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Title: The Role of Gesture in Instructional Communication: Evidence from an Early Algebra Lesson
Authors: Alibali, Martha Wagner
Nathan, Mitchell J.
Issue Date: Jun-2004
Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
Citation: Alibali, M. W. & Nathan, M. J. (2004). The Role of Gesture in Instructional Communication: Evidence from an Early Algebra Lesson. In Kafai, Y. B., Sandoval, W. A., Enyedy, N., Nixon, A. S., & Herrera, F. (Eds.), International Conference of the Learning Sciences 2004: Embracing Diversity in the Learning Sciences (pp. 36-43). Santa Monica, CA: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Abstract: Little is known about how teachers vary their communicative behavior in order to scaffold students' understanding in naturalistic instructional settings. We examined a teacher's instructional discourse and gesture use during a sixth-grade mathematics lesson that focused on algebraic equations. Informed by prior research in non-educational settings, we hypothesized that the teacher would regularly use gesture to "ground" her verbal utterances, and that she would exhibit more gestures for aspects of the lesson content that are more abstract. We found that the teacher frequently used gestures with instructional utterances, and that she used more gesture when discussing abstract concepts and referents. Pointing was the most frequent grounding act overall, and was often used to highlight abstract relations between referents (e.g., the pan balance and the equation). Representational gestures were next most frequent, and often served to provide a familiar ground (such as removing equal objects) for new, abstract ideas (canceling out equal variables). Gesture thus seems to serve as a form of scaffolding. It may also provide insights into teachers' expectations about difficult material as well as their beliefs about student knowledge and conceptual development.
Appears in Collections:ICLS 2004

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