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Published on January 7, 2021

How To Learn Effectively With Kinesthetic Learning Style

How To Learn Effectively With Kinesthetic Learning Style

My daughter is always on the go. She’s not one of those children who sit still for hours musing over a toy or a book. Nope. She’s much more likely to be jumping off the sofa like some kind of WWE wrestler or running back and forth, pushing herself off the walls—also like some kind of WWE wrestler. So, instead of trying to force her to sit still and learn her letters, I try to use activities for people with kinesthetic learning styles to make learning better suited for her current developmental stage.

The 4 Learning Styles

You’ve probably heard about learning styles by now. Maybe someone claimed that they were a visual learner, or a teacher dubbed you an auditory learner. Learning styles began in the 1990s when New Zealander Neil Fleming created a questionnaire to assess how people preferred to learn new information. This questionnaire is known as the VARK and is still used to determine people’s learning styles today.

There are four main learning styles according to Fleming’s VARK questionnaire:

  • Visual – Visual learners like to see new information. They prefer charts, graphs, and films over reading or hearing information—think images over sounds, movements, or written words.
  • Auditory or Aural – Auditory learners prefer to hear new information. They tend to be drawn to audiobooks and music.
  • Reading/Writing – Reading/writing learners prefer to do exactly that—read and write. They focus well when reading new information and readily process information by taking notes.
  • Kinesthetic – Kinesthetic learners are drawn to movement. They tend to be out of their seats figuring out new information spatially and physically.

Problem With Fleming’s Learning Styles

Because we’ve had nearly thirty years to study the efficacy of Fleming’s learning styles, we now know that learning styles are only a preference. Using your preferred learning style does not actually improve learning outcomes. That means if you prefer visual inputs, charts and graphs may be more comfortable for you, but using them doesn’t help you learn more.

A better way to think about learning styles is as learning preferences, but if you want to boost your learning, you should focus more on matching the learning style with the task at hand.

For example, I struggle with auditory information. When someone spells something aloud, I have a tough time processing what they’re spelling. However, I’ve had success with auditory input when I’m memorizing lines for a play or learning the lyrics of a song. Instead of saying that I’m a reading/writing learner or a visual learner, I know that my learning style depends on what it is I’m trying to learn.

What Are Kinesthetic Learning Styles?

Kinesthetic learning is embodied, active, and tactile. Instead of listening to a lecture or reading a book, the kinesthetic learning style involves moving through space. Even if you consider yourself more of a visual, auditory, or reading/writing learner, kinesthetic learning techniques can help you energize and memorize new information.

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1. Energize

Kinesthetic learning techniques are a great way to wake up and get the blood pumping, which can help you study longer. If you find yourself yawning or falling asleep, you may want to stand up and move or get creative more with your learning strategies.

2. Memorize

Kinesthetic learning techniques are also a great way to unconsciously memorize new information. Procedural memory is when your body knows how to do something without you having to think consciously about it.

Think about riding a bike. If you had to think about every complicated step involved in bike riding, you’d crash every time you even attempted it. But procedural memory allows your body to just do it.

You can use your procedural memory to expand the amount of information you learn. When you get new information “in the body,” you’re really recording it as procedural memory, and you can memorize way more unconsciously than you can consciously.

Get the Most Out of Kinesthetic Learning Styles

Let’s say I’ve convinced you to try kinesthetic learning techniques. Besides just standing up and moving through space, here’s a more specific list of ways you can get the most of kinesthetic learning styles:

1. Get Up

The first and simplest way to get kinesthetic is to stand up. That’s right—get out of your chair. Get a standing desk or take a walk while you think something over. Since a kinesthetic learning style has to do with movement, the first step is to stand up and get moving.

2. Move Through Space

The next trick for kinesthetic learning styles is to move. Walk around while you memorize, process new information, or try to solve problems.

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I like to pace when I’m on a phone call or walk the dog when I’m having some writer’s block. This helps get the blood pumping and helps keep me alert and creative.

3. Make It Tactile

Another way to make learning kinesthetic is to make it tactile. Incorporate objects that you can move around. Use index cards hung around the room to develop a plot or an essay. Make a model of the solar system instead of just reading about it. Create a physical flashcard deck to memorize new things instead of learning them on the computer or from a book.

The more you can cut, paste, shape, bend, fold, and manipulate, the better.

4. Place Things Places

One way that I tried to accommodate my daughter’s current kinesthetic learning style is by placing letters around the room. I then asked her to stand in the middle of the room and run to a certain letter. This approach was successful for a few reasons.

