The Flourishing Academic

A blog for teacher-scholars published by the Duquesne University Center for Teaching Excellence

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Summer Classes: Opportunities for Teaching and Learning

by Steve Hansen, PhD. Associate Director for Faculty Development at the Center for Teaching Excellence at Duquesne University

For Faculty and TAs

Use summer classes as an opportunity to try something new in your teaching repertoire.Summer classes are often intensive in nature.  This requires that you employ a purposeful sequencing of the course to increase students’ learning.  In a non-summer class, the sequencing of the course usually looks unfortunately like this: 

Class Time:       <Lecture> <Lecture> <Lecture> <Lecture> . . . <Exam>

Homework:       <Reading> <Reading> <Reading>      

Several problems arise when an instructor employs this approach during the summer.  First, the intensive nature of summer classes do not allow for lecturing in a relaxed pace because each class meeting is equal to about a week’s worth of lectures in a traditional course.  Lecturing for three hours or an extended period is pedagogically problematic because studies of students’ attentiveness during lectures show a flagging of interest within fifteen minutes.  A second problem with the lecture-reading sequence is that students in summer classes have less time between classes to read the equivalency of a week’s materials.  Finally, a third problem with this sequence is that it depends on summary assessment and lacks formative assessment.  When professors assess student learning in this manner, they miss the opportunity to influence student learning through giving constructive feedback that benefits the overall retention of the materials.

Your summer courses will benefit through employing a different sequencing that is more dynamic and builds active learning strategies into the lectures that allow you informally to assess students’ learning and adjust your teaching:

Class Time: <Mini-lecture + Active Learning + Mini Lecture + Group Activity> . . .

Homework: <Carefully Selected Readings Highlighting Key Information>

To make your summer course more dynamic, intersperse lectures with active learning techniques such as icebreakers, minute papers, think-pair-share sessions, group work, and discussions.  In addition, you should trim the readings to essential key texts.  Interspersing your lectures with active learning that focuses on key readings will allow you to monitor student comprehension of materials and give students feedback that is constructive, frequent and timely.  For a successful summer class, intersperse your lectures with active learning and focus on essential readings that you employ in class activities.

Hamster summer

For Students

Students take summer courses for a variety of reasons.  Some take summer courses to lighten the load of the regular school year; others take summer classes because they want a particular course they cannot fit into the regular term.  Whatever your reason for taking summer classes, there are some strategies that will help the summer go more smoothly.

Summer classes are usually intensive by nature.  You will cover a semester’s worth of materials in a shorter period.  Here are some types for surviving the intensive nature of summer classes:

* Plan your summer.  Be sure you find time for vacation, rest and personal well-being before or after your summer class.

* Prepare to give your summer courses all your energy. When classes are in progress, you will need to focus exclusively on course work because of the rapid pace of summer classes.

* Put forward a strategy to accomplish what the course requires.  Know the deadlines, assignments and readings that are scheduled.  To avoid becoming overwhelmed by the pace, make a calendar that keeps you ahead.

* Participate in every class.  When you participate, you learn more because you are actively engaging your brain which increases your memory.

* Plan to enjoy the experience.  Since summer classes meet so frequently for longer periods with smaller enrollments, you will find the opportunity for more interaction with instructors and fellow students.  You will find that the summer experience is more personal.

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The Finals Lap: Tips and Ideas for Final Exam Review

by Steven Hansen, Associate Director for Faculty Development at the Center for Teaching Excellence at Duquesne University

Though it may seem to students that finals are eons away, professors and teaching assistants know that these last weeks fly by all too quickly. And so, as you prepare (or prepare to prepare) for that final lap, you may want to consider how you want to prepare your students and avoid those desperate emails at 5am on the day of the final. You know the ones. If you didn’t know better you could swear that the droplets of nervous sweat somehow traveled through cyberspace and into your inbox along with them. Reviewing for final exams is a valuable way to help students learn and reduces student anxiety related to finals (Weimer, 1998).

