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Embodied Cognition & Enactivism: Implications for Education


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Exploring specific theoretical and practical implications of recent research on embodied cognition and enactivism for the design of effective learning environments, especially those targeting conceptual change.

Published in: Education

Embodied Cognition & Enactivism: Implications for Education

  1. 1. AERA 2010 Embodied Cognition & Enactivism: Implications for Constructivism & Conceptual Change Doug Holton Instructional Technology & Learning Sciences May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 1
  2. 2. Embodied Cog & Enactivism The idea that our cognitive processes are grounded in sensory behavior and motor actions. The mind and body and world are inseparable. (Qing Li, AERA 2010) May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 2
  3. 3. Embodied Cog Examples • Hill looks steeper wearing a backpack • Holding a warm drink, people rate others as more warm and friendly than w/cold drink • Faster to respond 'yes' when pushing lever, faster to respond 'no' when pulling it • Right handed people view things more positively on the right side and vice versa • More likely to recall positive experiences when moving marbles up into box than when moving them down May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 3
  4. 4. Haptic Advantage • Faster and more accurate mental transformations when performing an action congruent with the imagined transformation, and vice versa • Pulley & gear systems – pulling a rope blindfolded or imagining pulling a rope helps people mentally animate the behavior • We are better at judging the volume of shapes from haptic than from visual info • Haptics assist Piagetian conservation tasks May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 4
  5. 5. Other Embodiment Examples • Hundreds more published examples >20 yrs • You can probably come up with your own – pacing when working on a paper, gesturing when giving a presentation, etc. • Eventually you get to a point where it is hard to think of examples that are not embodied or do not involve embodiment in some manner • philosophy, colors, math abstractions (Lakoff, Johnson, Noe, Nunez...) May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 5
  6. 6. Summary of Embodied Cog For a summary see: Embodiment and Cognitive Science Raymond Gibbs, 2006 and see: http://embodiedcog. May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 6
  7. 7. Connections to Activity Theory Some of the first folks to consider issues of embodiment are from phenomenology – Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Don Shaun Gallagher and others Kaptelenin & Bonnie Nardi – Acting with Technology (ch.9) found a great deal of overlap between activity theory and (embodied) phenomenology May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 7
  8. 8. Applying E.C. to Education • What's missing are comprehensive applications of embodied cognition & enactivism to education • Despite the variety of research on embodied cognition, virtually all the examples I mentioned have little or no application to education. May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 8
  9. 9. Applying E.C. to Education We're not going to: • give different exam response sheets for left and right handed students • serve kids warm drinks • give teachers warm apple pies instead of cold apples
  10. 10. Abstracting to Education One must abstract from the general principles of embodied cognition and enactivism to inspire new learning designs and other new educational applications and frameworks. Or use embodiment as a lens to revisit existing educational theories & techniques. Some example applications...
  11. 11. Applications to Education • Children 'act out' a story w/figurines leads to better reading comprehension (Arthur Glenberg) • Improved math learning when teachers attend to the gestures they and their students use (Susan Goldin-Meadow-Hearing Gesture) • Better understand molecular structures when allowed to haptically manipulate 3D models (Gail Jones) • Minogue & Jones (2006). Haptics in Education • Wolff-Michael Roth – Gestures • Hasn't been a more general review or book May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 11
  12. 12. Applying to Constructivism Let's look back at constructivism through the lens of embodiment and enactivism. Enactivism might be considered one flavor of constructivism, in addition to social constructivism, radical constructivism... (see Constructivist Foundations website) May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 12
  13. 13. Applying to Constructivism Knowledge isn't a structure you build or an object that can be passed around or purely linguistic: “it is not knowledge-as-object but knowledge-as-action” (Begg, 2000) Knowledge isn't “stuff” (ala Michi Chi) in your head. Knowledge isn't an object or product (Dewey) May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 13
  14. 14. Constructivism Re-summarizing some advantages of constructivism: • More student-centered • Active participation is critical • Presenting information does not mean a student learned or understood it • Students aren't blank slates or machines to be programmed • Students aren't a homogenous group May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 14
  15. 15. Q's about Constructivism • How is knowledge constructed? • What is the nature of this knowledge and its relationship to the world? (epistemology) • How do we know what students understand? (assessment) hard Q for Von Glasersfeld • Why and when is guidance necessary? • Why do students have the “misconceptions” or alternative conceptions that they do? May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 15
  16. 16. Enactivism • May help us answer some of these Q's • May provide a better grounding for some concepts and techniques from constructivism and the learning sciences • Humanizes students even more: empathy • Pay attention to the whole learning environment including gestures and the body • Provides some (embodied) constraints on learning May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 16
