Education company embedded social psychological software in tests

Mar 2012
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Education and publishing giant Pearson is drawing criticism after using its software to experiment on over 9,000 math and computer science students across the country. In a paper presented Wednesday at the American Association of Educational Research, Pearson researchers revealed that they tested the effects of encouraging messages on students that used the MyLab Programming educational software during 2017's spring semester.

Titled “Embedding Research-Inspired Innovations in EdTech: An RCT of Social-Psychological Interventions, at Scale,” the study placed 9,000 students using MyLab Programming into three groups, each receiving different messages from the software as they attempted to solve questions. Some students received “growth-mindset messages,” while others received “anchoring of effect” messages. (A third control group received no messaging at all.) The intent was to see if such messages encouraged students to solve more problems. Neither the students nor the professors were ever informed of the experiment, raising concerns of consent.

Educators who spoke to Education Week were understandably more alarmed by Pearson placing thousands of unwitting minors in A/B testing for its products.

“It’s concerning that forms of low-level psychological experimentation to trigger certain behaviors appears to be happening in the ed-tech sector, and students might not know those experiments are taking place,” Ben Williamson, a professor at the University of Stirling, told the publication. The experiment has troubling overlaps with at least one of Facebook’s many overlapping privacy cataclysms.

https://gizmodo.com/pearson-embedded-a-social-psychological-experiment-in-s-1825367784/amp