Here are some tips and ideas from CTE’s Teaching & Learning Tips Archive for those final reviews both in and out of the classroom.

Offer a Final’s Feast

A final’s feast is like the last supper for your class.  Have door prizes, snacks and review materials.  Marvin Druger (2006) calls his review session a Biofeast.  “Near the end of the General Biology 121 course, I organize the Biofeast.  This is designed as a celebration of the completion of the course.  A dining hall manager sets up a special meal, complete with hors d’oeuvres, tablecloths, and a huge cake, and students get a ticket for this event.  A review session for the last exam and door prizes are part of the festivities.  TAs also attend, and the Biofeast serves as a memorable climax to the first semester of the course.”

(not a realistic representation of a Final’s Feast)

Review an Old Exam

“I hold a review session before each major exam.  Basically, I review an old exam, and many questions on the actual exam are modifications of questions asked on old exams.  The rationale is that I know what I think is important for students to know, so why not tell them?  Students should not have to guess what’s important in the instructor’s mind.  For example, I want students to be able to analyze inheritance of ABO blood groups.  So, I tell them that a question on the exam will be similar to the following question: ‘If the mother is type A and the father is not AB, which of the following could not be the blood type of the child?’ The actual question on the exam will simply change the blood types in the question.  Also, former exams are available on reserve in the libraries, so that students can review content and get an idea of the style of the exams.” (Druger, 2006)

Set a Phone-in or Email Time

On the night before an exam, a professor (or a TA on duty) sets up block of time dedicated to taking calls or emails from students to help answer last-minute questions (Druger, 2006).

Give a Practice Exam

“Practice tests help students gauge what is expected of them. But practice tests are most effective when students take the tests, rather than read them as though they were study guides” (Davis, 2009).  If you let students spend half of the review time taking the practice exam, use the remaining review time to answer their questions.  Having taken the practice exam, students will have plenty of questions during the remaining time.

Interactive Review with Students as Experts

“Plan your test review sessions to be as interactive as possible. Instead of doing the usual ‘Q and A,’ organize the material in a more meaningful way. For example, you could send out an outline of major topics in advance and have students e-mail their questions to you ahead of time. Compile a list of the best questions and ask students to prepare answers prior to the session. Direct these questions to the students in the review before answering them yourself. You should have some ‘experts’ in the audience when it’s time to review. If students omitted some important questions, guide them to design questions for remaining topics. The practice in writing their own questions and answering them will be invaluable” (Joanne Holladay, “Your Role in Preparing Students for Finals,” University of Texas).


Davis, Barbara Gross. (2009). Tools for teaching. San Francisco: Wiley Publishers.

Druger, Marvin. (2006). “Experiential learning in a large introductory biology course.” In Joel Mintzes & William Leonard (Ed.), Handbook of college science teaching (pp. 37-44). Arlington, VA: NSTA Press.

Kearney, Patricia , Plax, Timothy G. , Hays, Ellis R. andIvey, Marilyn J.(1991) “College teacher misbehaviors: What students don’t like about what teachers say and do.” Communication Quarterly 39: 4, 309-324.

Weimer, Maryellen. “Exam review sessions.” In Maryellen Weimer & Rose Neff (Ed.), Teaching college: Collected readings for new instructors (pp. 123-124). Madison: Atwood Publishing.

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Fizzle or Finale: The Final Day of Class

by Steve Hansen, Director of Faculty Development at Duquesne University’s Center for Teaching Excellence

Many courses end with a fizzle.  Frank Heppner (2007) aptly says, “In most classes, The Last Lecture was about as memorable as the rest of the class had been – that is, not very.”  The final class should bring the course to an appropriate conclusion or finale.

“For many. . , the last day of class comes and goes without ceremony, yet it provides an opportunity to bring the student-teacher experience to a close in a way that students appreciate and enjoy” (Lucas and Bernstein, 2008).

How can you make the final day into a finale?

