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Instructed Hand Movements Affect Students’ Learning of an Abstract Concept From Video


Producing content-related gestures has been found to impact students' learning, whether such gestures are spontaneously generated by the learner in the course of problem-solving, or participants are instructed to pose based on experimenter instructions during problem-solving and word learning. Few studies, however, have investigated the effect of (a) performing instructed gestures while learning concepts or (b) producing gestures without there being an implied connection between the gestures and the concepts being learned. The two studies reported here investigate the impact of instructed hand movements on students' subsequent understanding of a concept. Students were asked to watch an instructional video-focused on the concept of statistical model-three times. Two experimental groups were given a secondary task to perform while watching the video, which involved moving their hands to mimic the placement and orientation of red rectangular bars overlaid on the video. Students were told that the focus of the study was multitasking, and that the instructed hand movements were unrelated to the material being learned. In the content-match group the placement of the hands reinforced the concept being explained, and in the content-mismatch group it did not. A control group was not asked to perform a secondary task. In both studies, findings indicate that students in the content-match group performed better on the posttest, and showed less variation in performance, than did students in the content-mismatch group, with control students falling in between. Instructed hand movement-even when presented as an unrelated, secondary task-can affect students' learning of a complex concept.

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