Kinesthetic learning

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Kinesthetic learning (American English), kinaesthetic learning (British English), or tactile Learning is a learning style in which learning takes place by the students carrying out physical activities, rather than listening to a lecture or watching demonstrations. People with a preference for kinesthetic learning are also commonly known as "do-ers". The Fleming VAK/VARK model (one of the most common and widely used categorizations of the various types of learning styles)[1] categorized learning styles as follows:


Kinesthetic intelligence, which was originally coupled with tactile abilities, and was defined and discussed in Howard Gardner's Frames Of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. In his book, Gardner describes activities (such as dancing and performing surgery) as requiring great kinesthetic intelligence: using the body to create (or do) something.

Margaret H'Doubler wrote and spoke about kinesthetic learning during the 1940s, defining kinesthetic learning as the human body's ability to express itself through movement and dance.


According to the theory of learning styles, students who have a predominantly kinesthetic style are thought to be discovery learners: they have realization through doing, rather than thinking before initiating action. They may struggle to learn by reading or listening.

When learning, it helps for these students to move around; this increases the students' understanding, with learners generally getting better marks in exams when they can do so. Kinesthetic learners usually succeed in activities such as chemistry experiments, sporting activities, art and acting; It is common for kinesthetic learners to focus on two different things at the same time, remembering things in relation to what they were doing. They possess good eye–hand coordination. In kinesthetic learning, learning occurs by the learner using their body to express a thought, an idea or a concept (in any field).

Kinesthetic is just one of the different types of learning styles, but it is the one that is controversial among schools. This type of learning has to do with movement when learning. This basically means that when the student is learning, they need to be doing something in order to retain the needed information. Unlike visual or auditory learners, these types of learners won’t connect with the information if they have to just sit and listen to a lecture, or try and learn by watch a documentary. Kinesthetic learners need to get up and move in order to keep the information that he/she is being taught; the brain of this type of learner doesn’t remember what they are being taught when listening to a lecture because their body can’t make the connection that they are doing something. These learners enjoy moving around and interacting during hands on activities. [3]

When these students are not involved in movement or activities during class, they tend to lose their concentration. They have a tendency to take notes during lectures for the bodily movement and movement of their hands. When reading, these students first read through the entire concept and then understand the details.[4] In an elementary classroom setting, these students may stand out because of their need to move; their high energy levels may cause them to be agitated, restless or impatient. Kinesthetic learners' short- and long-term memories are strengthened by their use of movement.


Rita Dunn contends that kinesthetic and tactile learning are the same style.[5] Galeet BenZion asserts that kinesthetic and tactile learning are separate learning styles, with different characteristics. She defined kinesthetic learning as the process that results in new knowledge (or understanding) with the involvement of the learner's body movement. This movement is performed to establish new (or extending existing) knowledge. Kinesthetic learning at its best, BenZion found, is established when the learner uses language (their own words) in order to define, explain, resolve and sort out how his or her body's movement reflects the concept explored. One example is a student using movement to find out the sum of 1/2 plus 3/4 via movement, then explaining how their motions in space reflect the mathematical process leading to the correct answer.[6]

Kinesthetic Memory[edit]

Depending upon memory systems the kinesthetic learners respond differently. The different kinds of learners mainly include whole body learners, hands-on learners, doodlers, students learning through emotional experiences. The learning and the memory is generally short term. To achieve a long term memory different techniques can be used depending on the learning style. Mind mapping, story mapping, webbing, drawing can be used to enhance the learning of a doodler. For the hands-on learner, role play, clay, building and math manipulative can be used. The whole body learner can learn better through role-playing, body mapping, puzzles and use of computer technology which allows for certain movement while learning. Students can be engaged in group activities and activities which involve bodily movement such as dance, drama, sports can be used to nurture their learning. The following strategies can be used to facilitate kinesthetic memory through procedural motor pathway such as:

  • Dance: ideas, concepts and processes can be expressed through creative movements
  • Laboratory demonstrations
  • Sports
  • Gymnastics
  • Charades

The kinesthetic learners who have memories associated with emotions learning can be facilitated through dance, debate, drama, role-play, and charades. This kind of learning leads to a long-term memory since it is associated with emotions such as excitement, curiosity, anger, disappointment and success.[7]

