Spoken interruptions signal productive problem solving and domain expertise in mathematics

Sharon Oviatt, Kevin Hang, Jianlong Zhou, Fang Chen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperResearch

15 Citations (Scopus)


Prevailing social norms prohibit interrupting another person when they are speaking. In this research, simultaneous speech was investigated in groups of students as they jointly solved math problems and peer tutored one another. Analyses were based on the Math Data Corpus, which includes ground-truth performance coding and speech transcriptions. Simultaneous speech was elevated 120-143% during the most productive phase of problem solving, compared with matched intervals. It also was elevated 18-37% in students who were domain experts, compared with nonexperts. Qualitative analyses revealed that experts differed from non-experts in the function of their interruptions. Analysis of these functional asymmetries produced nine key behaviors that were used to identify the dominant math expert in a group with 95-100% accuracy in three minutes. This research demonstrates that overlapped speech is a marker of group problem-solving progress and domain expertise. It provides valuable information for the emerging field of learning analytics.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationICMI'15 - Proceedings of the 2015 ACM International Conference on Multimodal Interaction
Subtitle of host publicationNovember 9-13, 2015 Seattle, Washington, USA
EditorsDan Bohus, Radu Horaud, Helen Meng
Place of PublicationNew York NY USA
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9781450339124
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes
EventInternational Conference on Multimodal Interfaces 2015 - Seattle, United States of America
Duration: 9 Nov 201513 Nov 2015
Conference number: 17th
https://dl.acm.org/doi/proceedings/10.1145/2818346 (Proceedings)


ConferenceInternational Conference on Multimodal Interfaces 2015
Abbreviated titleICMI 2015
Country/TerritoryUnited States of America
Internet address


  • Collaborative problem solving
  • Domain expertise
  • Dynamic group processes
  • Interruption
  • Math Data Corpus
  • Multimodal learning analytics
  • Simultaneous speech

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