The Role of Gesture in Learning

Principal Investigator: 
Project Overview
Background & Purpose: 

When children talk, they gesture. Even from the earliest stages of language learning, children use their hands when they talk. Previous research has shown that gesture can convey substantive information that is related, but not always identical, to the information conveyed in speech. Gesture can therefore offer insight into a speaker’s unspoken thoughts. But gesture can do more than reflect thought––it can also play a role in changing thought and, as a result, contribute to the learning process itself. The purpose of the proposed research is to explore the mechanism underlying this effect; specifically, to explore whether gesture’s impact on learning stems, at least in part, from its grounding in action and, if so, whether educators can capitalize on gesture’s closeness to action to promote learning.


We will study children in the Chicago Public School system and Catholic Schools in the Chicago area.

Research Design: 

This is a cross-sectional and comparative study designed to generate casual evidence. This project collects original data using observational [videography] evidence. Analysis plans will transcribe all the speech, gesture and actions produced by the children using the coding system previously established by Susan Goldin-Meadow, and then analyze the data statistically and using ANOVA.


Findings will be added as they become available.