Management Strategies[edit]

Learners with kinesthetic preferences learn through active movements and experiences. Activities such as playing, puppetry, drama, acting and designing ensures involvement of the learners. Thus, it is also important to manage the students during such activities.[8]

Some effective strategies used to involve unmotivated students during activities are:

  • Motivate the students by giving attention and reward, avoid punishment.
  • Students should be provided with option to choose activities for learning a particular concept
  • Grades can be allotted depending on the participation by using score rubrics
  • Activities chosen should encourage all the students to succeed and feel that have accomplished learning through an activity
  • Every student has to be given equal opportunity to participate
  • Cooperative activities can be organized and positive feedback can be given to encourage teamwork in a class

Some effective strategies used to manage hyper motivated students are:

  • Encourage the students to organize body movement during activities
  • Regular monitoring of the students
  • Appropriate and accurate directions have to be given for any activity
  • Before involving the students in the activity, the consequences of the task going out of control has to be clearly explained[9]

Lack of evidence[edit]

Although the concept of learning styles is popular among educators in some countries (and children and adults express preferences for particular modes of learning), there is no evidence that identifying a student's learning style produces better outcomes; on the contrary, there is substantial evidence that the meshing hypothesis (that a student will learn best if taught in a method deemed appropriate for the student's learning style) is invalid.[10] Well-designed studies "flatly contradict the popular meshing hypothesis".[10]

Proponents state that the evidence related to kinesthetic learners benefiting from specialized instruction (or targeted materials) appears mixed at best; the diagnosis of kinesthetic and tactile learning is coupled (rather than isolated), and teachers are likely to misdiagnose students' learning styles.

On the other hand, studies do show that mixed-modality presentations (for instance, using auditory and visual techniques) improve results in a variety of subjects.[11] Instruction that stimulates more than auditory learning (for example, kinesthetic learning) is more likely to enhance learning in a heterogeneous student population.[12]


  1. ^ Leite, Walter L.; Svinicki, Marilla; and Shi, Yuying: Attempted Validation of the Scores of the VARK: Learning Styles Inventory With Multitrait–Multimethod Confirmatory Factor Analysis Models, pg. 2. SAGE Publications, 2009.
  2. ^ LdPride. (n.d.). What are learning styles? Retrieved October 17, 2008
  3. ^ [:// "Quick Facts for Teachers on Bodily Kinesthetic Intelligence and Learning"] Check |url= scheme (help). Retrieved 10 November 2015. 
  4. ^ "learning styles". Retrieved 25 September 2015. 
  5. ^ Dunn, Rita. 2009. Title: Impact of Learning-Style Instructional Strategies on Students' Achievement and Attitudes: Perceptions of Educators in Diverse Institutions.
  6. ^ BenZion(Westreich), Galeet. 1999. An analysis of kinesthetic learners' responses: teaching mathematics through dance. Doctoral Dissertation. American University, Washington D.C..
  7. ^ Marilee Sprenger (22 April 2008). Differentiation Through Learning Styles and Memory. SAGE Publications. pp. 113–. ISBN 978-1-4522-9504-6. 
  8. ^ Ronald R. Sims; Serbrenia J. Sims (1 January 1995). The Importance of Learning Styles: Understanding the Implications for Learning, Course Design, and Education. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 53–. ISBN 978-0-313-29278-1. 
  9. ^ Traci Lengel; Mike Kuczala (26 January 2010). The Kinesthetic Classroom: Teaching and Learning Through Movement. SAGE Publications. ISBN 978-1-4522-7120-0. 
  10. ^ a b Harold Pashler, Mark McDaniel, Doug Rohrer and Vincent Nordli. "Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence". Psychological Science in the Public Interest 9 (3): 105–119. doi:10.1111/j.1539-6053.2009.01038.x. ISSN 1539-6053. 
  11. ^ Coffield, F., Moseley, D., Hall, E., Ecclestone, K. (2004). Learning styles and pedagogy in post-16 learning. A systematic and critical review. London: Learning and Skills Research Centre.
  12. ^ BenZion, Galeet (2010). Does a change in mathematics instructional strategies lead struggling third grade students to increase their performance on standardized tests?. Master's thesis. University of Maryland at College Park.

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