Kinesthetic learning

Submitted by Goran Tomka, University of Arts Belgrade
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Kinesthetic learning methods come in many forms, shapes and sizes. Some kinesthetic approaches are more about dealing away with the stress of sitting (in which situations students can use standing desks, or fidgets for their legs or hands), while others are using kinesthetic approaches as a core of a teaching method. 1. Take one theoretical claim or empirical finding that can be represented by a graph or scale. ; 2. Present finding or a theoretical claim to learners; 3. Ask them to imagine a classroom (or a part of it that is not occupied by chairs) as a graph; 4. Ask them to stand up and assume one position in the graph that corresponds with their experience or situation or attitude or belief; 4. Ask (some of) them to explain their position. How does it feel to occupy such a social situation or why do you assume such an attitude?; 5. Encourage them to question one another about their explanations; 6. Possibly, ask them to reconsider their position and assume another place.

In which way is this method alternative? 

This is just one possible example of the kinesthetic approach. Common to all kinesthetic approaches is that they represent an alternative:
a) to a sedentary classroom;
b) to ignoring various types of learners some of which don’t find sitting, listening and viewing as a best way to learn;
c) to favouring students who are at ease with speaking and having a verbal interaction with their peers and instructors;
d) in some cases, to a learning style in which information flows only one way, since kinesthetic learning can produce a much more active learning environment in which more learners are finding things out for themselves and others;
e) from one perspective, kinesthetic learning if used on a regular basis can represent a strong argument against digitalisation of learning and rapid spread of mass online courses (MOOC) since it justifies use of actual co-presence in a physical classroom.

In which context was the method developed?

Since this is a wider approach, not one particular method, contexts vary, but we could say that it has been developed within formal education settings to offer an alternative to the dominant sedentary learning environment. It has evolved in schools with younger children, but has so far spread out all the way to university and vocational training of adults.

Settings and participants the method is best suited for

Kinesthetic approaches and methods could be used in all teaching settings. This particular approach is more suited to academic and university settings and in fields that find it harder to involve learners’ bodies into their learning activities. In physics and engineering for example, many theories and learning processes are already incorporating movement, so there is perhaps no need for such approach.


How useful the method is really depends on the knowledge that wants to be shared. It is not universal, it stems from the theory in focus or a piece of empirical finding, so it is very important to find a theoretical or empirical claim that can be visualised as a graph. It is also very important to find a topic that provokes debate. There is no point in just having students assume place on the graph. It is about being in relation with others and trying to understand their position and explain ones own.

Experiences with the method

I have met one kinesthetic method at a ENCATC conference in London when it was hosted by the Goldsmiths University. One local professor has shared her experience with it when working with arts management students. I have been experimenting with it in various other settings with students of cultural tourism and cultural management.

Additional references

Culp, B., Oberlton, M., & Porter, K. (2020) Developing Kinesthetic Classrooms to Promote Active Learning, Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 91:6, 10-15, DOI: 10.1080/07303084.2020.1768178
Mobley, K. & Fisher, S. (2014) Ditching the Desks: Kinesthetic Learning in College Classrooms, The Social Studies, 105:6, 301-309, DOI: 10.1080/00377996.2014.951471
The Kinesthetic Classroom: Teaching and Learning through Movement | Michael Kuczala | TEDxAshburn: