Diane J. Litman

Department of Computer Science Learning Research & Development Ctr.
5105 Sennott Square 741 LRDC
210 South Bouquet Street 3939 O'Hara Street
University of Pittsburgh University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, PA 15260 Pittsburgh, PA 15260
(phone) 412-624-8838 (phone) 412-624-1261
(fax) 412-624-8854 (fax) 412-624-9149

Faculty: Intelligent Systems Program (Co-Director 2014-2016)
Director: Litman Lab


My research is in the area of artificial intelligence, and includes contributions in the areas of artificial intelligence and education, computational linguistics, knowledge representation and reasoning, natural language learning, spoken language, and user modeling. My work has included both fundamental research and applied research resulting in technology transfer and patents.

My most recent research has been in the area of Speech and Natural Language Technology for Educational Applications. Currently funded projects include:

  • (ArgumentPeer) Teaching Writing and Argumentation with AI-Supported Diagramming and Peer Review
  • (RTA) Response-to-Text Prompts to Assess Students' Writing Ability: Using Natural Language Processing for Scoring Writing at Scale
  • (CourseMIRROR) Improving Undergraduate STEM Education by Integrating Natural Language Processing with Mobile Technologies
  • Entrainment and Task Success in Team Conversations
  • Computational Models of Essay Rewritings
  • Using Natural Language Processing to Study the Role of Specificity and Evidence Type in Text Based Classroom Discussions

    My research as aggregated by Google Scholar and Microsoft Academic Search.

    Selected Publications (by year)

  • 2003-present

    Dissertations Supervised

  • Hua Ai, Intelligent Systems, PhD 2009: User Simulation for Spoken Dialog System Develpment (now Analytics Consultant, 360i)
  • Min Chi, Intelligent Systems, PhD 2009: Do Micro-Level Tutorial Decisions Matter: Applying Reinforcement Learning To Induce Pedagogical Tutorial Tactics (now Assistant Professor, NC State University)
  • Michael Lipschultz, Computer Science, Phd 2015: Adapting the Scheduling of Illustrations and Graphs to Learners in Conceptual Physics Tutoring
  • Wencan Luo, Computer Science, PhD expected 2017: Automatic Summarization for Student Reflective Responses
  • Huy Nguyen, Computer Science, PhD expected 2017: Context-aware Argument mining and Its Application in Education
  • Mihai Rotaru, Computer Science, PhD 2008: Applications of Discourse Structure for Spoken Dialogue Systems (now at Textkernel)
  • Arthur Ward, Intelligent Systems, PhD 2010: Reflection and Learning Robustness in a Natural Language Conceptual Physics Tutoring System (now Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Biomedical Informatics, University of Pittsburgh)
  • Wenting Xiong, Computer Science, PhD 2015: Helpfulness-Guided Review Summarization (now Research Staff Member, Watson Innovations)
  • Fan Zhang, Computer Science, PhD expected 2017: Supporting Revision Assistance for Peer Review of Argumentative Writings
  • Recent News

  • Fall 2015: Shaw Visiting professor, Computer Science Department, National University of Singapore
  • August 2015: Elected to 3 year term as Councilor, Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence
  • August 2015: Summarizing Student Reflection Corpus is now available for scientific purposes (download)
  • January-April 2015: Derek Brewer Visiting Fellow, Emmanuel College, Cambridge University
  • December 2014: Michael Lipschultz defends his dissertation!
  • September 2014: ISCA Best Paper Published in Speech Communication (2011-2013) for "Benefits and challenges of real-time uncertainty detection and adaptation in a spoken dialogue computer tutor" (with K. Forbes-Riley)
  • September 2014: Keynote Speaker, Fifth International Conference on Computational Models of Argument
  • August 2014: Wenting Xiong defends her dissertation!
  • May 2014: Royal Academy of Engineering Distinguished Visiting Fellowship Award
  • May 2014: Invited Speaker, Computational Linguistics and Educational Technology
  • Winter 2014: Google Faculty Research Award (Natural Language Processing) (Pitt Chronicle listing)
  • Archived News


  • CS 0441: Discrete Structures for Computer Science (Spring 2005, Fall 2006, Spring 2007, Spring 2010)
  • CS 1571: Introduction to Artificial Intelligence (Fall 2008)
  • CS 1573: Artificial Intelligence Application Development (Spring 2003, 2004)
  • CS 1590: Social Implications of Computing Technology (Spring 2012, 2013)
  • CS 2001: Research Topics in Computer Science (Fall 2014)
  • CS 2710 / ISSP 2160: Foundations of Artificial Intelligence (Fall 2006, 2009, 2010)
  • CS 2731 / ISSP 2230: Introduction to Natural Language Processing (Fall 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2011, 2013)
  • CS 3710 / ISSP 3565: Advanced Topics in Artificial Intelligence (Dialog Systems) (Spring 2002)
  • CS 3710 / ISSP 3565: Advanced Topics in Artificial Intelligence (Affective Spoken Dialogue Systems) (Spring 2006)
  • CS 3710 / ISSP 3565: Advanced Topics in Artificial Intelligence (Speech and Natural Language Processing for Educational Applications) (Spring 2009)
  • CS 3710 / ISSP 3565: Advanced Topics in Artificial Intelligence (Natural Language Processing for Extracting Social and Interactional Meaning) (Fall 2012)

    Editorial Positions

  • Associate Editor, International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education
  • Editorial Board, Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research
  • Editorial Board, Argument and Computation
  • 2016 Activities

