Training Industry Quarterly - Spring 2013 - (Page 15)
21st CeNturY traININg | connie MaLaMed
Grows out of
the missinG link in learninG
o you pace when trying to memorize a speech? Do your
hands move when explaining a complicated idea? If cognition is limited to what goes on in the mind, why do physical
actions like these help us think?
Most of us in the field of workplace learning subscribe to a cognitive model that views cognition as the manipulation of mental
representations or symbols. The one critical failure of this theory is
that it treats people as disembodied beings — abstract minds with
no bodies. This model, known as cognitivism, focuses on how humans process information in a way that is similar to a computer.
Yet a growing body of research is demonstrating that the computer is not an accurate metaphor for human cognition.
Consider the fact that we experience the world directly through
our bodies. Our actions and perceptions are tied to our physicality.
This perspective is embraced by proponents of embodied cognition. They suggest that the body is an essential part of the perceptual and mental processes that help us make sense of the world. In
other words, the body shapes our thinking. Furthermore, we are
often not aware of the influence the body has on cognition.
If reasoning is more than the manipulation of symbols and if
experience is grounded in bodily states, the implications for education, self-directed learning and formal training are huge. Embodied cognition supports what innovative and intuitive training
professionals already know — that long-term learning grows out
of experience and action rather than through the transmission of
information from one brain to another.
support for experiential Learning
Even a partial tilt toward embodied cognition suggests we
should rework our training vocabulary and rethink the type of
training we design. For example, we’re more likely to avoid the
pitfalls of training if we speak of designing learning experiences
rather than courses. The former implies an active state while the
latter connotes passivity. And it may be more expansive to think
in terms of being a learning architect rather than an instructional
designer or trainer.
In terms of design, gaining knowledge through experience relies on taking action and interacting with the environment. Embodied cognition theory might support learning from a variety of
encounters. In the online world, experiential learning may come
from participating in simulations and virtual worlds, solving realworld problems, and interacting through social media.
In the offline world, learners might build experience through
role plays in the classroom, working on case studies, apprenticing
with mentors, and trying new skills on the job. Embodied cognition theory can help us knock down the artificial limits we place
support for interactive Learning
Through the lens of embodied cognition, learning and understanding are integrated with sensorimotor actions. For example,
research has shown that hand gestures help promote thinking.
People gesture while speaking on the phone, probably because it
helps them articulate what is hard to explain. And in a milestone
study, both congenitally blind and sighted children used similar
speech gestures when they were explaining a series of tasks they
This type of research demonstrates the importance of interactivity in online learning, which involves physical movement and
touch. In particular, the gestural user interface found on smartphones, digital tablets and other devices may be most effective
in boosting cognition than interactions using a mouse. Gestural
interactions with digital objects more closely resemble the interactions we have with physical objects in the environment.
Embodied cognition theory might support the design of rich
and deep interactivity in online learning. Furthermore, if the interactions can take place on a device with a gestural interface, they
may be more effective. Embodied cognition is a framework that
learning architects can use to enhance learning and retention.
Knowledge that is grounded in sensorimotor actions and experience is likely to be more robust than knowledge gained from a
purely informational communication. The theories and research
drawn from embodied cognition provide us with an opportunity
to think more broadly about ways that people learn and to reimagine the experiences we design.
Connie Malamed is publisher of theelearningcoach.com and
author of Visual Language For Designers and the iPhone app, Instructional Design Guru. Email Connie.
Training Industry Quarterly, Spring 2013 / A Training Industry, Inc. magazine / www.trainingindustry.com/TIQ
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Training Industry Quarterly - Spring 2013
Training Industry Quarterly - Spring 2013
From Where I Sit: Back to the Basics
Table of Contents
Guest Editor: A Brave New World
Extracting Learning From Work
Poor Behavior: Your Brain is Partly to Blame
How to Design Engaging Training Programs
The Missing Link in Learning
Don't Let Training Be Half-Baked
What the Latest Brain Research Tells Us about Designing Learning that Sticks
Motivation: The Key to Learning Transfer
Improving Learning Outcomes with a Bite-Sized Strategy
Adult Development: Predicting Learning Success
From One Brain to Another: What We've Learned about Learning
Formalizing Informal Learning
Training Industry Quarterly - Spring 2013