The Personality of the Teacher

It is commonly thought that the personality of a teacher has a great impact on his or her ability to teach, for good reason. Personality inevitably affects everyday interactions between teacher and student. Just as with every other job or action, certain personality traits would work better for a teacher than others.

One attempt to quantify personality is the Big Five personality domains for teachers: openness to experiences, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and emotional stability. Openness deals with an appreciation for new things: novel ideas, untried experiences, curiosity. Conscientiousness measures self-discipline and control of impulses. Extraversion is what you might expect: the inclination to interact with the external, social world. Agreeableness measures how concerned one is with the opinions of others. Emotional stability is how well one reacts to stress and other negative emotions.

A 2019 study published in Educational Psychology Review analyzed the correlation between these domains and two educational outcomes, one of them being teacher effectiveness (Kim). It found that every domain except agreeableness is positively associated with teacher effectiveness. Teachers that were more open to new experiences, more conscientious, more extroverted, and more emotionally stable tended to be better teachers.

This tendency also might extend to learning assistants such as chatbots. A 2018 study found that the personality of a chatbot has a “significant positive effect on the user experience of chatbot interfaces” (Smestad). However, this use of personality measures the level of personality (as in, does the bot have personality) instead of the type of personality. Regardless, this could still line up with the previously mentioned findings in human teachers since it is usually considered that extroverted, curious people can appear more “personable”. A 2018 article differentiates user preference based on the purpose of the chat bot. It found that people prefer “slow types” of personality, submission and compliance, for bots based around counseling like most education related bots would be (Kang). This especially ties into the positive relationship between agreeableness and teaching effectiveness.

Chatbots in Childhood Education

Advanced chatbots, using conversational, contextual AI, have versatile and promising applications. Chatbots have many advantages inherent within an automated platform, including promptness of response, scalability and accessibility. Recent advances have also increased the amount of personalization a chatbot can offer. This is especially evident when compared to existing communication methods such as mass emails and push notifications sent out to every user of an app.

This has been proven in traditionally human fields such as mental care. A company called Woebot created a chatbot that provides “continuous emotional support” to its users. It forges a personalized connection to the user to glean useful information for human specialists and to help deal with symptoms of stress and anxiety. This allows for human-like support that isn’t limited by doctor availability or cost.

Higher education institutions have also begun to use chat bots. Georgia State University rolled out a bot that helped students with enrolling and getting to college, decreasing the amount of admitted students who didn’t show up by 19%. Response levels from students were much higher with the bot than with email reminders. Chatbot platform Acquire identifies several different functions a chatbot can perform in education: providing information about school, administrative support, offering reminders and assistance, tutoring, and engaging students.

A chatbot built for younger students would most likely focus on the third, fourth, and fifth functions due to the nature of elementary schooling. As mentioned in a previous post, simple nudges and reminders are especially essential for younger children. In addition, children are less likely to be able to navigate information sources on their own. Communication-based chatbots are naturally easier interfaces for anyone, especially children, to use. Being able to answer basic questions and guide exploration would be a major benefit in and of itself in the education of young children.

Of course, a potential chatbot would have to be tailored for younger children specifically. It has to use grade-appropriate wording, while ideally selectively using new vocabulary to promote linguistic growth. There’s also a higher barrier to reach in terms of chatbot personality: a child would have little intrinsic motivation to keep on talking to a chatbot if it doesn’t act like a human. These are challenges that must be addressed in any chat bot dedicated towards childhood education.