Past influence learning. Gesture might facilitate learning by helping

 Past research indicates that children who were told to move
their hands in a completely correct manner solved more math problems correctly
after the given lesson than kids who did not use gesture (Goldin-Meadow et.
al., 2009). The suggestion is because children used those strategies in the
posttest, there might be a mechanism by which gesture might influence learning.
Gesture might facilitate learning by helping kids extract information from
their own hand movements. Does Language Experience Mediate the Effects of
Gestured Instruction for Math Learning? In
this research, we investigated whether gesture and speech plus gesture have
effects on Spanish speakers. We gathered a sample of ninety-seven students,
ages 7 to 9 years old both Spanish and English speakers and provided them with
a pretest containing mathematical equivalence problems. The students received one
of the two instruction modalities; speech only or speech plus gesture video
instruction. The students receiving speech plus gesture showed more learning
than the students receiving only speech instruction. Overall, English speakers
learned more than Spanish speakers, these finding still support the idea that
gesture is a useful tool when learning math.

 

 

Introduction

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What is Gesture?

Gesture is a
nonverbal form of communication involving hands as well as other parts of the
body to express a feeling or an idea. It is used by everyone regardless of
ethnicity, age, language spoken, and gender; suggesting that the use of gesture
is not tied to a developmental stage or a particular group (Mc Neill, 1992,
2005; Koumoutsakis et al., 2016). Gesture is part of our everyday life; we
gesture while we talk, it happens automatically that we do not even realize it
happening. This natural phenomenon is so ingrained that it is produced by
individuals when they are alone and found to be produced by congenitally individuals
(Iverson & Goldin-Meadow, 1998; Meadow, Cook & Mitchell, 2009) and
occurs as much as 80 to 90% of the words adults speak in spontaneous expression
(Mayberry & Shenker, 1997; McNeill, 1992; Mayberry, 2000).

There are two most
common types of gestures. Individuals can transmit information using deictic
gesture also known as pointing gestures, used to refer to objects, events, and
locations (Kelly, Singer, Hicks, Goldin-Meadow, 2002). The other type of
gesture is iconic gestures which are used to project an illustration of the
speaker’s’ mental representation in relation to the accompanying speech. It is
mostly useful when used to represent mental imagery of objects, actions,
spatial images, and people (Kelly, Singer, Hicks & Goldin-Meadow, 2002) and
it may elaborate on the meaning of the co-occurring speech.

Why use Gesture?

            Children begin to use gesture at a
very early age, even before they begin talking. Gesture is beneficial in
preparing children to learn a spoken language;
it helps create a connection between preverbal communication and speech (Namy
& Waxman, 1998). When children begin speaking, their limited vocabulary may
limit them from communicating what they truly want to say. However, the use of
gesture used in conjunction with words will help form phrases that will
eventually help complement their ability to communicate (Özçal??kan
& Goldin-Meadow, 2005) and reveal more of what they are thinking than with
their speech alone (Alibali, 1999; Alibali & Goldin-Meadow, 1993; Church,
1999; Church & Goldin- Meadow, 1986; Church, Schonert-Reich, Goodman,
Kelly, & Ayman-Nolley, 1995; Garber, 1997; Goldin-Meadow, 2000;
Goldin-Meadow et al., 1993; Perry et al., 1988, 1992; Kelly, Singer, Hicks
& Goldin-Meadow, 2002). Children will typically perform deictic gestures as
early as ten to twelve months old, pointing with the index finger to show
interest or for answering questions (McNeill, 1992), highlight an object, a
place in the environment, and/or an event (Kelly, Singer, Hicks &
Goldin-Meadow, 2002).

            Not only does gesture help children
in their preverbal stages but gesture also facilitates

learning
(Meadow, Cook & Mitchell, 2009) and has been found to provide with
meaningful

information
(Clark, 1996; Goldin-Meadow, Mc- Neill, & Singleton, 1996; Kendon,1980;

McNeill,
1992, Meadow, Nusbaum, Kelly & Wagner, 2001) and present in different types
of

settings
including conversational (Church et al. 2007; Koumoutsakis et al. 2016)
narrative (Mc

Neill,
1992; Koumoutsakis et al. 2016) and instructional settings (Crowder &
Newman, 1993;

Singer
et al. 2008; Koumoutsakis et al. 2016).

