Why Kinesthetic Learning?

The National Math Foundation functions as a one-stop resource for school districts across the country that are interested in developing motion-learning education. An influx of research and data on the benefits of exercise and cognition has inspired us to expand beyond traditional school subjects and focus on developing healthy lifestyles. The National Math Foundation is formally partnered with the Math & Movement program, whose multi-sensory learning approach boosts retention rates, builds self-confidence, and increases test scores.

What is “Kinesthetic Learning”?

Kinesthetic learning refers to a learning style that involves whole-body movement and tactile engagement. Kinesthetic learners process information best when they are physically engaged during the learning process; they often prefer a ‘learning through doing’ approach (Fleming & Mills, 1992). The VARK model defines the kinesthetic mode as leaning more towards “learning based on behavior” that incorporates the senses (Othman & Amiruddin, 2010). Strengths that may be displayed by kinesthetic learners include good hand-eye coordination, quick reaction time, excellent muscle memory, high energy levels, and eagerness for learning through experimentation. 

Who are Kinesthetic Learners?

An early study by Dunn and Dunn (1978) found that 20-30% of school-age children are auditory learners, 40% visual learners, and 30-40% are tactile/kinesthetic learners. Comparatively, a study by Muneera Spence (2006) found that visual learners account for around 30% of the population, auditory learners account for around 25% of the population, and kinesthetic learners may account for as much as 45% of the population. 

By 2009, Mulalic (et al.) discovered that the kinesthetic learning style was the most preferred learning style among ESL students. Studies in 1987, 1990, 1993, 1997, and 2001 reported that adult L2 immigrants and ESL students in the US favor kinesthetic styles over all others (Gilakjani, 2012). Moreover, according to the Kunjufu Learning Styles Model, it is estimated that as many as two-thirds of students, and an even larger percentage of African-American males, are visual-picture, auditory, and kinesthetic learners. 

Kinesthetic learners make up a significant portion of our classrooms and our communities, so why are we not doing more to support them?

What are the Benefits of Learning Kinesthetically?

Kinesthetic learning strategies have clear benefits for almost every kind of child. Many at-risk adolescents in middle schools and high schools across the United States tend to be highly tactual learners, kinesthetic learners, or both. Researchers have also found that students who do not respond to traditional teaching are likely to be engaged by hands-on, activity-oriented lessons. They repeatedly found that at-risk students responded well to playful lessons and demonstrated significantly increased achievement scores, higher levels of engagement, and increased motivation. 

Kinesthetic learning encourages physical activity, bolsters cognitive, social, and emotional development, enhances the brain’s capacity to retain information, and develops not just one’s individual capacities and strengths, but also one’s self-confidence in those capacities. 

Kinesthetic Learning in the Classroom

Movement can have many purposes within the classroom, which correlate to the benefits noted above. Movement prepares the brain for learning while simultaneously offering brain breaks during times of high stress towards academic performance. Structured movement can also increase class cohesion while strengthening students’ individual physical fitness. 

Kinesthetic activities are easy to apply to academic content, and can often take the form of games, which can help review difficult concepts. Overall, physical movement (whether it be inside or outside the classroom) helps support relationships, children’s capacity to make meaning, and rigor (Ciotto & Fede, 2017).

Learn About The American Rescue Plan

The federal government is sending funds to schools to help students get back to grade-level due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To learn more about how you can help to get those funds to the right places, click the link below.