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Kinesthetic Learning In The Classroom

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Venturing Out: Service Learning, Study Abroad, and Criterion H

Tagged Division

Liberal Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.829.1 - 13.829.10



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Paper Authors


Joe Tranquillo Bucknell University

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JOSEPH V TRANQUILLO is an assistant professor of biomedical and electrical engineering at Bucknell University. Dr. Tranquillo teaches courses primarily in bioinstrumentation. His research focuses on theoretical and computational models of electrical activity in the body.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Kinesthetic Learning in the Classroom “Great ideas originate in the muscles” – Thomas Edison

Introduction A great deal of information exists regarding the different means by which students learn new concepts. Although visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning are the most commonly listed learning styles, little attention has been given to kinesthetic learning. This is especially true in lecture-based courses at the college level where the format favors verbal and visual learners. Here we make a tentative argument for the value of including kinesthetic learning activities in lecture-based classes as a vehicle for teaching concepts.

To begin, it is important to make clear how our working definition of kinesthetic learning may be different from previous work. First, the term “active learning” already means something to the education community and may include instructor demonstrations, brainstorming, reflections and minute papers. The version of kinesthetic learning considered here is a sub-set of active learning where students will be out of their seats and quite literally active. Second, the term “kinesthetic learning” is in common use in some education circles. Within those circles, the focus is typically on learning a manual skill or refining muscle coordination. Engineers must learn to build physical structures, often using their hands to perform complex tasks. While a great deal of learning takes place in becoming competent at wire wrapping and soldering a circuit board, connecting and sealing tubes in a flow loop or drilling a precise hole in a section of sheet metal, the learning is largely a fine tuning of muscle memory. In most curricula, these skills are practiced and mastered in a lab setting. The version of kinesthetic learning considered here will take place in the classroom with the objective of introducing and strengthening concepts as well as connecting ideas together. Therefore, when the terms, “active” or “activity” appear below, they quite literally mean some type of physical activity that is intended to stimulate deep thinking.

We first review some relevant literature, followed by an outline of a generic activity, an illustrative example, suggestions for generating ideas and designing activities, and finally student and instructor observations.

“Games lubricate the body and the mind” – Benjamin Franklin

What is Known about Kinesthetic Learning Kinesthetic learning is often listed in surveys of learning styles along side, verbal and visual learning. Despite this recognition as an important learning style, kinesthetic activities have not received much attention at the college level. In fact, the degree to which physical activity is present in the classroom appears to drop to nearly zero as students progress from primary to secondary to post-secondary school. Below we summarize some of the work that has been conducted on the effectiveness of kinesthetic learning.

Tranquillo, J. (2008, June), Kinesthetic Learning In The Classroom Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3389

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