 Gesture in the Classroom

            While the use of gesture is so
beneficial for conveying meaningful information in many

communicative
contexts; we decided to focus our research on a classroom context. We chose to

pay
closer attention to the mechanisms that help children learn. Wang et al. (2001)
found that in

fact
teachers do gesture when explaining concepts in the classroom, and while it is
not

completely
known why teachers gesture, past research has found how beneficial it is for
the

children
to see it and produce it. Past studies have shown that teacher’s use of gesture
contribute

to
the benefit of student’s learning (Cook et al. 2008). However, there is
something peculiar

about
students imitating their instructor’s gestures; Cook Duffy & Fenn (2013)
found that

those
that mimic their instructor’s hand gestures when solving math problems were
more likely

to
get correct answers, (Cook, Duffy & Fenn, 2013) profit from the lesson,
(Cook & Goldin-

Meadow,
2006) and can be identified as ready to learn (Goldin-Meadow,

Alibali,
& Church, 1993; Meadow, Cook, & Mitchell, 2009).

Language Experience and Math

            While there are many
debates whether there is a relationship between language and math;

Cipolotti
& Harskamp (2001) argue that math and language are separate from other cognitive

functions.
They found that learning math or any other subject in a bilingual brain is
slightly

distinct
than in a monolingual brain. Being able to separate learned math facts from
language

used
to learn that same math can be challenging for monolinguals. However, to the
bilingual’s

advantage,
creating several mappings for the same concept can facilitate an opportunity to
set

apart
both language and arithmetic (Dehaene et al., 1999; Frenck-Mestre & Vaid,
1993;

Salillas
& Wicha, 2012) and create opportunities for learning individuals to deeply
engage with

math
concepts (Planas, 2014).

Language Experience and Gesture

            Gesture not only helps convey ideas when
accompanied by speech, it is also beneficial to

bilinguals
in different aspects. Due to lack of English comprehension (Yow & Markham,
2001)

bilinguals
are believed to benefit greatly from prompts such as gesture, and by creating
better use

of
it to help them learn, (Cummins and Mulcahy, 1978) to recall rhetorical
information in their

first
language, (Kushch & Prieto, 2016) and for learning new words in a second
language

(Kushch,
Igualada, & Prieto, 2015).

            While gesture occurs in multiple
settings, we focused on our study in a particular context

of
interest: Language Experience and Gestures in the Teaching Context. While
nowhere in the

gesture
math research, no one has talked about language experience. We will try to answer
our

research
question: Does Language Experience Mediate the Effects of Language Instruction
for

Math
Learning?

Methods

Participants

For this study, we
only included participants that had signed consent forms, those that did not
have consent forms were eliminated and were not part of our analysis. We
recruited ninety-seven, second grade students from the Chicagoland Public
Elementary Schools. There was a total of forty-four boys and fifty-three girls.
The ages of the participants ranged between 7 to 9 years old with a Mage of 7.5. The schools where data was
collected were in various areas of Chicago and suburbs; including the north
side of Chicago, northwest suburbs, and northeastern suburbs. The classrooms
were under bilingual instruction.

The participants’
ethnicity varied greatly, however, Hispanic was the most prominent. Ethnicities
included: Latino/Hispanic 55%, Caucasian 25%, Asian 5%, White and Latino 5%,
Cambodian-American 5%, and African American 5%.

Materials

Informed Consent

Packets were given
to each classroom teacher to distribute to the students, to take home to their
parents. The packets were printed in both Spanish and English to accommodate to
the parent’s preferred language. The packet contained a letter describing the
nature of the study, an informed consent form, and demographic questionnaire,
and a participant assent form. The demographic questionnaire was relevant to
know what ethnic group we were going to be testing, what language the child was
exposed to, and whether the child was in a bilingual program. We asked to
please return the packet within two days in order to begin out study. (See
Appendix A).

Pretest and Posttest

            The pretest was presented in paper,
it consisted of twelve problems; 6 standard and 6

transfer
problems. There were three types of problems. 1) There were 2 problems of basic

addition
proficiency (e.g., 4 + 6 = __) in the pretest which demonstrated if the
participant could

add.
 2) There were 6 standard equal addend problems (e.g., 3 + 4 + 5 = __ + 5)
which were the

targeted
problems of the instruction. 3) There were 6 transfer problems (7 + 6 + 4 = 5 +
_). The

transfer
problems required that the participant understood the equal sign to solve the
problem

correctly,
meaning that the total of the left side equals the total of the right side of
the problem.