First, by making learning a game—or “gamifying”—I was making it fun and competitive, which kept my daughter engaged for longer.[1]

Second, by making letter-learning active, I was able to keep my daughter’s energy up, which kept the blood and oxygen pumping to her brain. This stimulates learning.

Finally, by placing letters around the room, my daughter was associating letters spatially. This helps make learning more concrete and less abstract. The A is in the kitchen, and the B is in the dining room, instead of just being letters on a page. This helps give her another way to distinguish the letters. Just make sure to switch it up, so you’re not always associating one concept with one place.

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This concept is also a great way to learn a new language. Put Post-It notes with your target language vocabulary all over the house. Put the word “mirror” on your mirror and the word “window” on your window.

This helps you learn throughout the day, but it also helps you associate the new word with the concept itself. When you look in the mirror, you are learning the new word for mirror. That’s context. It’s much easier to learn with context than by reading the new vocabulary word over and over.

I’ve also used this technique when I taught the areas of the stage. I drew a large grid on the floor and would yell out a stage direction—stage left or stage right or downstage center—then the class would have to run to that square on the grid as fast as they could. Because stage directions are already spatial, this kind of kinesthetic learning matches the learning task.

This technique could be effective for learning planets or geography. Get creative and place things places to make learning an embodied, spatial experience.

5. Combine Movements With Ideas

Another way to make learning kinesthetic is to combine movements with ideas. Trying to learn historical dates? Combine them with specific movements—mime rowing when you say 1492, Mime a guillotine when you yell 1789, or a falling wall for 1989. You get the idea.

By combining a movement with a concept, fact, or idea, you are increasing the likelihood that you’ll initiate your procedural memory and store that new knowledge in long-term memory.

6. Walking While You Work

You can also walk while you work. I’ve seen people work while on a treadmill and walk with a friend as they map out the structure for a new project. Walking is a great way to get unstuck. If you’re getting tired or bored or frustrated, get up, get out, and take a walk as you continue to learn, process, and create.

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7. Exercise While You Learn

I’m also a big fan of exercising while you learn. In grad school, I would carve out time at the gym almost every day. This wasn’t a way to avoid my schoolwork. It was actually a time when learning came more easily.

Something about running on the treadmill or stepping on that elliptical machine distracted me enough to lower my stress and anxiety. I always found learning much less effortful when I was incorporating exercise. So, get to the gym and pump some iron while you memorize, quiz yourself, and study yourself smart.

Final Thoughts

You may not consider yourself a kinesthetic learner. I know I don’t. But that doesn’t mean kinesthetic learning techniques can’t help you learn better.

Moving through space and manipulating objects are great ways to get more parts of your brain involved in the learning process. So, get out of that desk chair and get moving to make kinesthetic learning work for you.

More About Learning Styles

Featured photo credit: Tyler Nix via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Play Your Way Sane: How to be more Playful: Gamify your Life

More by this author

Clay Drinko

Clay Drinko is an educator and the author of PLAY YOUR WAY SANE (January 2021 Simon & Schuster)

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Published on January 19, 2021

What Is Learning by Doing And Why Is It Effective?

What Is Learning by Doing And Why Is It Effective?

The list of teaching techniques is ever-expanding as there are multiple ways for us to gain knowledge. As a result, there are multiple techniques out there that leverage those particular skills. One such technique I want to share with you is learning by doing.

This technique has been around for a long time, and it’s a surprisingly effective one thanks to the various perks that come with it. Also called experiential learning, I’ll be sharing with you my knowledge on the subject, what it is deep down, and why it’s such an effective learning tool.

What Is Learning by Doing?

Learning by doing is the simple idea that we are capable of learning more about something when we perform the action.

For example, say you’re looking to play a musical instrument and were wondering how all of them sound and mix. In most other techniques, you’d be playing the instrument all by yourself in a studio. Learning by doing instead gives you a basic understanding of how to play the instrument and puts you up on a stage to play an improvised piece with other musicians.

Another way to think about this is by taking a more active approach to something as opposed to you passively learning about it. The argument is that active engagement provides deeper learning and that it’s okay if you make mistakes as you learn from those as well. This mentality brought forth a new name for this technique: experiential learning.

What Are Its Benefits?

Experimental learning has been around for eons now. It was Aristotle who wrote that “for the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”

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Over the years, that way of thinking changed and developed and for a time was lost once computers were integrated into schools. It’s only been in recent years where schools have adopted this technique again. It’s clear why teachers are encouraging this as it offers five big benefits.

1. It’s More Engaging and More Memorable

The first benefit is that it’s more engaging and memorable. Since this requires action on your part, you’re not going to be able to weaken your performance. This is big since, traditionally, you’d learn from lectures, books, or articles, and learners could easily read—or not read—the text and walk away with no knowledge at all from it.