  17. 17. Wolff-Michael Roth “Learning environments that do not support students’ use of body and gesture can limit what and how they learn” (Roth & Lawless, 2001). “What is called teaching, therefore, involves not only the words and sentences a teacher utters and writes on the board during a lesson, but also all the hands/arms gestures, body movements, and facial expressions a teacher performs in the classroom” (Pozzer- Ardenghi & Roth, 2006, p.96) May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 17
  18. 18. Applying to Conceptual Change Let's look at conceptual change research through the lens of embodiment: “Naive notions like those derived from bodily metaphors may underpin misconceptions, such as the quasi-Aristotelian notions that Alternative Frameworks researchers in science education have documented extensively” (Ernst, 2006) May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 18
  19. 19. Conceptual Change See Cambridge Handbook of Concept.Change • Michelene Chi – conceiving of processes as objects or substances (like diffusion/current) • Andy diSessa – phenomenological primitives, “knowledge in pieces” • force as mover • force as action • Are embodied actions central to core p-prims • Are actions coordinated, even theory-like • Is there an 'embodied physics' May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 19
  20. 20. Animations/Diagrams/Sims Diagrams let us take our time, mentally re- animate processes. Animations/videos may be too fast or too slow. The more realistic/complex the simulation, the more difficult for the learner to use. More effective alternative: User-controllable diagrams or animated, controllable simulations (Lowe, 2004; Chan & Black, 2006) May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 20
  21. 21. Example: Graph Interpretation “graph as picture” misconception -G. Leinhardt May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 21
  22. 22. MBL: Microcomp-Based Labs Better understand success of MBL approach: connecting sensors with computers Ex: Drag a car back and forth along a track, and the computer graphs its position/speed/acceleration in real-time Within 20 minutes, students better understand how to interpret graphs of motion. Video not as successful, non-real-time also hurts perf May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 22
  23. 23. Controllable Circuit Simulation • Move voltage “up” or “down” using a slider or joystick or steering wheel • “Enact” a voltage source: battery (constant voltage), AC (alternating current) • “Wiggle” the voltage and see the effects on electrical current flow (as represented by a moving chain of dots → speed=current) • Better understand the behavior and difference between capacitors and inductors, high/low pass filters... May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 23
  24. 24. Lessons Learned • Embodying concepts helps for abstract, non- visualizable, non-physical concepts, as well. • There doesn't have to be a one-to-one spatially isomorphic congruence between the action and the thing being conceived. Temporal and causal congruence appear to be most important (see research on causal perception). • It is not the actions per se we attend to & learn, but the constraints on our actions (similar to Vygotsky's internalization concept) May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 24
  25. 25. Contrasting Cases • Another highly successful instructional technique • In the next slides, ask yourself – what do you notice in the left box? May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 25
  26. 26. What do you see in left box? May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 26
  27. 27. What did you notice? A Circle Now try it again What do you notice in the left box? May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 27
  28. 28. What do you see in left box? May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 28
  29. 29. What did you notice? A Smaller Circle You noticed the size now And perhaps the white color too Try It Again May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 29
  30. 30. What do you see in left box? May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 30
  31. 31. What did you notice? A Circle in the Middle Now the position of the circle Is more salient May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 31
  32. 32. Contrasting Cases Why does this strategy work? How does it work? Why do we notice the “difference”? Perhaps when we see 2 contrasting cases, we transform/manipulate one into the other. For example move or grow the circle. Similarity as [embodied] transformation (Hahn et al., 2003) May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 32
  33. 33. Conclusion Embodied cognition research and enactivism may serve as a new foundation for research on conceptual change and constructivist- inspired learning environments. May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 33
  34. 34. Conclusion “Learning environments that do not support students’ use of body and gesture can limit what and how they learn” (Roth & Lawless, 2001). One should not ignore the the embodied nature of teaching and learning, even in online learning contexts (McWilliam & Taylor, 1998; Bayne, 2004; Dall'Alba & Barnacle, 2005) [e.g., presence]
  35. 35. Enactivism Gotchas • Embodied cog/enactivism is not behaviorism • There are many diverse notions of embodiment, however, at many levels • Embodiment does not simply mean 'make it hands-on' or 'use avatars' or 'anthropomorphize things' (embodied interactivity plus constraints on activity) • Sometimes limited/constrained interactivity is more effective than full/unconstrained activity (Hegarty) May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 35
  36. 36. Design Principle Ultimately, when designing a learning environment think about: What are the key constraints I want students to understand, and how can I help students embody them. This helps regardless of whether you are teaching: circuits, math problems, writing for an audience, helping students understand a historical episode, etc.
  37. 37. Embodiment: A New Lens Considerations of embodiment provide a new lens on learning, teaching, educational research, instructional design, and theory. “The content is the audience.” – Marshall McLuhan
  38. 38. Thank You Copies of papers for this & other session at: May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 38
  39. 39. May 1, 2010 AERA - Doug Holton 39