The
posttest contained same number of problems and similar problems as the pretest,
with the

exception
of the first two addition problems found in the pretest, which were given to
determine

if
the child could perform basic addition problems. (See Appendix B)

Video Instruction

            The study utilized four videos for
student instruction; one of a female instructing with

speech
only, the other of the same female instructing with speech plus gesture. The
other two

videos
contained a male instructing with speech only and another video with speech
plus gesture

By
controlling for same instructor in both speech and speech plus gesture videos, we
could

randomly
assign one of the four conditions: speech only female instruction,

speech
only male instruction, speech plus gesture female instruction, and speech plus
gesture

male
instructor. We implemented controls to make sure that instruction scripts were
identical and

the
only condition that differed was the gender of the instructor on the videos. The
videos only

contained
the view of the instructors from the back of their head, with their face facing
the board,

and
only their hands producing the gestures (for the speech plus gesture video
only); since

research
suggests that some may focus more on the instructor’s face than on the hands

performing
the gestures (Gullberg & Holmqvist, 2006). (See Appendix C).

Procedure/Protocol

Our participants
were tested in their classrooms. First we read protocol instructions to inform
what was expected from them and to lay out the three different parts of the
study (pretest, video instruction, and posttest) (See Appendix D). We gave each
participant a pretest, then participants were shown video instruction. Participants
were randomly assigned to watch one of the conditions that were already
determined prior to the beginning of the session (speech plus gesture or speech
only). After video instruction, we gave participants a posttest with problems
similar to those in the pretest. When the pretest was completed, we thanked the
participants, collected our materials, and concluded the session.

Design

            This study used the between subjects’
design with 2 independent variables: (1) Instruction modality (speech versus
speech plus gesture) and (2) Language Experience (Spanish versus English). The
dependent variable was learning.

Coding

We measured
learning on a nominal scale because the measurement of our dependent variable which
was learning; was performed on a categorical scale because our data was positively
skewed.

Analysis

            A 2 x 2 chi-square
test will be performed to compare how speech and speech plus gesture affected
learning in Spanish and English speakers. The goal was to see the effects of
gesture on learning in English and Spanish speakers. The Chi-square will show
if there is a relationship between modality of instruction (speech or speech
plus gesture) and language experience (English versus Spanish). Due to previous
research, for our first independent variable we hypothesized that more students
learned with speech plus gesture than students who only received speech
instruction. For our second independent variable, we hypothesized that more
Spanish and English speakers learned with speech plus gesture than those only
receiving speech instruction.

Results

Age, ethnicity, and
Modality of Instruction

            Our
participants were second graders between the ages of 7 to 9 years old. Participants
N=52, M age = 7.5 received speech
only instruction and N= 45, M age = 7.6
received speech plus gesture instruction (See Table 1). Looking at ethnicity
and modality of instruction, 55% of Hispanics received speech only and 45%
received speech plus gesture instruction. One hundred percent of Caucasians
received speech plus gesture and 55% of Asians received speech only while 45%
received speech plus gesture. (See Table 2)  

Base Learning Pretest and Modality of Instruction

            Students without previous knowledge
of the equal sign used other techniques to solve the problems. Some used add all which means
the add up all the number in the equation and ignore the equal sign N =52, M= 3.17, SD = 2.75 received speech only instruction; N= 45, M=4.73, SD= 3.29).  Others used add
to equal which means they are only adding up to the equal sign, using the equal sign as a stop sign to stop
adding N = 52, M=4.27, SD= 2.98 and
received speech only instruction; N = 45 received speech plus gesture
instruction M= 3.42, SD= 2.63.

(See Table 3).

Modality of Instruction and Learning

             We first looked at whether speech and speech
plus gesture instruction affected students’ learning. We analyzed overall
learning and modality of instruction, (speech only and speech plus gesture) x2
(N = 97, 1) = 9.51, p = .002 showing significance in our
analysis. Of N=52 that received speech only instruction, 21% learned and N=45
that received speech plus gesture instruction, 51% learned. (See Figure 1).

