What is “embodied” learning?

There’s a lot of talk about “embodied” learning these days, and it doesn’t seem like there’s much consensus about what it means. Since we sometimes use the term alongside “optimal learning” and “robust learning,” I think it’s time we offered a clear definition.

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Take a close look the activity in the lesson shown above. I found it on the Shorewood School District’s web site. The lesson depicted in this photo is an excellent example of embodied learning in action. Note the many ways in which students are engaged. They are trying to solve a problem: “What do we need to do to pick up this cup?” This problem has kinesthetic, mathematical, mechanical, and collaborative components. Minimally, the students are intellectually, physically, and socially engaged. And I’m sure they’re emotionally engaged as well — I can practically feel their hearts beating faster as they get closer to their goal.

These children aren’t just thinking about a solution, they’re living the solution. What they learn is wired into their neural net at every level. It’s not just an intellectual experience. It’s embodied. This is what we call optimal or robust learning. It’s the kind of learning my colleagues and I measure, support, and reward with Lectical Assessments.