Summarize the course content

“Ask students to create concept maps illustrating major aspects of course content and showing how they are interrelated” (Lucas and Bernstein, 2008).

Give a Memento

Mementos do not need to be expensive to be meaningful.  An instructor of Ecclesiastical Latin distributed postcard-size copies of da Vinci’s Last Supper to her students.  I still have the memento on a bookshelf in my home.

Pass the Torch

Invite your current students to pass on advice about the course by writing brief letters to students who will take the course in the future.  Instructors can use the letters to improve their teaching or excerpt the best advice into a section for future syllabi about “Succeeding in the Course: Advice from Former Students”

Make Emotional Connections

Christopher Uhl (2005) ends his large (400 students) Environmental Science course by inviting students to explore the emotions that they have encountered over the semester.  He organizes reflection around four ideas: acceptance, gratitude, integrity and hope.  In exploring acceptance, Uhl asks his students to be truthful about their performance during the semester and to think about how they will change their study habits for future classes.  “I invite my students to reflect on their disappointments.  Specifically, I ask: How did you let yourself down?  When did you hand in ‘BS’ instead of honest work?  In what ways did you fail to honor your own potential?”  Uhl then asks students to reflect on “what new action they might take in future courses to enhance their learning, given what they acknowledge as their shortfall in my class.”  Next, Uhl asks students to explore their feelings of gratitude.  He invites students to talk about what they might be thankful for because of the class.  After exploring acceptance and gratitude, Uhl invites his students to explore integrity.  He asks students to consider how taking the class will impact their future thinking, actions and behaviors.  Finally, Uhl concludes class by expressing his hopes for the students and asking them to share “their hopes for themselves and for each other.”

Encourage and Inspire

Frank Heppner (2007) describes Richard Eakin’s final lecture for a course in embryology: “Eakin’s Last Lecture was legendary, and students who had taken his course in previous years would come back to hear it again and be inspired.  The lecture was a reminiscence of a life in science and the joy and thrill of having the opportunity, as a young man, to work in laboratories where discoveries about the fundamental nature of life were being made.  He made a point of the fact that he had not been some sort of geeky super-genius as a youngster, but had instead been blessed with a strong sense of curiosity.  I can still recall being amazed by that – surely such a man must have been an exceptional student?  Why, that might mean that I might do such things some day.”

Celebrate Students’ Work

In writing-intensive courses, end the semester by celebrating the writing of your students.  Before the last day, assign students to select a piece of their work to read aloud in 2-3 minutes.  On the final day of class, each student reads the selection, and the class responds to each reading with applause. (


Heppner, F. (2007). Teaching the large class: a guidebook for instructors with multitudes. San Francisco: Joosey-Bass, 2007.

Lucas, S. and Bernstein, D. (2005). Teaching Psychology: a step by step guide. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Uhl, C. (2005). The last class. College Teaching 53(4): 165-166.

What do you do to end your course with a flourish? Leave a comment telling us what you do to make your last class of the semester something to remember. The Flourishing Academic and your colleagues would love to hear from you!



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The Serving Leader: A Book Review

By Rachel Luckenbill, Instructional Consultant for TAs at the Center for Teaching Excellence and English PhD Candidate at Duquesne University

I recently read a book called The Serving Leader (2003) by Ken Jennings and John Stahl-Wert. Though as the cover of the book states the authors focus on “actions that will transform your team, your business and your community,” I was struck by how applicable their ideas are to academia. The authors profess a model of leadership that values excellence and competitiveness without sacrificing attention to the needs and value of people. In this post I offer a review of their book and make some suggestions about how college instructors can be serving leaders.

