- Mar 2022
Washington State mathteacher Brendan Jeffreys turned to gesture as a way of easing the mental loadcarried by his students, many of whom come from low-income households,speak English as a second language, or both. “Academic language—vocabularyterms like ‘congruent’ and ‘equivalent’ and ‘quotient’—is not something mystudents hear in their homes, by and large,” says Jeffreys, who works for theAuburn School District in Auburn, a small city south of Seattle. “I could see thatmy kids were stumbling over those words even as they were trying to keep trackof the numbers and perform the mathematical operations.” So Jeffreys devised aset of simple hand gestures to accompany, or even temporarily replace, theunfamiliar terms that taxed his students’ ability to carry out mental math.
Mathematics can often be more difficult compared to other subjects as students learning new concepts are forced not only to understand entirely new concepts, but simultaneously are required to know new vocabulary to describe those concepts. Utilizing gestures to help lighten the cognitive load of the new vocabulary to allow students to focus on the concepts and operations can be invaluable.
Evaluations of the platform show that users who follow the avatar inmaking a gesture achieve more lasting learning than those who simply hear theword. Gesturing students also learn more than those who observe the gesture butdon’t enact it themselves.
Manuela Macedonia's research indicates that online learners who enact specific gestures as they learn words learn better and have longer retention versus simply hearing words. Students who mimic these gestures also learn better than those who only see the gestures and don't use them themselves.
How might this sort of teacher/avatar gesturing be integrated into online methods? How would students be encouraged to follow along?
Could these be integrated into different background settings as well to take advantage of visual memory?
Anecdotally, I remember some Welsh phrases from having watched Aran Jones interact with his cat outside on video or his lip syncing in the empty spaces requiring student responses. Watching the teachers lips while learning can be highly helpful as well.
In a study published in 2020, for example, Macedonia and a group of sixcoauthors compared study participants who had paired new foreign-languagewords with gestures to those who had paired the learning of new words withimages of those words. The researchers found evidence that the motor cortex—the area of the brain that controls bodily movement—was activated in thegesturing group when they reencountered the vocabulary words they hadlearned; in the picture-viewing group, the motor cortex remained dormant. The“sensorimotor enrichment” generated by gesturing, Macedonia and hercoauthors suggest, helps to make the associated word more memorable
Manuela Macedonia and co-authors found that pairing new foreign words with gestures created activity in the motor cortex which helped to improve the associative memory for the words and the movements. Using images of the words did not create the same motor cortex involvement.
It's not clear which method of association is better, at least as written in The Extended Mind. Was one better than the other? Were they tested separately, together, and in a control group without either? Surely one would suspect that using both methods together would be most beneficial.
the use of gestures to enhance verbal memory during foreign-language encoding.
Manuela Macedonia wrote her Ph.D. thesis on the use of gestures to enhance verbal memory for language acquisition.
Kerry Ann Dickson, an associate professor of anatomy and cell biology atVictoria University in Australia, makes use of all three of these hooks when sheteaches. Instead of memorizing dry lists of body parts and systems, her studentspractice pretending to cry (the gesture that corresponds to the lacrimal gland/tearproduction), placing their hands behind their ears (cochlea/hearing), and swayingtheir bodies (vestibular system/balance). They feign the act of chewing(mandibular muscles/mastication), as well as spitting (salivary glands/salivaproduction). They act as if they were inserting a contact lens, as if they werepicking their nose, and as if they were engaging in “tongue-kissing” (motionsthat represent the mucous membranes of the eye, nose, and mouth, respectively).Dickson reports that students’ test scores in anatomy are 42 percent higher whenthey are taught with gestures than when taught the terms on their own.
Example of the use of visual, auditory, and proprioceptive methods used in the pedagogy of anatomy.
proprioceptive cue may be the mostpowerful of the three: research shows that making gestures enhances our abilityto think even when our gesturing hands are hidden from our view.
Annie Murphy Paul indicates that proprioceptive associations may be more powerful than auditory or visual ones as she notes that "research shows that making gestures enhances our ability to think even when our gesturing hands are hidden from our view."
This is something that could be researched and analyzed.
My personal experience is that visual >> auditory >> smell >> proprioception. Smell with respect to memory is incredibly difficult to exercise as are auditory method. Visual and proprioceptive methods are easier to actively practice though.
- lip reading
- open questions
- olfactive memory
- proprioceptive memory
- long-term memory
- associative memory
- language pedagogy
- mnemonic techniques
- Manuela Macedonia
- cognitive load
- mathematics definitions
- visual memory
- auditory memory
- verbal memory
- want to read
- language acquisition