Kinesthetic learning, also known as tactile learning, is a style of learning through which people use their bodies, and are physically active as they learn, also incorporating their ability to use their sense of touch. Compared to other learning styles that may employ listening skills or visual examples, kinesthetic learning is more active, engaging a student’s muscles/body, and providing opportunities for the learner to be able to “touch and feel” the material that he/ she is learning when feasible. Students who learn best through kinesthetic methods may be referred to more informally as “do-ers”, and find it easier to learn when some type of movement and sense of touch is involved.
Thoughts on different learning styles were, in part, made popular when Howard Gardener released his book “Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences”. In the book Gardener outlines what he believes to be the primary types of intelligence styles, one of which is kinesthetic. In the book, it is described as the ability to use the body to create or do something. Gardener laid the framework for the idea of learning styles. Today many educators believe in three major learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.
Different types of learners
Visual learners prefer to see images as they learn ideas or techniques. Visual learners will probably appreciate things like diagrams, maps and graphic organizers. Students who are visual learners typically have a strong visual memory, which is why this form of learning is more effective for them.
Auditory learners favor listening as a way to learn. For auditory learners, hearing and speaking are the primary methods of grasping new information. Saying things aloud or hearing things repeated are a few techniques that work well for auditory learners. Auditory learners may struggle with written instruction and prefer it to be spoken verbally. Putting information into an oral style like a rap or a song might be especially effective for an auditory learner.
Kinesthetic learners, learn best when movement is tied to learning. Often students labeled as having attention deficit disorder, or attention deficit hyper-activity disorder are kinesthetic learners and need to take breaks and move around during their learning activities. Activities that may be the most helpful for these students include hands on experiments, cooking, and acting in addition to other activities involving active performance. Since kinesthetic learners learn by doing and need to experience something to reinforce it activities such as reading and writing alone may be difficult for them. It is believed that for kinesthetic learners the long-term and short-term memory is made stronger as the learners perform a task. Often kinesthetic learners speak with their hands and through gestures, and often take breaks during their learning sessions as they need to move around.
Careers for kinesthetic learners
Careers that may be well suited for people who are kinesthetic learners are those that involve working with their hands. Sculpting, working with tools, and art are a few examples. People who are strong kinesthetic learners frequently excel as performers. Many actors, athletes and dancers are people who favor a kinesthetic learning style.
It is estimated that approximately five percent of the population are kinesthetic/ tactile learners. Since this is often the hardest style for teachers to work with inside the classroom setting, it is important that students with a kinesthetic learning style and their parents are intentional about figuring out ways where they can create opportunities to engage in movement while learning. Traditional school settings can be a difficult atmosphere for kinesthetic learners who often struggle with sitting still while working on problems. It is important for teachers to know how to work with a student who is a kinesthetic learner, so that they can help and enhance learning, and not reprimand them for tapping, wiggling or being overactive.
Knowing which learning style works best for individual students is important and helps them find learning strategies to reach their full potential. Parents, teachers and students should be conscious of ways to engage in activities and exercises that complement their style of learning. Although it takes creativity and planning, it is well worth it!