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

Jennings and Stahl-Wert present the concept of “serving leaders” through the fictionalized story of a young businessman named Mike who is pursuing reconciliation with his father and attempting to engage with his father’s consulting business as the older man’s health fails. His assignment is to learn about serving leadership and begin to implement it himself. After meeting a series of community leaders from sectors as diverse as education, manufacturing, and military, Mike begins to put together a complete picture of what a serving leader does, all the while realizing that the very principles which make an organization healthy can also breathe new life into a personal relationship. The leadership model outlined in the book has a distinct spiritual component; it relies on principles of altruism and community taught in both the Old and New Testament, but the authors demonstrate the model’s applicability in both secular and faith-based organizations.

The writing is clear and straightforward and the story itself is engaging, but the real value of this book lies in the principles that appear to go against the grain of typical cutthroat corporate practices. Here’s a snapshot of them.

Five Actions of a Serving Leader (pages 100-101):

  • Run to great purpose – lead a team by offering a compelling goal and “reason why”
  • Upend the pyramid – place yourself “at the bottom of the pyramid and unleash the energy, excitement, and talents of the team”
  • Raise the bar – set high expectations and be selective in your choice of team leaders
  • Blaze the trail – teach serving leader principles to others while “removing obstacles to performance”
  • Build on strength – assign each person a role that allows him or her to “contribute what he or she is best at”

As I read the book, I couldn’t help but imagine how this model would play out on a University campus. What would it mean if each one of us tried using our position of authority or power to remove obstacles that stand in the way of our colleagues instead of using that same authority to focus on building our own reputations and CVs? Jennings’ and Stahl-Wert’s model is decidedly communal. They recommend that each leader build an “encouragement group” that provides affirmation and “perseverance” in difficult times (55) and they insist that “if you want to do something that really changes someone’s life, the best thing you can do is make the person you’re trying to help a participant in the process” (57).

Imagine with me for a moment what it would look like to perform as a serving teacher in the classroom:

  • Run to great purpose – both on the syllabus and in class, connect the content and skills your students are learning to a greater purpose such as the learning objectives for the course and the careers and life situations your students anticipate facing outside of school
  • Upend the pyramid – try a student-centered approach, de-centering yourself by employing active learning strategies that involve students in their own learning process rather than positioning them as passive listeners while you lecture
  • Raise the bar – research suggests that the expectations you have for your students will affect their ability to perform: the more optimistic your expectations, the more likely the students are to succeed
  • Blaze the trail – remove obstacles your students might face by scheduling practice sessions at a time and place when you are available, by surveying students at the end of each class to find out which concept was perplexing or unclear and revisiting it at the beginning of the next class, or by encouraging students to reflect on their own work habits and helping them construct environments and practices that promote concentration and productivity
  • Build on strength – while it’s certainly important to help students improve skills they have not yet mastered, try pairing these lessons with either written or verbal comments about each student’s strengths: show students the potential their strengths offer and the next steps they can take based on their already positive progress

I myself have seen this model work outside the classroom as well. I’m currently writing my dissertation and am thankful that the way my committee functions resembles the serving leader model. All three of my committee members have helped me see the greater purpose of my work in building cultural sensitivity; they upend the pyramid by encouraging my own initiatives rather than letting their agendas drive my project; they raise the bar by having high expectations and refusing to allow me to settle for less than what I’m capable of even when I’m tired and discouraged; they blaze the trail by removing obstacles in my path, helping me make valuable connections with colleagues in my field and unraveling perplexing ideas in the theory I study; and whenever I get stuck in a cycle of comparing myself to others, the committee members build on strength by helping me focus instead on the methods and content that make my project unique. I can say from experience that this model makes me a more productive and satisfied graduate student than I would be otherwise.

So as you close out the semester and prepare your courses and committees for the summer and fall, think of ways that you can be a serving leader in your classroom, department, and university communities. Jennings and Stahl-Wert suggest that as you practice serving leadership, you pave the way for productivity and fulfillment for others while moving toward a greater sense of wholeness and accomplishment for yourself.  In the comments below, I invite you to share ways you practice any part of the serving leaders model either in your classroom or organization.

