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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. categorized learning styles as follows:
The Skill of memory also fits into the category of kinesthetic learning, as it is what happens when somebody is kinesthetically learning. Skill memories are difficult to convey except by direct demonstration, may be acquired without awareness, and requires several repetitions.
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 1983. 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.
Rita Dunn contends that kinesthetic and tactile learning are the same style. 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.
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 book 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
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.
Kinds of Skill Memory
Perceptual-Motor Skills are skills learned by movement patterns guided by sensory inputs. There are closed skills and open skills. Closed skills are skills learned such as dance. A ballerina learns a specific set of moves and doesn’t stray from the exact routine, which is why it is called a closed skill; there is one option. Open skills are skills that require more flexibility in learning such as team sports. A person learning how to play football learns multiple drills, strategies, and practices scrimmages in order to learn how to work in multiple types of environments. Because no football game is the same, and a person can’t know going into a game the exact steps the other team is going to take, open skills are required to become successful. Cognitive skills also are a part of kinesthetic learning, perceptual learning, and skill memories. Some people learn better in an environment that is more hands-on, and this builds their cognitive skills as well. Cognitive skills are skills which require you to solve problems or apply strategies rather than to move your body based on what you perceive. Solving a puzzle would an example of a cognitive skill.
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.
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.
Lack of evidence
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. Well-designed studies "flatly contradict the popular meshing hypothesis".
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. Instruction that stimulates more than auditory learning (for example, kinesthetic learning) is more likely to enhance learning in a heterogeneous student population.
Brain Substrates Involved in Kinesthetic Learning
There are three parts of the brain that are the most important to kinesthetic and skill learning. The basal ganglia, cerebral cortex, and the cerebellum all play equally important roles in the ability to learn knew skills and master them.
The Basal Ganglia: a collection of ganglia (clusters of neurons) that lie at the base of the forebrain. The basal ganglia receive information from other parts of the brain such as the hippocampus and cortical areas that send messages about the outside world. Most of these messages are sensory, meaning what a person is physically feeling. The basal ganglia then interpret this information and sends it on a path to the thalamus and the brainstem which both play large factors in physical movement. Therefore, the basal ganglia are the beginning of the process for somebody who is learning-by-doing to respond viscerally to the stimuli around them. It is important once a skill is learned to practice it. This can change how basal ganglia circuits participate in the performance of that skill and that synaptic plasticity is a basic neural mechanism enabling such changes. When thinking of practice and plasticity, you can picture a plastic container. The more a person practices, the more plasticity they develop, therefore the plastic container gets bigger and can hold more than it could before.
The Cerebral Cortex: the brain tissue covering the top and sides of the brain in most vertebrates; involved in storing and processing of sensory inputs and motor outputs. In the human brain, the cerebral cortex is actually a sheet of neural tissue about 1/8th inch thick. The sheet is folded so that it can fit inside the skull. The neural circuits in this area of the brain expand with practice of an activity, just like the synaptic plasticity grows with practice. Clarification of some of the mechanisms of learning by neuro science has been advanced, in part, by the advent of non-invasive imaging technologies, such as positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI). These technologies have allowed researchers to observe human learning processes directly. Through these types of technologies, we are now able to see and study what happens in the process of learning. In different tests performed the brain being imaged showed a greater blood flow and activation to that area of the brain being stimulated through different activities such as finger tapping in a specific sequence. It has been revealed that the process at the beginning of learning a new skill happens quickly, and later on slows down to almost a plateau. This process can also be referred to as The Law of Learning. The slower learning showed in the FMRI that in the cerebral cortex this was when the long term learning was occurring, suggesting that the structural changes in the cortex reflect the enhancement of skill memories during later stages of training. When a person studies a skill for a longer duration of time, but in a shorter amount of time they will learn quickly, but also only retain the information into their short-term memory. Just like studying for an exam; if a student tries to learn everything the night before, it will not stick in the long run. If a person studies a skill for a shorter duration of time, but more frequently and long-term, their brain will retain this information much longer as it is stored in the long-term memory. Functional and structural studies of the brain have revealed a vast interconnectivity between diverse regions of the cerebral cortex. For example, large numbers of axons interconnect the posterior sensory areas serving vision, audition, and touch with anterior motor regions. Constant communication between sensation and movement makes sense, because to execute smooth movement through the environment, movement must be continuously integrated with knowledge about one’s surroundings obtained via sensory perception. The cerebral cortex plays a role in allowing humans to do this.
The Cerebellum: The cerebellum is critical to the ability for a human or animal to be able to regulate movement. This area of the brain wraps around the brainstem and is very densely packed with neurons and neural connections. This part of the brain is involved in timing as well as movement. It assists in predicting events, especially in the formation, execution, and timing of conditioned responses. As you can imagine, the cerebellum plays a very important role in all forms of kinesthetic learning and motor function. For a ballerina, it is important to be able to control their movements and time it exactly right for their routine. For a football player it is important to be able to regulate movement when running throwing, and being able to have control over where the ball goes as well as the timing of it.
All three of these important systems in the brain function together as a team, one not being more important than the other. They work together to allow for responding to sensory events, timing, controlling physical actions, and more. However, it is important to remember than unless a person is actively practicing, these parts of the brain won’t help them get to their full potential. Alterations in the brain that occur during learning seem to make the nerve cells more efficient or powerful. Studies have shown that animals raised in complex environments have a greater volume of capillaries per nerve cell—and therefore a greater supply of blood to the brain—than the caged animals, regardless of whether the caged animal lived alone or with companions. Overall, these studies depict an orchestrated pattern of increased capacity in the brain that depends on experience.
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- Overview of range of learning styles
- Tips for teaching kinesthetic learners to read
- Tips for kinesthetic learners
- Misdiagnosis of kinesthetic learners with ADHD
- Incidence and description of different learning styles
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