Language Experience and Learning

            Then we examined overall learning in
students in bilingual classrooms, x2 (N = 97, 1) = 3.83, p
= .05 our findings were significant as well finding that out of N=53 of our
Spanish speakers 26% learned while N=44 of our English speakers, 46% learned. (See
Figure 2).

Last
we analyzed the interaction between modality of instruction: speech or speech
plus gesture, language experience: English and Spanish, and learning x2 (N
= 97, 1) = 9.51, p = .002 once again, our findings were significant.
In fact, we found that 23% of the English speaker learned with speech only,
while 55% learned with speech plus gesture. For the Spanish speakers, 20%
learned with speech only, while 43% learned with speech plus gesture
instruction. (See Figure 3). The analyzed results support our hypothesis
because we found a trend on how speech plus gesture supports learning in both
English and Spanish instruction.

 

 

 

Discussion

Summary

            We looked to find how language
experience interacts with speech or speech plus gesture when learning math.
More specifically, we focused on which language experience group benefitted
from speech or speech plus gesture instruction. Our chi-square analysis showed
that both English and Spanish participants benefitted from speech plus gesture
than speech only.

Explanation of Results and Alternative Explanations

            However, we found that there was a
difference in learning between English and Spanish speakers; English speakers
showed 46% overall learning and Spanish speakers showed 26% overall learning.
Therefore, more English speakers learned than Spanish speakers. These results
could have been due to the fact that Spanish speakers received English video
instruction; therefore, there is a possibility that language barrier could have
been a factor when understanding the video instruction.

            Our findings also support our
question about overall learning of math for bilingual students. We found
significant findings looking at overall learning and bilingual students. We
found that 23% of English speaking students learned when assigned to the speech
only condition. In comparison, 55% of English speakers learned when they were
assigned to speech plus gesture condition. On the other hand, only 20% of
Spanish speakers learned when assigned to speech only, and 43% of Spanish
speaking students learned when assigned to speech plus gesture condition.

Other Research

            Our study findings found congruent
findings that have found that instruction that incorporates gesture generates
greater learning results than using speech-only instruction (Cook et al. 2013;
Valenzeno et al. 2003; Koumoutsakis et al. 2016). No significance was found
between the groups with the speech only condition but there is significance
between the groups that received speech plus gesture condition which shows
learning occurring. These findings most definitely show a trend happening since
the Spanish speakers were probably not fully understanding the English videos,
they still showed learning happening.

            Our probability values demonstrate
significance across all chi-square analyses, which allows us to discard the
option of learning happening by chance. Our findings are supported by the
research by Cook et al. (2008) which suggests that gesturing when teaching math
problems facilitates learning occurrence.

Limitations

            Since this study took place in a school, it is
required that the teachers do not leave the classrooms. It is possible that the
presence of the teacher could have influenced the students to feel nervous or
pressured when taking the pretest and posttest; and caused them to incorrectly
solve the problems.  Another limitation
was the fact that we did not know exactly how many years these kids were living
in the United States. It is possible that we had newcomers that only spoke and
understood Spanish. Showing them an English video, even if gesture was present;
could possibly be very challenging for them to understand.  

Future Research

            For future research, looking at a
more diverse population would be ideal. If possible including children that
speak other languages, for example: Polish speakers or Chinese speakers, by
doing so, it can be examined if the same results obtained in this study will be
supported by other studies testing other language speakers.

 

Implications

The results of this study will contribute to our
understanding of how gestures can be useful to students’ understanding of
mathematical concepts. The results of this study will also be useful for
schools that are implementing ESL programs and teaching math in Spanish to
bilingual children; without having any indication that these programs are helpful
to the students. Previous studies have demonstrated that using gestures to
provide spatial scaffolding can enhance math learning (Koumoutsakis, et. al.,
2016). However, the role of gesture in the classroom still needs to be
researched in more depth.

Conclusion

            In sum, this study showed that the
use of speech accompanied by gesture was beneficial for math learning. Overall findings
suggest that speech is in fact helpful when learning new material, especially
math instruction. The findings suggest that even though more English speakers
learned more than Spanish speakers; more Spanish speakers still learned with
the support of speech plus gesture. 

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