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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. Content type: Original article

    In this article, we begin to lay out a framework and approach for studying how students come to understand complex concepts in rich domains. Grounded in theories of embodied cognition, we advance the view that...

    Authors: Ji Y. Son, Priscilla Ramos, Melissa DeWolf, William Loftus and James W. Stigler

    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2018 3:1

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  2. Content type: Original article

    In line with theories of embodied cognition, hands-on experience is typically assumed to support learning. In the current paper, we explored this issue within the science domain of sinking objects. Adults had ...

    Authors: Ramón D. Castillo, Talia Waltzer and Heidi Kloos

    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2017 2:28

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  3. Content type: Original article

    A mixed design was created using text and game-like multimedia to instruct in the content of physics. The study assessed which variables predicted learning gains after a 1-h lesson on the electric field. The t...

    Authors: Mina C. Johnson-Glenberg and Colleen Megowan-Romanowicz

    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2017 2:24

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  4. Content type: Original article

    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...

    Authors: D. DeSutter and M. Stieff

    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2017 2:22

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  5. Content type: Original article

    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...

    Authors: Audrey L. Michal and Steven L. Franconeri

    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2017 2:20

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  6. Content type: Review article

    Research on mathematics education has shown that learners’ actions can influence how they think and vice versa. Much of this work has been rooted in the use of manipulatives, gestures, and body movements. Our ...

    Authors: Cathy Tran, Brandon Smith and Martin Buschkuehl

    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2017 2:16

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  7. Content type: Original article

    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...

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

    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2017 2:13

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  8. Content type: Original article

    It is notoriously difficult for people to adaptively apply formal mathematical strategies learned in school to real-world contexts, even when they possess the required mathematical skills. The current study ex...

    Authors: Allison S. Liu and Christian D. Schunn

    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2017 2:6

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  9. Content type: Review article

    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...

    Authors: Justin C. Hayes and David J. M. Kraemer

    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2017 2:7

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  10. Content type: Original article

    We develop a theory of grounded and embodied mathematical cognition (GEMC) that draws on action-cognition transduction for advancing understanding of how the body can support mathematical reasoning. GEMC propo...

    Authors: Mitchell J. Nathan and Candace Walkington

    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2017 2:9

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  11. Content type: Brief report

    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...

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

    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2017 2:2

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  12. Content type: Original Article

    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...

    Authors: Dor Abrahamson and Arthur Bakker

    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2016 1:33

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  13. Content type: Original article

    How do people think about complex phenomena like the behavior of ecosystems? Here we hypothesize that people reason about such relational systems in part by creating spatial analogies, and we explore this poss...

    Authors: Kensy Cooperrider, Dedre Gentner and Susan Goldin-Meadow

    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2016 1:28

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  14. Content type: Original article

    Formal mathematics is a paragon of abstractness. It thus seems natural to assume that the mathematical expert should rely more on symbolic or conceptual processes, and less on perception and action. We argue i...

    Authors: Tyler Marghetis, David Landy and Robert L. Goldstone

    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2016 1:25

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  15. Content type: Original Article

    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 ...

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

    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2016 1:24

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  16. Content type: Brief report

    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...

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

    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2016 1:26

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  17. Content type: Original Article

    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...

    Authors: Eliza Bobek and Barbara Tversky

    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2016 1:27

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  18. Content type: Original article

    Although desktop simulations can be useful in representing scientific phenomena during inquiry activities, they do not allow students to embody or contextualize the spatial aspects of those phenomena. One lear...

    Authors: Allison J. Jaeger, Jennifer Wiley and Thomas Moher

    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2016 1:23

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  19. Content type: Original article

    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...

    Authors: Seokmin Kang and Barbara Tversky

    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2016 1:4

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  20. Content type: Original article

    Novices struggle to interpret maps that show information about continuous dimensions (typically latitude and longitude) layered with information that is inherently continuous but segmented categorically. An ex...

    Authors: Kinnari Atit, Steven M. Weisberg, Nora S. Newcombe and Thomas F. Shipley

    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2016 1:2

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