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My Secret Weapon to Creating Effective Learning Experiences

This week we welcome  our first guest blogger, Dr. Susan Hines of St. Mary’s University of Minnesota! In October 2014 Dr. Hines traveled to Duquesne University for a workshop on designing effective adult learning experiences. You can see a synopsis of highlights from that workshop in an earlier Flourishing Academic post. Today we’re excited to offer you a post written by Dr. Hines herself! Here she gives us concrete ideas about how we achieve effective learning outcomes.

By Sue Hines, Ed.D., Director of the Center for Excellence in Learning and TeachingSusan Hines
Associate Professor in Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

There is a well-kept secret that I believe needs to be shared with educators around the world.  I’ve known about this secret for well over a decade and have used it in all my courses and faculty development workshops.  It has resulted in high ratings from my learners and effective learning outcomes.  Whenever I use this secret “weapon”, I can see that they “get it”. How? I see it happen in front of my eyes.  It doesn’t matter if we’re face-to-face or online.  The result is the same.  Learning happens and I see it.

So what is this secret weapon?  I’ll tell you. But you have to promise to pass it on to all the teachers you know.  We can’t keep it secret anymore. Shift from planning what to teach to planning an experience. A learning experience has 4 parts: awaken current knowledge, add new knowledge, practice new knowledge, and apply new knowledge. Sounds simple? Well it is.  It’s also fun to create and even more fun to implement.

Here’s an example.  Imagine you’re teaching a course called Introduction to Management. The topic for next week’s class is management styles. The learning goal for the class is “to be able to analyze and apply management styles.” You need to have a learning goal for my now-not-so-secret weapon to work.

First, awaken the learners’ current knowledge about the topic. Doing so allows you to draw out what they already know and begin to make meaning through their knowledge. This can be done in a variety of ways. For this example, ask the learner’s to write a response to the following question, “Think of a great manager you worked for. What made her so great?” After writing their response, have the students pair up and discuss, then share out as a large group. Capture the key ideas on the board.  I typically mind map their responses. Then debrief on the “findings” to discover key themes being sure to tie it back to the topic and the assigned readings.  It never fails; the knowledge they already have dovetails nicely with the principles you’re trying to teach.

Second, add new knowledge. Now that the “pump is primed,” immerse the students into the key concepts and skills you want to add to their current knowledge. One way to do this is break the class into small groups. Assign each group a management style from the readings. Ask them to create and share out a 5-minute mini-presentation on their assigned management style. Debrief after the presentations being sure to pull out the main ideas and facilitate corrections in thinking when necessary. However you when add new knowledge, the key is have the students involved in teaching the process. Avoid lecturing as much as possible.

The third step is allow time to practice. Given their new knowledge on management styles, give the class a scenario of a real world management challenge. Have each small group develop an approach for addressing the challenge using their previously assigned management style.  Share out to the class. Afterwards, facilitate a class critique of each group’s work. Practice is essential for embedding and guiding newly gained knowledge.

Lastly, have the learners apply their new knowledge. It’s best to apply the learning to an upcoming assignment. Ask them to write a brief reflection on how the management styles apply to their personal roles and rationale. This reflection will be applied to their Management Profile paper that is due in two weeks. Application of the new knowledge is critical for transferring new knowledge to relevant contexts.

I have used this learning experience design for 60-minute to 5-hour sessions.  The key is to adjust each phase to the time allowed.

Now for my final secret. If you are from the field of education or psychology, you probably figured out this approach is a simplification of David Kolb’s experiential model.  Kolb reminds us that humans naturally learn through life experiences. So why not teach our learners in a way that mirrors how we naturally learn.



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Social Media and Student Engagement: An Experiment

By Dr. Jeryl Benson, Assistant Professor, Duquesne University Occupational Therapy Dept.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles,

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles,

When I first began my academic teaching career, social media was not a part of American culture and was certainly not a part of my classroom. But as times change, so must our ways of reaching our students. Social media usage has increased dramatically over the years with 89% of young adults between the ages of 18-29 reporting social network use (Pew Research Center, 2014).  As educators, how can we use the phenomenon of social media to engage students in learning?