When you are forced into a situation where you have to do what you need to learn, it’s easier to remember those things. Every action provides personalized learning experiences, and it’s where motivation is built. That motivation connects to what is learned and felt. It teaches that learning is relevant and meaningful.

Beyond that, this experience allows the opportunity for learners to go through the learning cycle that involves extended effort, mistakes, and reflection, followed by refinement of strategies.

2. It Is More Personal

Stemming from the reason mentioned above, learning by doing offers a personal experience. Referring back to the cycle of effort, mistakes, reflection, and refinement, this cycle is only possible through personal emotions—the motivation and realization of knowledge of a particular topic tying into your values and ideals.

This connection is powerful and thus, offers a richer experience than reading from a book or articles such as this one. That personal connection is more important as it encourages exploration and curiosity from learners.

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If you’ve always wanted to bake a cake or cook a unique dish, you could read up on it or watch a video. Or you could get the ingredients and start going through it all yourself. Even if you make mistakes now, you have a better grasp of what to do for the next time you try it out. You’re also more invested in that since that’s food that you made with the intention of you having it.

3. It Is Community-Connected

Learning by doing involves the world at large rather than sitting alone in your room or a library stuck in a book. Since the whole city is your classroom technically, you’re able to leverage all kinds of things. You’re able to gather local assets and partners and connect local issues to larger global themes.

This leans more into the personal aspect that this technique encourages. You are part of a community, and this form of learning allows you to interact more and make a connection with it—not necessarily with the residents but certainly the environment around it.

4. It’s More Integrated Into People’s Lives

This form of learning is deeply integrated into our lives as well. Deep learning occurs best when learners can apply what they’ve learned in a classroom setting to answer questions around them that they care about.

Even though there is a lot of information out there, people are still always asking “what’s in it for me?” Even when it comes to learning, people will be more interested if they know that what they are learning is vital to their very way of life in some fashion. It’s forgettable if they’re unable to tie knowledge in with personal aspects of their lives. Thus, experiential learning makes the application of knowledge simpler.

5. It Builds Success Skills

The final benefit of learning by doing is that it builds up your skills for success. Learning by doing encourages you to step out of your comfort zone, discover something new, and try things out for the first time. You’re bound to make a mistake or two, but this technique doesn’t shame you for it.

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As a result, learning by doing can build your initiative for new things as well as persistence towards growth and development in a field. This could also lead to team management and collaboration skill growth. These are all vital things in personal growth as we move towards the future.

How to Get Started

While all these perks are helpful for you, how are you going to start? Well, there are several different approaches that you can take with this. Here are some of them that come to mind.

1. Low-Stakes Quizzes

In classroom settings, one way to introduce this technique is to have many low-stakes quizzes. These quizzes aren’t based on assessing one’s performance. Instead, these quizzes are designed to have learners engage with the content and to generate the learned information themselves.

Research shows that this method is an effective learning technique.[1] It allows students to improve their understanding and recall and promotes the “transfer” of knowledge to other settings.

2. Type of Mental Doing

Another approach is one that Psychologist Rich Mayer put together. According to him, learning is a generative activity.[2] His knowledge and the research done in his lab at Santa Barbara have repeatedly shown that we gain expertise by doing an action, but the action is based on what we already know.

For example, say you want to learn more about the Soviet dictator Stalin. All you need to do is link what you do know—that Stalin was a dictator—and link it to what you want to learn and retain. Stalin grew up in Georgia, killed millions of people, centralized power in Russia, and assisted in the victory of World War 2. This technique even applies to the most simple of memory tasks as our brain learns and relearns.

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3. Other Mental Activities

The final method I’ll share with you is taking the literal approach—getting out there and getting your hands dirty so to speak. But how you go about that is up to you. You could try reading an article and then going out and applying it immediately—like you could with this article. Or maybe you could find further engagement through puzzles or making a game out of the activity that you’re doing.

For example, if you wanted to learn about animal behavior patterns, you can read about them, go out to watch animals, and see if they perform the specific behaviors that you read about.

Final Thoughts

Learning by doing encourages active engagement with available materials and forces you to work harder to remember the material. It’s an effective technique because it helps ingrain knowledge into your memory. After all, you have a deeper personal connection to that knowledge, and you’ll be more motivated to use it in the future.

With that in mind, I encourage you to take what you’ve learned from reading this article and apply that in the real world. It’s only going to benefit you as you grow.

Featured photo credit: Van Tay Media via unsplash.com

Reference

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