Term Paper: Teacher Gestures Affect Student Problem

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[. . .] Through an experiment conducted on children and adults, they aimed to find the ability and capacity of memory to retain information when applying gesture and when not applying gesture during an explanation task. The first process of the experiment made the participants solve math problems, addition for children and factoring for adults. After solving, they were asked to memorize a list of items. Then, each of the participants was asked to explain in two methods how they solved the math problems - with the use of gesturing, and without gesturing. After each type of explanation task (with gestures and without gestures), they were asked to recall the list of items they previously memorized. Based from the results of the experiment, Goldin-Meadow and her company found that, when comparing the results of recalling items after the two types of explanation task, all the participants were able to recall 20% more items after explaining their math solutions with gesturing. Goldin-Meadow and her company concluded that gesturing imposes lesser load of cognition in our memory, freeing lesser information it currently has, and retaining more information it had previously loaded.

Many studies on the benefit of gestures in student learning were conducted on a model of distinguishing the capability of the memory to comprehend properly, and the ability to grasp, store, and retain knowledge and information. The cognitive science of non-verbal communication such as gestures has proven effectiveness in terms of children's learning process. As found by many researchers, through diverse experiments conducted on learning individuals, both children and adults, verbal communication coupled with gesturing enhances the learning abilities of listeners. While gesturing serves as a comprehensive model and a big component in facilitating communication between teachers and students, many researchers note that multiple representations, such as gesturing, and verbal teaching should complement each other.

A study conducted by Emily S. Cross and Elizabeth A. Franz, indicated in the Science News article Gestures Help Words Become Memorable (Memory), of the University of Otago in New Zealand suggests that gesture is a supplement method of teaching that can serve relevant purpose to students' learning. The article indicates that Hand gestures amplify the impact of spoken words, rather than serving as embellishment for spoken words, say Emily S. Cross and Elizabeth A. Franz, both of University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. People recall more of what they hear if the speaker communicates with relevant hand gestures, the researchers find.

Cross and Franz's study performed an almost similar experiment of Goldin-Meadow et.al. Cross and Franz's study focused on examining a memory's capability when tested with speech demonstration using gestures, without gestures, and with irrelevant gestures. The 120 participants of the study have shown results that majority of the demonstrated speech with relevant gestures are easily remembered and recalled than those with irrelevant or no gestures at all.

While gesture serves an integral function to speakers, so does it to the listeners. The occurrence of gestures that accompany speech is an instinctive method of facilitating access and delivery of information. The purpose gestures convey may be of equal importance to what verbal communication does. Justine Cassell, in his A Framework for Gesture Generation and Interpretation, indicates certain equality in what speech and gesture can communicate.

When people are exposed to gestures and speech that convey slightly different information, whether additive or contradictory, they seem to treat the information conveyed by gesture on an equal footing with that conveyed by speech, ultimately seeming to build one single representation out of information conveyed in the two modalities (Cassell, McNeill & McCullough, in press).

Benefits of Communicating with Gestures as Supplementary Method

Gestures play a vital role in the process of communicating information, and in the process of representing concepts in a different mechanism. As found by many research and studies, compared to communicating with speech alone, supplementing verbal communication with non-verbal form, such as gestures, enhances listeners' comprehension, develops better learning process, and enables the memory to retain more information.

Based from experiments conducted by diverse studies, and from literature reviews, following are some of the advantages gesturing presents.

Gesture presents an extended approach to teachers in presenting instructions to students.

When teachers incorporate verbal explanations with hand movements, such as pointing to objects or demonstrating hand motions relevant to what is being spoken, students are provided with more reference and basis of learning. Studies found that gesturing is a strategy intentionally used by some speakers because it enhances their public speaking skills. Also, through gestures, they are able to effectively express the contents of their speech.

Gesture links instructional forms of verbal communication and non-verbal representations.

Communication usually takes place in a multi-modal form. Even a simple conversation happen using two mechanisms: speech and gesture. For instance, when a stranger asks you for a direction on how to go to a particular place, it is usual and normal that you use your hands to point to directions, such as "left," "right," "straight ahead," etc. Or when you speak of concrete adjectives such as "tall," "short," "circular," etc. Through gestures, you are able to associate same concepts verbally and non-verbally. Quek, et. al, in their Multimodal Human Discourse: Gesture and Speech, states the association of speech and gesture as modes of expression.

Gesture and speech clearly belong to different modalities of expression but they are linked on several levels and work together to present the same semantic idea units. The two modalities are not redundant; they are coexpressive.

The act of gesturing helps children re-represent perceptual or motor knowledge into explicit, verbal form (Alibali, 2000).

According to a study conducted by Alibali, Karmiloff-Smith indicates that children have the tendency of producing another representation of conceptual knowledge into concrete forms. In relation to this, Alibali suggests that process can be done through gestures. Gestures, in her definition, states that they facilitate the expression a perceptual information (Alibali, 2000).

Gestures influence and guide teachers' problem representation and children's problem comprehension.

When teachers incorporate verbal explanations with hand movements, such as pointing to objects or demonstrating hand motions relevant to what is being spoken, conveying and grasping information becomes easier. This was found to be true to both the teachers and the students. For the teacher's part, using gestures during explanation of a certain subject allows an easy access of words from their memory bank. Studies found that accompanying speech with gestures enables the mind to retrieve concepts or mental image quicker than when not using gestures. From Alibali's Understanding Change in Mathematical Reasoning, McNeill's idea and Alibali's view indicates that Gesture is particularly adept at expressing knowledge that is based in perception or motor action (McNeill, 1992). Thus, for knowledge that is initially acquired in a concrete, perception- or action-based format, it is not surprising that this knowledge is initially expressed in gestures, and only later re-represented in more abstract, or verbal form.

Students, on the other hand, are represented with influencing aspects of gestures in problem representation. For instance, a teacher pointing to the geometric lines of a triangle while explaining how to compute its area allows the students to better understand the representation of a formula in computing a triangle's area.

There are many advantages and benefits gestures can present in cognitive development. Many conducted research and experiments on the effect of gesture in the learning process of students have concluded that verbal approach complemented with gestures results to improvement in the learning capabilities of students. Gestures facilitate the expression of abstract ideas with concrete representations, enabling better functionality of the speaker and the listener's cognitive skills.


Based from the research presented, multiple representation, when applied in cognitive development, can be an effective method in contributing to the process of learning. The main subject of this paper, which is the application of gesture mechanism in providing knowledge to students, was found by many research and studies to play a vital role in relation to instructional provision and problem solving.

Several studies have focused on the use of evaluating the mathematical abilities of students on learning conditions where there is an integration of gestures and verbal explanations, and when there is the use of just verbal approach alone. Some, on the other hand, used the approach of testing the memory ability of children in recalling information on the same two conditions. Despite of the different methods used in examining the effect of gesture in cognitive development, many experiments revealed and concluded that gesturing significantly contributes in enhancing the learning abilities and problem solving skills of children.

As how speech functions, gesture serves a purpose of conveying knowledge and information. Gesture essentially extends and facilitates speech. However, as researchers suggest, gesture is not an independent form of communication tool. Cognitive development is achieved best when there is an integration of multiple mechanisms. Hence, it must be noted that gestures should supplement and complement speech and other mechanisms of learning, and vice versa. Gesture is an element in multiple representations of learning.

Gesture is a fundamental… [END OF PREVIEW]

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