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What is Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence and how do Kinesthetic Learners Learn?

Safia Mohiuddin*

Department of Sociology, University of Management & Technology, Lahore, Pakistan

Corresponding Author:
Safia Mohiuddin
Department of Sociology
University of Management & Technology
Lahore, Pakistan
E-mail: [email protected]

Received date: 14/12/2021Accepted date: 28/12/2021 Published date: 31/12/2021

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The use of bodily kinesthetic intelligence is often referred to as handson learning. Learning happens primarily by doing a task, exploring based on curiosity, and discovering new things. There are several scientific explanations involved in making this happen. At the core is proprioception and kinesthesia. The learning process that involves kinesthesia may be explained by the way movement is integrated into the learning process to make it more effective. New skills are mastered by a complex process that happens in the brain and involves specific regions. This means that enriching the learning process with movement and hands-on manipulation of objects may be considered a plausible approach to learning that promises better retention of ideas. Hands-on learning or learning by doing is the learning that uses bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. Learners with this style learn well by doing, exploring, and discovering. Actors, pilots, surgeons, crafters, and inventors, all use their bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. At the very basic level, kinesthetic learners may pace up and down to enhance retention of the topic. Delving deeper into this science, some of the best learning experiences are possible by building a lesson around a theme. This process assists in connecting subjects and the world to that central theme. Kinesthetic learners remember lessons learned when educators combine movement with the information delivered. Most successful lessons revolve around a story, historical idea, or a modern phenomenon.


Kinesthetic, Learners, Bodily kinesthetic, Motor planning, Muscle memory


Proprioception and Kinesthesia

Proprioception is at the core of bodily-kinesthetic intelligence [1, 2]. Several other senses are closely related to proprioception. During kinesthetic learning experiences, individuals rely on proprioception, kinesthesia, and balance to make sense of new information.

Proprioception, Interoception and Exteroception

Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence is closely related to proprioception. Proprioception allows you to get a sense of how to position your body parts. It also tells you how much strength you need to move about. Two other senses closely related to proprioception are interoception and exteroception. Interoception is the sense of perceiving internal organs, hunger, and pain. Exteroception is about how you perceive the outside world. When you have a good sense of proprioception, you know where to step on uneven ground. Another example is when you know how hard to press your finger to light the button on the elevator.

The Difference between Proprioception and Kinesthesia

Proprioceptors are neural sensors located in our joints and muscles. They help us know the position and movement of our body parts. This awareness is kinesthesia, an essential part of hand-eye coordination and muscle memory. Although kinesthesia and proprioception may sound similar, the two senses differ. While proprioception also includes the sense of balance, kinesthesia does not. When you have deficits in maintaining balance, it affects your proprioception. Yet, it does not affect kinesthesia. This explains why inner ear infections affect proprioception. Proprioception deficits may make it difficult to walk with eyes closed. Another popular perspective is that kinesthesia relates to the body’s motion and movements. It refers to the behavioural component. But proprioception relates to awareness about these movements - the cognitive component.

Kinesthetic Learning Process, Motor Planning, and Muscle Memory

The learning process ties several aspects together to enable deep learning. Everyone has a specific preference for taking in new information. This refers to the learning style and the integration of movement is essential for the kinesthetic style of learning [3].

The Learning Process and Learning Style Preference

Learning is a complex process and consists of several interactive components [1]. When you learn, you use language and memory. You organize and process information. Learning also requires attention, higher-order thinking, and writing (graph motor) skills. These aspects of learning connect deeply. They also interact with the class environment, teachers, and family. They build social skills and affect emotions and behaviour. Learning style is one’s preference to “absorb, process, comprehend, and retain” information. The propensity of a learner towards a learning style depends on experience. Emotional, cognitive, and environmental factors influence this inclination.

Integrating Movement into the Learning Process

Incorporating movement in learning allows the integration of all senses. Kinesthetic learning is a three-dimensional learning experience. An essential component of kinesthetic learning is motor planning. Motor planning refers to problem-solving, planning, and action associated with movement. Closely related to motor planning is muscle memory [4]. In simple words, this muscle memory and motor planning are the science behind coordinated movement. We engage in coordinated movement all the time such as when we button up the shirt without looking at it. In this context, proprioception is the body’s ability to make the necessary calculations for weight and position in space. Proprioception also means applying the required degree of pressure or force to do an action. Muscle memory is related to our ability to do things better and faster with practice. Common examples are riding a bike and playing a musical instrument.

Hands-On Skill Mastery and Associations with Activity in the Brain

The mastering of skills using hands-on learning engages several brain regions. At every level in the learning process, our brain makes adaptations to take us further. Our brain directs our muscles to do things differently every time we get closer to mastering the skill.

The Process of Learning and Mastering New Skills

When we master new skills, certain changes occur in the brain. As a result of these changes, the brain sends out different information to muscles to alter movements. In general, different brain regions control different types of memory. Learning new skills is associated with modifications to the primary motor cortex. Cells of the primary motor cortex connect with neurons that travel along the spinal cord. These neurons connect with muscles in the body. The muscles initiate contraction and movement. Other areas involved in skill training are grey matter and white matter. When a new skill is learned, there is a lot of activity happening in the premotor cortex and the basal ganglia. This activity decreases with more practice when the activity becomes effortless. When you have mastered a skill, there is still significant activity going on in the cerebellum and motor cortex. The purpose of this activity is to add to the focus with which you can perform the activity.

Muscle Memory and Kinesthetic Learning Experiences

Muscle memory is an integral component of kinesthetic learning. Muscle memory falls under the broad category of procedural memory. It is the procedural memory that enables a person to perform an action without being consciously aware. You can build muscle memory by repeating a task over time. As you progress, you need minimal conscious effort in performing the task. This state requires very little attention and you can do the task with a high level of efficiency. In a research study, surgeons undergoing training successfully used kinesthetic information when visual feedback was limited [5]. Connections between sensory nerve receptors in muscle and tendons and the brain are very strong in kinesthetic learners. This means that information taken in by way of movement and touch is readily absorbed and retained by their brain. As a result, kinesthetic learners prefer hands-on activities and whole-body involvement in learning.

Implications for Learning and Retention

Kinesthetic learners engage with physical activity, enjoy textures, and may use hand gestures while talking. They like to work with models and are sensitive to changes in the environment. Hands-on activities involving movement, touch, and action work best with kinesthetic learners. They relate well to physical sensations such as the wind blowing against the wings of the airplane. Describing how a person is “feeling” when doing things helps kinesthetic learners get a hang of the topic. One example is the way a pilot feels during the taking off and landing of the airplane [6]. Relating the sensations to the mechanical details of the machinery helps with learning. Finally, kinesthetic learners prefer working with manipulative (tactile) and movement (kinesthetic). They engage well with drawing and illustration and may need relaxation and breathing for calming down during learning. They may also need frequent breaks to stay focused and prefer learning in a natural environment. They may also be more responsive to rhythm during learning. Enriching learning experiences with movement and manipulating objects promotes better retention of concepts. These experiences also enhance their confidence, sense of autonomy, problem-solving, and critical thinking. Bodily-kinesthetic learning also enhances participation and improves working relationships. In essence, learning using the whole body is a complex experience. The use of movement around a theme provides a good foundation for effective learning and retention.