Academic curriculum is rigorous with large amounts of information to convey in 15 weeks. As an instructor in a professional program, I am responsible for delivering specific material that is tied into both the students training as well as accreditation standards that must be met. It takes all of the 15 weeks to ensure the students leave my classroom with the required skill set. But it leaves less time than I would like for those rich discussions that plant the seed of curiosity in our students. I often find myself desiring  more time to discuss those topics in greater detail or to have the opportunity to share information about a topic that is not included in the course learning objectives but would augment the students’ knowledge.

During one particular semester, I found myself coming across newspaper, magazine and research articles and even news media videos that were related to our class topic and/or discussions. I wanted to share them with the students, so I started posting the links to my Blackboard  course site ( The response was positive as the students would come to class and share their thoughts and opinions. The conversations were fun and thought provoking. As we began to discuss current events related to class topics the students started finding various media items and started sending me links to post for the class. The students were engaged and it was a fun way to approach society’s perspectives related to disability, acceptance, and trends.

Although I found this teaching method to be effective it was somewhat labor intensive. I would occasionally come across something and would tell myself that it would be a great topic to post for the students, but I would either forget or at a later time I would be unable to relocate the link or item.  Then one day I found an item I wanted to post and when I hit the “share” feature on the webpage to email the link to myself I realized that the choices for how to share the information grew! There were multiple icons….I could share to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, and many others. Really? It is that easy?

My personal opinion of social media is, overall, not positive. I am still trying to figure out why sharing every detail of one’s day and life is a good thing. But… I decided that maybe the ability to instantly share information and resources with my students was a positive side of social media. Maybe it was time to enter the “world” of my students to better understand them as individual learners. So I signed up for a Twitter account  (that would be used for professional purposes only) and I invited my students to “follow” me. Now, instead of using the Blackboard course site, when I come across a resource, an opinion or a tip that is either related to our class discussions or my profession…I Tweet it, hashtag  and all! Examples of recent hashtags include #tummytime, #AutismAwareness, #Nobullying, #WorldOTDay. It has been a learning curve for me but I am finding that it is also fun and efficient. With just a few clicks I can disseminate information and start the conversation which ultimately increases student engagement and learning  using a format that is central to their lives. In fact, students have started sharing media stories and sending them to me to tweet, which is both increasing engagement and making it easy for me!

#engagingstudents #duqedtech #edtech

Now It’s Your Turn: in the comments below, please share your experiences/ideas about using social media as an instructional tool.


Dr. Benson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy at Duquesne University. She teaches both undergraduate and graduate coursework in the areas of foundations and concepts in OT, lifespan occupational performance, neurological and sensorimotor function, and occupation based theory.

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The Hands Have It


Image courtesy of Heather Rusiewicz via

By Dr. Heather Rusiewicz, Assistant Professor of Speech-Language Pathology, Duquesne University

We all do it.  We move in the classroom, especially with our arms and hands.

We ask our students to move their hands too, but typically just by raising them.  Have you ever thought in a systematic way about the way that you move your hands during instruction?  What about incorporating movement by your students?  Gestures are a no-cost enhancement to instruction according to a growing literature base on the effect of gestures on learning.  Indeed, I certainly can attest to the benefit of gestures during lectures on new material or during that third hour of a three hour and fifteen minute course to capture attention.

Gesture in the classroom is natural and pervasive.  The impact of gestures, seamless and extensive during instruction as they may be, upon the learning process in higher education settings is unknown.   Yet, data suggests that there is a nearly ubiquitous, robust, beneficial effect of gesture in the instruction of school-age children, primarily in the area of mathematics (e.g., Cook & Goldin-Meadow, 2006) and bilingual education (Church, Ayman-Nolley, & Mahootian, 2004). Likewise, it is certainly well established that gestures can be beneficial in learning of communication skills for individuals with language impairments, such as aphasia (see Rose, Raymer, Lanyon, & Attard, 2013 for a review).  Indirect associations of these bodies of work along with anecdotal accounts of the effect of using gesture during lecture and other instructional activities may lend insight to pedagogical approaches used with young adult learners. It is also important to consider why gestures may be effective in strengthening the learning process.

