Are more encouraged by praise that is delivered physically rather than verbally -- such as by a handshake or a pat on the back rather than by a verbal "good job."
Kinesthetic learners also tend to absorb information when given a great deal of tactile stimulation. I will explore this in greater detail below.
Kinesthetic learners are generally better at expressing themselves in concrete ways. This includes expressing emotions. When kinesthetic learners interact with people who are primarily visual learners there may be significant gaps between the two in how emotions are expressed and understood. For example a kinesthetic learner might offer to change the spark plugs in her boyfriend's car while he (a visual learner) might well prefer to have gotten a card with a romantic poem in it from her.
It should be easy to see from this brief overview of the traits of a kinesthetic learner why students with this learning style can find it so difficult to learn in a traditional classroom that privileges visual learning and sitting quietly at one's desk. Teachers who do not understand that some students truly cannot learn at their best when they are sitting still for long periods of time will misinterpret the natural physicality of kinesthetic learners as disobedient or even having learning disabilities.
There is some evidence that teachers may misdiagnose a kinesthetic learning style as a form of ADHD or ADD, since children with these learning disabilities also usually have problems sitting still for a long period of times. However, of course, kinesthetic learning and ADHD are very different in etiology as well as in appropriate response. It is therefore essential that the two are distinguished from each other.
Labeling a child as having ADHD as opposed to being a kinesthetic learner not only can result in the wrong pedagogical approach but can also result in significant stigmatization of the child given that ADHD is identified as a learning disability -- rather than as a special form of learning ability. For this reason along with many others it is essential that educators learn to recognize and honor kinesthetic styles of learning. Gardner's model provides a straightforward and intuitive way of doing so.
... The theory validates educators' everyday experience: students think and learn in many different ways. It also provides educators with a conceptual framework for organizing and reflecting on curriculum assessment and pedagogical practices. In turn, this reflection has led many educators to develop new approaches that might better meet the needs of the range of learners in their classrooms. (Kornhaber, 2001, p. 276)
It should be clear that there are important reasons why teachers should both recognize this style of learning (and more generally the presence of multiple learning styles and forms of intelligence) while also resisting them. With the many tasks (and even burdens) that teachers must carry in today's classroom, the requirement that teachers present every piece of information in a range of different styles may seem simply the final straw. Gardner himself understood how his paradigm might well be seen by educators.
At first blush, this diagnosis would appear to sound a death knell for formal education. It is hard to teach one intelligence; what if there are seven? It is hard to enough to teach even when anything can be taught; what to do if there are distinct limits and strong constraints on human cognition and learning? (Gardner, 1993, p. xxiii)
Gardner cautioned that teachers did not have to adopt his ideas without modifying them, acknowledging that his brief was psychology rather than education, and that while educators could in some cases find themselves guided by psychological research, psychologists are not (or should not) be mandated or dictating pedagogical policy. Rather, research such as his that helps educators (as well as students and their parents) better understand cognitive processes "merely helps one to understand the conditions within which education takes place" (Gardner, 1993, p. xxiii).
While not demanding that schools institute his ideas and his model, Gardner was clearly interested in having teachers use his ideas and so wanted to reassure teachers that his ideas could make their work easier, more intuitive, and more rewarding rather than the reverse. He wrote:
Seven kinds of intelligence would allow seven ways to teach, rather than one. And powerful constraints that exist in the mind can be mobilized to introduce a particular concept (or whole system of thinking) in a way that children are most likely to learn it and least likely to distort it. Paradoxically, constraints can be suggestive and ultimately freeing. (Gardner, 1993, p. xxiv)
Whether this is true or not is debatable. Certainly, it seems that Gardner himself believed it, and his argument is not -- on the surface -- clearly false. However, there are so many things that a teacher must keep track of in a classroom that it is also arguable that having to breakdown each fact and idea into its different parts so that it can be conveyed to a range of different types of learners makes the task of teaching impossibly complicated.
Despite the enthusiasm in management circles for the wonder of multitasking, most of us have the personal experience of knowing that when we simultaneously add additional tasks to our plate then we tend to do each one of them less well. This is no less true of teaching than of any other job. Teachers, naturally overwhelmed by the idea of what they need to do, are perfectly likely to shift toward modes of teaching (and thus of learning) that are easiest to perform within a traditional classroom program. Unfortunately for kinesthetic learners, kinesthetic intelligence is the type of learner that is most likely to be omitted given the fact that it is least like the most traditional form of teaching.
Brain Activity of Different Learning Styles
One of the most fascinating aspects of learning style is the underlying brain chemistry and functionality of learning. This is also one of the most overlooked aspects of learning style, probably because most researchers and educators who are focused on the topic are not neurologists and so do not have the expertise (or perhaps even the interest) to explore the neurological issues involved. However, there are distinct differences in how the brain processes different types of information -- i.e. information that enters the brain in different ways. These differences can be relatively easily detected through a variety of brain-scanning techniques that are non-invasive and safe for the patient.
Among the primary differences in the brain's processing of different types of information are the following, as detailed by Jensen (2008):
The brain processes visually based information in the occipital lobes (which are located in the back of the brain). This is one of the areas that assesses spatial information. Thus visual information can be seen to feed into both verbal and mathematical reasoning.
The brain processes information coded in auditory ways in the temporal lobes. Music is processed in this part of the brain, as well as speech and ambient sounds.
Kinesthetic or physically based information is processed for the most part in the cerebellum and the motor cortex. The motor cortex is located in the rear of the frontal lobes, the area of the brain responsible for processing visual information. This suggests a connection between visual and kinesthetic intelligence, which should not be surprising since kinesthetic learners often have the ability (and the inclination) to visualize a physical movement (such as a forehand in tennis) before they actually do it.
Neurological research such as this reminds us that there are what we might call nonnegotiable aspects to learning style, for different individuals have subtly different brain structures. While certain types of cognition and other forms of mental activity take place in the same overall structures from person to person (with some exceptions such as in the aftermath of trauma), there are small differences in the ways in which each person's brain assigns different types of mental processes to different sub-sections of the brain. Thus there are real, physiological reasons why different individuals learn in different ways.
It should be noted, however, that while our brains are wired in certain ways because of our genetics and our interactions with the environment, our brains are highly plastic -- much more so than was thought just a few years ago. We can change the way we interact with the world in neurological terms. Our brains can adapt in dramatic ways. This does not mean that people who are kinesthetic learners should try to change themselves so that they resemble the kind of learner (i.e. visual or secondarily auditory) that schools have traditionally been designed to teach. Rather, that each one of us, regardless of our primary learning style, can strengthen all of the ways in which we can learn.
A Kinesthetically Intelligent Classroom
Having established in the previous section that there are distinct…