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Abstract

Learners can benefit from seeing an instructor gesture while explaining various concepts (e.g., Singer & Goldin-Meadow, 2005). Like non-declarative knowledge, gestures are often processed unconsciously (e.g., Goldin-Meadow, Alibali & Church, 1993). However, gesture is also seamlessly integrated with speech, a vehicle for declarative (or consciously verbalizable) knowledge (Kendon, 1980; McNeill, 1992). Gesture may partially benefit learning by representing non-declarative knowledge at the same time as speech, a representation of declarative knowledge, and thus influence a learner’s developing declarative knowledge. I explore how seeing gestures may help learners transition from a state of non-declarative (or implicit) knowledge to a state of declarative (or explicit) knowledge of a novel math concept (Study 1). I also examine how the type of information conveyed uniquely in gesture interacts with information conveyed in speech to benefit learning of this same concept (Studies 2 and 3). My most intriguing findings suggest that the context in which gesture is presented matters for learning – namely, gesture promotes learning better when accompanied by explicit, declarative instruction as opposed to implicit, non-declarative instruction.

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