Gesture is recognized as part of and integral to cognition. The value of gesture for learning is contingent on how it gathers meaning against the ground of other relevant resources in the setting—in short, how the body is laminated onto the surrounding environment. With a focus on lamination, this paper formulates an integrated theory of viewpoint and spatial reasoning; develops an embodied approach to documenting and understanding the live construction of students’ spatial models; and offers new implications for the teaching of spatially complex concepts. We start with a study of how undergraduate students playfully gesture the first-person movements of components of an engineering system, step out to depict how the system appears from the outside, and all the while track how the components of the system spatially interact in the open canvas of empty space around the body. Students who manage all three—switching from character viewpoints to observer viewpoints while maintaining a coherent organization of space—better learn the engineering concept. We then examine this process in the unscripted discourse of a classroom of 1st and 2nd graders pretend-playing as bees. This second study extends the analysis of interactions between spatial reasoning and viewpoint into unplanned teacher-student discourse (including adjustments in talk and action over time) and a materially rich setting. In all, the paper formulates an embodied learning framework that integrates viewpoint and spatial reasoning with implications for learning design.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We would like to acknowledge the support of the UCLA Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and the Academic Senate Council on Research for Transdisciplinary Seed Grant A1118 and the National Science Foundation Grant No. 1323767. This material is also based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship under Grant DGE-0707424. We would also like to acknowledge the contributions of Katy Cross, Darin Hoyer, Jordan Beres, and Aaron Paddock for their help in preparing, executing, and analyzing the study. Lastly, we express immense gratitude to the Cognition and Instruction reviewers who provided such thoughtful and constructive criticism of this manuscript throughout the review process.
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