Embodied learning and gestures

Embodied learning revolves around the notion that it is not just the brain participating in learning activities, rather the whole body participates, interacts, and manufactures new concepts (Winn, 2003). Winn works to defeat the notion that the mind and body are separate entities, rather the interactions we have with our environment is key to the learning process. Removal of environmental learning experiences works to limit student’s ability to adapt with the environment and therefore form a more complete learning experience. Winn (2003) encourages educators to create a “framework that integrates three concepts, embodiment, embeddedness and adaptation.” This embodied learning can be extended to artificial environments where students actively engage and become “coupled” (Winn, 2003). A person in a coupled learning environment actively engages and interacts through problem solving and discovery learning.


The use of mobile technology can allow students to become coupled learners with artificial environments. “They also have the potential to establish participatory narratives that can aid learners in developing a contextual understanding of what are all too often presented as decontextualized scientific facts, concepts, or principles” (Barab & Dede, 2007). Mobile technologies can allow students to become fully immersed in virtual scenarios where they must participate in scientific processes, or partially immersed where they use mobile technology to aid a real-life investigation. Barab & Dede (2007) highlight the use of game-based technologies to target academic content learning in more embodied and integrated formats.


Zurina & Williams (2011) helped my understanding of embodied learning in the classroom by analyzing how children may gesticulate to solve problems they are working on. Gesticulation is required by these children as they work integrated with their bodies and environment in the learning process. Without realizing it, as I explored this topic I realise that I model embodied behaviour to my students through instruction. For example, when analysing linear and polynomial graphs, I teach students to use the left arm rule to determine if the leading coefficient is positive or negative (one holds their left arm up to recreate slope of the graph; if it is easy the slope is positive, if it is difficult to contort your arm in such a way the slope must be negative).


Are there other embodied actions which help teachers reach their students?

Are you performing gestures which aid in learning without knowing it?


Barab, S., & Dede, C. (2007). Games and immersive participatory simulations for science education: an emerging type of curricula. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 16(1), 1-3.

Winn, W. (2003). Learning in artificial environments: Embodiment, embeddedness, and dynamic adaptation. Technology, Instruction, Cognition and Learning, 1(1), 87-114. Full-text document retrieved on January 17, 2013. Retreived from: http://www.hitl.washington.edu/people/tfurness/courses/inde543/READINGS-03/WINN/winnpaper2.pdf

Zurina, H., & Williams, J. (2011). Gesturing for oneself. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 77(2-3), 175-188.

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