Research Proposal: Kinesthetics Movement in the Classroom

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Kinesthetic Intelligence -- and Kinesthetic Learning for Every Child

Most educators are aware that there are different styles of learning. However, this does not mean that they are equally aware of each different style or are equally good at honoring each style of learning. Teachers seem to be able to integrate visual and auditory styles of learning with relative ease. This should not be surprising given that both visual and auditory elements have been a part of traditional pedagogical techniques for decades. However, teachers are probably less likely to include a full range of kinesthetic learning tools. Again, this should not be surprising given that learning-through-movement is something that is in many ways alien to traditional teaching and classroom-management techniques. Indeed, a glimpse into most classrooms (especially for younger children) will probably result in a view of a teacher trying to get her or his students to sit still. Of course, not all movement by students is conducive to learning. But a focus on controlling the physicality of students can in many cases block the most appropriate style of learning.

The concept of different learning styles is largely based on Howard Gardner's 1993 book on multiple intelligence -- although the recognition that people can be differentiated according to learning style (as well as along an incredibly large array of vectors) has been recognized in less codified ways for centuries. An excellent summary of Gardner's concept of learning style comes from Dunn & Dunn (1992), who defined learning style as the manner in which each student or learner "begins to concentrate on, process and remember new and difficult information" (p. 2). Their definition rightly emphasizes that learning style is important primarily in the context of learning difficult material. Learning something relatively trivial -- such as a new phone number that one has to recall for only a few minutes, or how to use a new dishwasher -- do not require us to use any significant part of intelligence. Such low-level learning is relatively consistent from individual to individual.

Gremli's (1996) definition of learning style is similar: "an individual's learning style is the way that person begins to process, internalize and concentrate on new material" (p. 24). This inclusion of the way in which a person internalizes information is a key element of learning style because it references the way in which a person creates cognitive models or schema. Schema -- roughly the ways in which we internally organize the realm of our knowledge -- are a fundamental aspect of our total selves.

The fact that the way in which we are most comfortable or most inclined to take in information affects our internalization of it then our learning style can be seen to be one of the most vital aspects of the ways in which the environment shapes who we are. (This is not to say that learning style is determined solely by environment: There is no reason to believe that it is not both genetically and environmentally determined, as is almost every aspect of human nature.) Gremli argues that "every person has a learning style -- it is an individual as a finger-print" (1996, p. 24). Something so powerful, and absolutely unique, cannot be ignored if one is intent on honoring the whole person.

Kinesthetic intelligence is the name given to the quality of learning by carrying out physical movement (Hatch & Gardner, 1999). This is the dominant learning style for some children -- as well as adults, of course. It is vital to remember that kinesthetic intelligence or kinesthetic learning is the dominant learning style for some people but never the only learning style. All people combine different types of learning styles, blending kinesthetic learning with auditory and visual. However, the very different percentages of different learning style makes a substantial difference in terms of overall learning possibilities. One way of visualizing this is to think about a pie chart: Some people will have nearly all of the 360 degrees colored in for kinesthetic with only a tiny slice colored in for visual and auditory. Others will have the reverse of this. And still others will have their "learning pie" nearly equally divided.

Or -- to pick a more kinesthetic simile -- we might think about learning styles in terms of a triple-threat athlete, one who plays tennis, runs track, and also plays volleyball. Some athletes might play all of these sports equally well, but most will be at least somewhat better at one or two of them.

Gardner's own description of this amalgamation of different types of intelligence emphasizes the way in which this model was a significant break from what had come before:

In the heyday of the psychometric and behaviorist eras, it was generally believed that intelligence was a single entity that was inherited; and that human beings - initially a blank slate - could be trained to learn anything, provided that it was presented in an appropriate way. Nowadays an increasing number of researchers believe precisely the opposite; that there exists a multitude of intelligences, quite independent of each other; that each intelligence has its own strengths and constraints; that the mind is far from unencumbered at birth; and that it is unexpectedly difficult to teach things that go against early 'naive' theories of that challenge the natural lines of force within an intelligence and its matching domains. (Gardner, 1993, p. xxiii)

I should note before proceeding in my definition of kinesthetic intelligence that some researchers and educators divide learning and teaching styles into more than these three categories, although these are the most common and I would argue that they are sufficient. Like the three hues of the color spectrum that can be combined to form all other colors, these three learning styles, I believe, can be combined to form all learning styles. So, for example, some researchers predicate a "linguistic" or "verbal" style of learning. I certainly acknowledge that many people are attracted to words and find delight in both reading and writing. However, a believe that an attraction to language is in fact a combination of primarily visual and auditory learning. (There is also in all probability a kinesthetic element involved in an attraction to language, for speaking and, to a lesser extent, reading involve physicality as well.)

Likewise, what researchers and educators refer to as "logical" (or sometimes "mathematical" learning) seems to me also to be a combination of primarily visual and auditory learning styles. Other learning styles -- such solitary and social learning styles -- seem to be more properly understood within the context of personality trait analysis rather than primarily as a part of learning style. (Although it does seem possible that primarily visual learners are more likely to be solitary learners while auditory and kinesthetic learners are more likely to learn in a group.)

The Kinesthetic Learner and Kinesthetic Learning

Not all kinesthetic learners are the same, of course, but there are general attributes of a kinesthetic learner that are common. These traits can be used by an educator to assess (or diagnose, in some sense) a person as a kinesthetic learner. (A person could also diagnose herself or himself as a kinesthetic learner by noting the following traits or inclinations.) (The following description of kinesthetic learning and intelligence is summarized from all of Gardner's writings cited in the bibliography.) People whose predominant method of learning and processing information tend to have the following traits:

People with kinesthetic intelligence tend to be more physically active. Moreover, they to need to change physical activities more frequently than people with other forms of multiple intelligence. So while a visual learner might be perfectly happy to spend all of her time at the gym on the treadmill, a kinesthetic learner will probably move from treadmill, to elliptical machine, to lap pool.

Kinesthetic learners tend to speak with their hands more than other types of learners. (It is important to note, however, that the extent to which a person speaks with one's hands is also culturally determined in large measure: While some cultures approve -- and even encourage -- speaking with one's hands [anyone who has ever had a dinner with an Italian family has probably experienced this]. There are also differences between genders: In Muslim cultures women are often less likely to speak with their hands than are men. Culture affects each one of us in broad and pervasive ways, including our learning styles. I will take this subject up again below.

Kinesthetic learners are much more likely to remember things that they have done, or even things that they have seen other people doing than things that were said or seen.

Kinesthetic learners generally enjoy manipulating or tinkering with things and tend to appreciate the physical qualities of materials (such as the differences in texture between different kinds of wood). They also tend to be attracted to activities in which materials are transformed in some way, such as cooking.

Kinesthetic learners are generally good at both movement that involves the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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