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Embodied Cognition and STEM Learning

Theorists in embodied cognition postulate that the brain must be understood to function in the context of its physical body and that, reciprocally, engaging the body alters the function of the brain. This idea has led to insights in basic cognitive science – such as the ubiquity of embodied metaphors, or how gesture facilitates spatial thinking. Embodied cognition has thus provided tools that may be effective for teaching and learning, especially in the STEM disciplines, which rely upon concepts that are both richly detailed descriptions of the physical world and quite abstract, e.g., the notion of a limit in mathematics. Embodied tools to cut to the core of such ideas might make STEM disciplines more accessible.

The purpose of this collection of articles, published in Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications is to explore how embodied cognition might be applied to augment STEM learning.

Edited by: Nora Newcombe and Steven Weisberg

  1. Original article

    Teaching students to think spatially through embodied actions: Design principles for learning environments in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics

    Spatial thinking is a vital component of the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics curriculum. However, to date, broad development of learning environments that target domain-specific spatial think...

    D. DeSutter and M. Stieff

    Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2017 2:22

    Published on: 20 March 2017

  2. Original article

    Visual routines are associated with specific graph interpretations

    We argue that people compare values in graphs with a visual routine – attending to data values in an ordered pattern over time. Do these visual routines exist to manage capacity limitations in how many values can...

    Audrey L. Michal and Steven L. Franconeri

    Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2017 2:20

    Published on: 20 March 2017

  3. Original article

    Think3d!: Improving mathematics learning through embodied spatial training

    Spatial thinking skills positively relate to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) outcomes, but spatial training is largely absent in elementary school. Elementary school is a time when children d...

    Heather Burte, Aaron L. Gardony, Allyson Hutton and Holly A. Taylor

    Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2017 2:13

    Published on: 20 February 2017

  4. Review article

    Grounded understanding of abstract concepts: The case of STEM learning

    Characterizing the neural implementation of abstract conceptual representations has long been a contentious topic in cognitive science. At the heart of the debate is whether the “sensorimotor” machinery of the...

    Justin C. Hayes and David J. M. Kraemer

    Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2017 2:7

    Published on: 30 January 2017

  5. Brief report

    Gesture enhances learning of a complex statistical concept

    Prior research has shown that gestures that co-occur with speech can improve understanding of abstract concepts by embodying the underlying meaning of those concepts, thereby making them more accessible to the...

    Linda Rueckert, Ruth Breckinridge Church, Andrea Avila and Theresa Trejo

    Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2017 2:2

    Published on: 30 January 2017

  6. Original Article

    Making sense of movement in embodied design for mathematics learning

    Embodiment perspectives from the cognitive sciences offer a rethinking of the role of sensorimotor activity in human learning, knowing, and reasoning. Educational researchers have been evaluating whether and h...

    Dor Abrahamson and Arthur Bakker

    Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2016 1:33

    Published on: 19 December 2016

  7. Original Article

    Design of embodied interfaces for engaging spatial cognition

    Aspects of spatial cognition, specifically spatial skills, are strongly correlated with interest and success in STEM courses and STEM-related professions. Because growth in STEM-related industries is expected ...

    Paul G. Clifton, Jack Shen-Kuen Chang, Georgina Yeboah, Alison Doucette, Sanjay Chandrasekharan, Michael Nitsche, Timothy Welsh and Ali Mazalek

    Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2016 1:24

    Published on: 7 December 2016

  8. Brief report

    Interactivity mitigates the impact of working memory depletion on mental arithmetic performance

    Doing long sums in the absence of complementary actions or artefacts is a multistep procedure that quickly taxes working memory; congesting the phonological loop further handicaps performance. In the experimen...

    Frédéric Vallée-Tourangeau, Miroslav Sirota and Gaëlle Vallée-Tourangeau

    Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2016 1:26

    Published on: 7 December 2016

  9. Original Article

    Creating visual explanations improves learning

    Many topics in science are notoriously difficult for students to learn. Mechanisms and processes outside student experience present particular challenges. While instruction typically involves visualizations, s...

    Eliza Bobek and Barbara Tversky

    Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2016 1:27

    Published on: 7 December 2016

  10. Original article

    From hands to minds: Gestures promote understanding

    Gestures serve many roles in communication, learning and understanding both for those who view them and those who create them. Gestures are especially effective when they bear resemblance to the thought they r...

    Seokmin Kang and Barbara Tversky

    Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2016 1:4

    Published on: 22 September 2016