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. 2018;3(1):6.
doi: 10.1186/s41235-018-0092-9. Epub 2018 Mar 7.

Embodied Learning: Introducing a Taxonomy Based on Bodily Engagement and Task Integration

Free PMC article

Embodied Learning: Introducing a Taxonomy Based on Bodily Engagement and Task Integration

Alexander Skulmowski et al. Cogn Res Princ Implic. .
Free PMC article


Research on learning and education is increasingly influenced by theories of embodied cognition. Several embodiment-based interventions have been empirically investigated, including gesturing, interactive digital media, and bodily activity in general. This review aims to present the most important theoretical foundations of embodied cognition and their application to educational research. Furthermore, we critically review recent research concerning the effectiveness of embodiment interventions and develop a taxonomy to more properly characterize research on embodied cognition. The main dimensions of this taxonomy are bodily engagement (i.e. how much bodily activity is involved) and task integration (i.e. whether bodily activities are related to a learning task in a meaningful way or not). By locating studies on the 2 × 2 grid resulting from this taxonomy and assessing the corresponding learning outcomes, we identify opportunities, problems, and challenges of research on embodied learning.

Keywords: Bodily activity; Cognitive load; Embodied cognition; Learning; Task integration.

Conflict of interest statement

Not applicable.Not applicable.The authors declare that they have no competing interests.Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.


Fig. 1
Fig. 1
The 2 × 2 grid resulting from the proposed taxonomy presented in the section “Taxonomies of embodiment in education.” The four quadrants correspond to combinations of the two dimensions bodily engagement (low vs high) and task integration (incidental vs integrated). Low bodily engagement in our taxonomy is comparable to the lower two levels of embodiment defined by Johnson-Glenberg et al. (2014), i.e. watching animations or other seated interactions. Correspondingly, high bodily engagement in our taxonomy is comparable to the higher two levels of embodiment defined by Johnson-Glenberg et al. (2014), i.e. the performance of bodily movements and locomotion. Incidental embodiment manipulations aim to influence cognitive processes using cues (for an example, see Jostmann et al., 2009), while we define integrated forms of embodied learning to feature bodily activity integrated into a learning task (based on the task-oriented view of embodied cognition presented by Wilson and Golonka, 2013)

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