information, people, and technology in contemporary society.

NSF announces $3 million award to expand FABRIC cyberinfrastructure globally

A new $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will expand FABRIC, a project to build the nation's largest cyberinfrastructure testbed, to four preeminent scientific institutions in Asia and Europe. The expansion represents an ambitious effort to accelerate scientific discovery by creating the networks needed to move vast amounts of data across oceans and time zones seamlessly and securely.

Science is fast outgrowing the capabilities of today's Internet infrastructure. To fully capitalize on big data, artificial intelligence, advanced computation and the Internet of Things requires robust, interconnected computers, storage, networks and software. Uneven progress in science cyberinfrastructure has led to bottlenecks that stymie collaboration and slow the process of discovery.

Ocepek and Lee receive ASIS&T best poster award

A poster coauthored by Assistant Professor Melissa Ocepek, PhD student Lo Lee, and Stephann Makri, senior lecturer at City, University of London, has been selected to receive the SIG USE Best Information Behavior Conference Poster Award at the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T) Annual Meeting, which will be held virtually from October 22-November 1. The award recognizes the best poster within the scope of information behavior, "broadly defined to include how people construct, need, seek, manage, give, and use information in different contexts."

Melissa Ocepek

Chan to present research at CSCW 2020

Anita Say Chan, associate professor in the iSchool and the Department of Media and Cinema Studies, will present her research at the 23rd ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW 2020), to be held virtually on October 17-21. CSCW is the premier venue for experts from industry and academia to explore the technical, social, material, and theoretical challenges of designing technology to support collaborative work and life activities.

Anita Say Chan

Samuel presents at FabLearn 2020

Doctoral candidate Noah Samuel presented research on makerspace education at FabLearn 2020, which was held virtually from October 9-11. FabLearn brings together researchers, educators, and policymakers to discuss the maker culture and share best practices in digital fabrication in education, hands-on learning, and instructional tools. The theme of this year's conference was "Making as Resistance and Resilience."

Noah Samuel