Interactive Explanations: The Functional Role of Gestural and Bodily Action for Explaining and Learning Scientific Concepts in Face-to-Face Arrangements
Scopelitis, Stephanie Athene
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As human beings, we live in, live with, and live through our bodies. And because of this it is no wonder that our hands and bodies are in motion as we interact with others in our world. Hands and body move as we give directions to another, anticipate which way to turn the screwdriver, and direct our friend to come sit next to us. Gestures, indeed, fill our everyday lives. The purpose of this study is to investigate the functional role of the body in the parts of our lives where we teach and learn with another. This project is an investigation into, what I call, "interactive explanations". I explore how the hands and body work toward the joint achievement of explanation and learning in face-to-face arrangements. The study aims to uncover how the body participates in teaching and learning in and across events as it slides between the multiple, interdependent roles of (1) a communicative entity, (2) a tool for thinking, and (3) a resource to shape interaction. Understanding gestures functional roles as flexible and diverse better explains how the body participates in teaching and learning interactions. The study further aims to show that these roles and functions are dynamic and changeable based on the interests, goals and contingencies of participants' changing roles and aims in interactions, and within and across events. I employed the methodology of comparative microanalysis of pairs of videotaped conversations in which, first, experts in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) explained concepts to non-experts, and second, these non-experts re-explained the concept to other non-experts. The principle finding is that people strategically, creatively and collaboratively employ the hands and body as vital and flexible resources for the joint achievement of explanation and understanding. Findings further show that gestures used to explain complex STEM concepts travel across time with the non-expert into re-explanations of the concept. My analysis demonstrates that gestures and the body are complex, multi-functional resources that work toward cognitive, communicative, and interactional achievement and, as such, are viable resources for teaching and learning in face-to-face interaction.
- Education - Seattle