Kinesthetic Learning

Kinesthetic learning occurs as students engage a physical activity: learning by doing, exploring, discovering. Kinesthetic learning is one of four learning styles defined by Neil Fleming and co-workers (see Fleming, N., and Mills, C., 1992, Not Another Inventory, Rather a Catalyst for Reflection,Published in: To Improve the Academy, Vol. 11, Page 137): visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic. (Have your students take the VARK Survey to see what their learning preferences are!). Although only ~15% of the population is strongly aligned with a kinesthetic learning style preliminary research has shown that kinesthetic learning results in increased learning outcomes for all students (see: 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).

Kinesthetic learners prefer to learn by direct experience, and learning transpires as a result of what was done rather than what was said or read. Kinesthetic learning is closely related to

  • Benjamin Bloom's taxonomy (or domains) of learning: cognitive skills, affective domain, psychomotor skills. Follow this link to see an overview of Learning Domains or Bloom's Taxonomy. These three domains complement and reinforce each other in the learning process. The psychomotor domain encompasses physical movement, coordination and a variety of motor skills (see: Simpson E. J., 1972, The Classification of Educational Objectives in the Psychomotor Domain. Washington, DC: Gryphon House). Aspects of the psychomotor domain include:
    • Perception--using sensory cues to guide motor activities
    • Readiness to act--includes mental, physical and emotional readiness,e.g. prepared to act upon a sequence of instructions.
    • Guided Response--learning a complex skill through imitation and trial and error; following instructions.
    • Mechanism--learned responses become habitual, movements performed with confidence and proficiency.
    • Complex overt response--performance of complex movement patterns.
    • Adaptation--movements can be modified or adapted to fit special situations
    • Origination--creating new movement patters to fit a situation.

  • David Kolb's Experiential Learning Theory (see: Kolb, D. A. 1984. Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey:Prentice-Hall). The ELT model outlines two related approaches toward grasping experience: Concrete Experience and Abstract Conceptualization
  • Active Learning--there is a growing body of evidence that active learning works. See an overview of other active learning strategies from the Starting Point project.
In this learning module on Teaching Symmetry Using Kinesthetic Learning, students experience symmetry operations by physically doing the movements of the symmetry operations. Students begin to master the concepts of symmetry (cognitive skills), and have an in-class experience they never forget (affective domain). Can you believe it?! My instructor made me square dance in mineralogy class (kinesthetic learning)! Rock on!