Electrical Engineering
      and Computer Sciences

Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences


UC Berkeley


2008 Research Summary

Kinesthetic Learning Activities in the Classroom

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Andrew Begel, Dan Garcia, Steven A. Wolfman1 and Rebecca A. Bates2

A kinesthetic learning activity (KLA) is a physically engaging classroom exercise. This might, for example, involve throwing a Frisbee around the classroom to represent transfer of control in a procedure call, or simulating polygon scan conversion with rope for edges and students for pixels. Generally KLAs are short (20 minutes or less) classroom-based activities, and may involve a small number of students or the entire class.

KLAs engage students by putting them in motion and sometimes even requiring real exertion, raising heart rates that tend to lag during lecture [3]. KLAs also tap into what Piaget termed "sensorimotorlearning," in which physical activity transforms into representative mental symbols [4]. KLAs can engage other important learning styles, such as Felder and Silverman's active, sensing, intuitive, visual, or global learners [5]. Finally, KLAs can be incredibly fun for students and instructors.

There are many different ways to map computer science concepts onto people, objects, and behaviors. Each of these leads naturally to a KLA that exploits a key metaphor to explain a concept in an engaging way. To assist instructors in designing and documenting KLAs, we provide common props, heuristics, common building blocks, a template, and many fully-debugged KLAs on our Wiki web archive.

Figure 1
Figure 1: Our logo captures the spirit of fun that KLAs bring to the classroom (designed by Betty Ho and David Wallace).

Figure 2
Figure 2: The "mob topological sort" KLA presented at SIGCSE 2004

A. Begel, R. A. Bates, and S. A. Wolfman, "Kinesthetic Learning in the Classroom (Workshop)," SIGCSE, Houston, TX, March 1-5, 2006.
A. Begel, D. D. Garcia, and S. A. Wolfman, "Kinesthetic Learning in the Classroom (Workshop)," SIGCSE, St. Louis, MO, February 23-27, 2005.
D. Bligh, What's the Use of Lectures? Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco, CA, 2000.
B. Hergenhahn and M. Olson, An Introduction to Theories of Learning, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 1997.
R. Felder and L. Silverman, "Learning and Teaching Styles in Engineering Education," Engr. Ed., Vol. 78, No. 7, 1988, pp. 674-681.

1Computer Science, University of British Columbia
2Computer Science, Minnesota State Univ., Mankato