  • Organizing Committee, 3rd Workshop on Argument Mining (ACL Workshop)
  • Senior Program Committee, 13th International Conference on Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITS)
  • Program Committee, 54th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL)
  • Program Committee, 15th Annual Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies (NAACL)
  • Program Committee, 17th Annual SIGdial Meeting on Discourse and Dialogue (SIGdial)
  • Program Committee, 6th International Conference on Computational Models of Arguments (COMMA)
  • Program Committee, 11th Workshop on Innovative Use of NLP for Building Educational Applications (NAACL Workshop)
  • Program Committee, Workshop on Collecting and Generating Resources for Chatbots and Conversational Agents - Development and Evaluation (LREC Workshop)
  • Advisory Committee, Young Researchers' Roundtable on Spoken Dialog Systems

    Brief Biography

    I am Professor of Computer Science, and a Senior Scientist with the Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC), at the University of Pittsburgh. I moved here from the Garden State (aka New Jersey), where from 1985-2001 I was a member of the Artificial Intelligence Principles Research Department, AT&T Labs - Research (formerly Bell Laboratories); From 1990-1992, I was also an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Columbia University. I received my Ph.D. and M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Rochester, and my A.B. in Mathematics and Computer Science from the College of William and Mary in Virginia. Here are my informal and more formal versions of my academic geneology.

    Selected Older Publications (by topic)

  • Spoken Dialogue and Affect for Intelligent Tutoring Systems: Spoken dialogue is a natural and highly desirable form of student-computer interaction, which provides both opportunities and challenges to both dialogue-based tutoring systems, and to spoken language systems. The goal of my research is to wed spoken language technology with instructional technology, in order to promote learning gains by enhancing communication richness. For further details, see the ITSPOKE webpage, which contains information on the ITSPOKE system and corpora, as well as information on the back-end (Why2, a text-based tutoring system in the domain of qualitative physics).

  • Exceptionality and Natural Language Learning: Previous work has shown that when machine learning is applied to many natural language processing tasks, exceptional training examples play an important role in improving generalization accuracy. We are exploring whether such results generalize to spoken dialogue, and how different formalizations of "exceptionality" impact the performance of memory-based and rule-based learning algorithms. Click for further details and online publications.

  • Question Answering: The development of resources for extending the current automatic question-answering paradigm to hande opinion-oriented, rather than fact-oriented, questions. Also, the use of ensemble methods to combine the output of multiple QA systems to improve performance, in the reading comprehension domain. Click for further details and online publications.

  • Spoken Dialogue for CHAT: The design, implementation, and empirical experiences of CobotDS, a spoken dialogue system for accessing the LambdaMoo text-based chat environment. CobotDS allows phone users to talk with LambdaMoo users via Cobot, a software agent residing in LambdaMOO. Click for further details and online publications.

  • Reinforcement Learning for Optimizing Spoken Dialogue Agents: The use of reinforcement learning to analyze and optimize dialogue strategy design in spoken dialogue systems. An empirical evaluation of an automatically optimized dialogue manager. Click for further details and online publications.

  • Prosodic Analysis of Misrecognitions and Corrections in Spoken Dialogue: Analytic and machine learning results indicating how prosodic differences can predict misrecognized vs. correctly recognized turns, and correction vs. other types of utterances. Click for further details and online publications.

  • Learning how to Predict Problematic Dialogue Situations, and an Application to Adaptive Spoken Dialogue: The use of rule induction to predict problematic dialogue situations (e.g. poor speech recognition, "bail out" situations where a caller should be transferred to a human operator). The design and evaluation of a spoken dialogue system that adapts its behavior when problematic situations are detected. Click for further details and online publications.

  • Evaluating Spoken Dialogue Agents: The PARADISE (PARAdigm for DIalogue System Evaluation) framework for empirically deriving an objective performance function, and PARADISE evaluations of cooperative responses, the use of tutorial dialogues, and adaptable dialogue behavior. Click for further details and online publications.

  • Device Representation and Reasoning with Affective Relations, and an Implementation in R++: An approach to monitoring and diagnosis of complex systems that integrates classical model-based diagnosis and heuristic expert systems. Implemented using R++, an extension of C++ that incorporates rules into the object-oriented paradigm. Click for further details, and online publications.

  • Terminological Reasoning with Plans and an Application to Plan Recognition: A plan-based knowledge representation system that integrates description logics with metric and qualitative temporal constraint languages, and a companion plan recognition system (T-REX) that uses the plan-based description logic. CLASP is an alternative plan-based knowledge representation system that extends description logics to handle temporal information by representing plans as regular expressions. Click for further details and online publications.

  • A Corpus-Based Approach to Classifying Discourse Segment Boundaries and Cue Phrases in Text and Speech: Empirical discourse analysis, with an emphasis on coding of data, the use of machine learning for hypothesis formation, and quantitative evaluation of results. Click for further details and online publications.

  • Plan Recognition: The use of plan recognition in both natural language dialogue systems and in intelligent graphical interfaces. Click for further details and online publications.
  • Offices

  • Past Chair, North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics (NAACL) , 2004-2005
  • International Advisory Committee for the ACL's Special Interest Group on Natural Language Learning (SIGNLL), 2003-present
  • Advisory Board, UM Inc., 2002-present


  • American Association for Artificial Intelligence (AAAI)
  • Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL) (also SIGDIAL, SIGGEN, SIGNLL)
  • International Artificial Intelligence in Education Society (AIED)
  • International Speech Communication Association (ISCA)
  • Provost's Advisory Committee on Women's Concerns at the University of Pittsburgh (2002-2005)
  • American Daffodil Society

    litman at cs dot pitt dot edu