To What Extent Can Text Classification Help with Making Inferences About Students’ Understanding

  • A. J. BeaumontEmail author
  • T. Al-Shaghdari
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 11943)


In this paper we apply supervised machine learning algorithms to automatically classify the text of students’ reflective learning journals from an introductory Java programming module with the aim of identifying students who need help with their understanding of the topic they are reflecting on. Such a system could alert teaching staff to students who may need an intervention to support their learning.

Several different classifier algorithms have been validated on the training data set to find the best model in two situations; with equal cost for a positive or negative classification and with cost sensitive classification. Methods were used to identify those individual parameters which maximise the performance of each algorithm. Precision, recall and F1-score, as well as confusion matrices were used to understand the behaviour of each classifier and choose the one with the best performance.

The classifiers that obtained the best results from the validation were then evaluated on a testing data set containing different data to that used for training.

We believe that although the results could be improved with further work, our initial results show that machine learning could be applied to students’ reflective writing to assist staff in identifying those students who are struggling to understand the topic.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Aston UniversityBirminghamUK

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