Electrodermal activity and sympathetic arousal during collaborative learning

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

OP auditorium (L10)

Topic of the dissertation

Electrodermal activity and sympathetic arousal during collaborative learning

Doctoral candidate

MSc. Telecommunications Engineering Héctor Javier Pijeira Díaz

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Education, Learning and Educational Technology

Subject of study

Psychophysiology; Collaborative Learning


Professor Timo Tobias Ley, Tallinn University


Professor Sanna Järvelä, University of Oulu

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Measuring learners’ skin conductance during their group learning process can provide information for learning sciences

These days, it is easy and a widely used approach to measure skin conductance through increasingly popular wearable activity trackers such as smart wristbands or smart rings. Skin conductance measurement has been a central part of the development of wellbeing technology and applications.

In this dissertation, the skin conductance measurement was applied in the area of learning sciences. The skin conductance was measured in real classroom situations with high school students during two consecutive physics courses. The main hypothesis in this study was that the students working in groups with a shared task were expected to have a similar or equivalent skin conductance. However, their measures differed most of the time (≈60–95%). This result points to students taking turns in executing the task or applying division of labor rather than truly working together. Skin conductance estimations of emotional contagion suggest that although students were working in groups of three, influential interactions occurred mainly (71.3%) between two members rather than among the three.

Additionally, indicators based on skin conductance were found to provide an estimate of students’ performance in their physics exam, which is connected to a well-known psychological law linking sympathetic activation and performance. This study contributes to the multidisciplinary bridges between learning science, psychophysiology, and computer science. In the future, these measures, especially when available in real time and complemented with other learning process measurements, could be used as guidance for teachers to use specific and timely pedagogical interventions.
Last updated: 23.4.2019