The Future of Learning Includes All of Our Senses


Many educational approaches assume that integrating complementary sensory and motor information into the learning experience can enhance learning, for example gestures help in learning new vocabulary in foreign language classes. In her recent publication, neuroscientist Katharina von Kriegstein from Technische Universität Dresden and Brian Mathias of the University of Aberdeen summarize these methods under the term "multimodal enrichment." This means enrichment with multiple senses and movement. Numerous current scientific studies prove that multimodal enrichment can enhance learning outcomes. Experiments in classrooms show similar results.

In the review article, the two researchers compare these findings with cognitive, neuroscience, and computational theories of multimodal enrichment. Recent neuroscience research has found that the positive effects of enriched learning are associated with response in brain regions that serve perception and motor function. For example, hearing a recently learned foreign language word, may elicit activity in motor brain regions if the word was associated with the performance of a congruent gesture during learning. These brain responses are causal to the benefits of multimodal enrichment for learning outcome. Computer algorithms confirm this hypothesis.

Perception and Motor Skills Working Together

"The brain is optimized for learning with all the senses and with movement. Brain structures for perception and motor skills work together to promote this type of learning. We hope that our deeper understanding of the brain's learning mechanisms will facilitate the development of optimal learning strategies in the future," explains Brian Mathias.

Katharina von Kriegstein adds, "The results of the literature we reviewed contribute to our understanding of why several long-used learning strategies, such as parts of the Montessori method, are effective. They also provide clear clues as to why some approaches are not as effective. Recently uncovered neuroscientific mechanisms may inspire the updating of cognitive and computational theories of learning, providing new hypotheses about learning. We anticipate that such an interdisciplinary and evidence-based approach will lead to the optimization of learning and teaching strategies in the future, for both humans and artificial systems."

StepUp Note

This comprehensive summary discusses the benefits of multimodal learning, or learning that combines the uses of all of the senses in the learning process. The authors repeatedly show the importance of movement (motor activity) in learning.  All of our StepUp programs specifically include coordinated whole-body movement (for focused attention) and speech movement (for speech-hearing skills).  Overlearning muscle movement patterns helps children move new skills into muscle memory. Muscle memory helps us retrieve skills fluently (speed + accuracy = fluency) and fluency turns skills into tools for new learning.

Note by Nancy W Rowe, M.S., CCC/A

Reposted from Technische Universität Dresden



Follow Us on Facebook @stepuptolearn  Follow Us on Instagram @stepuptolearn  Follow Us on LinkedIn @neuronet-learning