Research seminar: Using iconic hand gestures in teaching a science lesson – further insights and developments

The use of gesture to aid learning has gained greater interest amongst educators and researchers in recent years. The emerging evidence supporting the use of physical enactment rather than just auditory modes of instruction remains under-explained and unresolved. 

Brendan Bentley

This presentation is the second in a series that seeks to provide insight into the effects of specific teacher gestures used in a science lesson. This study investigated the pedagogical methods used by a year 8 science teacher during a structured lesson on Brownian motion to two comparable high school classes. One class was taught via the practitioner’s usual and standard methods, involving deictic hand movements. The second class were taught similarly but were exposed to an elaborate set of scripted iconic hand gestures. The study utilised principles of Cognitive Load Theory to measure the impact of student cognitive load on learning and achievement. The research findings suggest students who were exposed to teaching using iconic hand gestures scored more highly on achievement and rated the test items as relatively less difficult compared to those taught using traditional

Dr Brendan Bentley is a Senior Lecturer in Education. He is the Director of Partnerships and Engagement at the University of Adelaide. He is an experienced School Principal, curriculum leader and teacher of STEM education. Brendan has designed and written post-graduate educational leadership courses at national and international levels and is a professional development consultant for teachers and school leaders. His research interests are in educational leadership, cognitive load theory, STEM, science and mathematics education and in particular proportional reasoning.

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