My hands-my classroom

I think a lot about gestures from a research and clinical standpoint.  I admit, I am not as systematic in my hand movements when I teach.  However, I can say with certainty that I produce more gestures to engage students when I see glassy eyes in the audience. I also know that I have integrated the hands when teaching more than a few concepts.  For instance, I have students pair up and use their hands when learning how specific parts of the speech mechanism coordinate to produce sounds.  Students are also instructed to “tap” out the rhythm of speech when learning to distinguish stressed and unstressed syllables in words and utterances.  Indeed, my gestures heighten engagement and provide information to the students.  Likewise, students’ hand movements increase their attention in the immediate learning environment and I anecdotally see improvement in retention of these concepts after initiating gestures in these learning activities compared to when the content was delivered without students moving their own hands.

Why gestures? 

In short, gestures can convey information when presented to an individual and can also embody information when produced by an individual.  As Goldin-Meadow (2003) stated, gesture and speech are “complementary components of a single integrated system, with each modality best suited to expressing its own set of meanings” (p. 184). She continues by stating, “gesture itself can allow for the construction of two different types of representations—visuo-spatial representations and motor representations” (p. 185).  It is also the case that students’ production of gesture likely has a stronger effect on learning and retention than merely observing gestures, according to the theoretical framework of embodiment. Embodiment refers to the thought that cognitive and learning processes are strongly integrated with the way in which an individual moves and interacts with the world.  Embodiment of thoughts and cognition provides “learners an alternative, embodied way of representing new ideas” (Cook, Mitchell, & Goldin-Meadow, 2008, p. 1047).  Embodiment of coding new information may be especially useful in the retention of knowledge (Cook et al., 2008).  The complex interaction of action and cognition remains a topic of extensive investigation (see Goldin-Meadow & Beilock , 2011 for a review) and broad theoretical postulation (e.g., Xu & Fe, 2014).

So, we all should start waving hands around during class? 

Well, maybe.  There is much to learn about the effect of different types of gestures on learning outcomes in higher education.  Though it does seem certain that gestures, whether pointing gestures, gestures that hold meaning (e.g., demonstrating something is large by holding two hands out wide), or even beating our hands in time with the rhythm of speech will heighten attention as well as provide information.  Memory and learning may be further enhanced by encouraging our students to gesture during their explanations of novel concepts.  Ultimately, gesturing, by the educator and student, during teaching is natural and beneficial.  Now—get moving!


Church, R. B., Ayman-Nolley, S., & Mahootian, S. (2004). The role of gesture in bilingual education: Does gesture enhance learning?. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 7(4), 303-319.

Cook, S. W., & Goldin-Meadow, S. (2006). The role of gesture in learning: Do children use their hands to change their minds?. Journal of Cognition and Development, 7(2), 211-232.

Cook, S. W., Mitchell, Z., & Goldin-Meadow, S. (2008). Gesturing makes learning last. Cognition, 106(2), 1047-1058.

Goldin-Meadow, S. (2005). Hearing gesture: How our hands help us think. Harvard University    Press.

Goldin-Meadow, S., & Beilock, S. L. (2010). Action’s influence on thought: The case of gesture. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 5(6), 664-674.

Rose, M. L., Raymer, A. M., Lanyon, L. E., & Attard, M. C. (2013). A systematic review of gesture treatments for post-stroke aphasia. Aphasiology27(9), 1090-1127

Xu, X., & Ke, F. (2014). From psychomotor to ‘motorpsycho’: learning through gestures with body sensory technologies. Educational Technology Research and Development, 1-31.