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Recent research has shown that hand gestures produced by both teachers and learners make underlying mechanisms and abstract symbols more concrete for learning (Goldin-Meadow, Levine, Zinchenko, Yip, Hemani, & Factor, 2012; Vallotton, Fusaro, Hayden, Decker, & Gutowski, 2015). The current study examined the effects of instructional gesture on undergraduates’ learning of plate tectonics by manipulating gesture in several instructional conditions. There were three videotaped conditions in the study: representational gesture, beat gesture, and no gesture. It was hypothesized that instructional gesture condition would enhance the understanding of plate tectonics in undergraduate students. Results showed that while all conditions increased in learning overall, the representation gesture condition showed the most improvement, although it was not statistically significant. Results also showed that participants categorized as having low prior knowledge had statistically significantly higher average change scores than participants with high prior knowledge. The findings from the study are helpful for both in class and online learning. Encouraging instructors to produce representational gestures with their accompanying speech, especially with abstract topics with novice learners, will provide more support for learning.



Thesis Comittee

Melissa Singer (Thesis Advisor)

Joseph Schwab

Michael Root

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Original document was submitted as an Honors Program requirement. Copyright is held by the author.

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Psychology Commons