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Enhanced academic performance using a novel classroom physical activity intervention to increase awareness, attention and self-control: Putting embodied cognition into practice


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When language is processed, brain activity occurs not only in the classic ‘language areas’ such as Broca’s area, but also in areas which control movement. Our systems of understanding, including higher level cognition, are rooted in bodily awareness which needs to be developed as a precursor to intellectual reasoning. Cognition is embodied, and this concept may offer a radical new way of improving school education by improving children’s systems of physical understanding. A new classroom physical intervention, called Move4words, based on embodied cognition, was developed for pupils aged 7–13 years and trialled with 348 typical pupils in 10 mainstream UK schools. Three pilot controlled trials showed significant improvements in academic performance, particularly for struggling pupils performing in the lowest 20 percent. Effect sizes were large for the lowest achievers: Hedges’ g = 0.86 for national examinations at age 11 (KS2 SATs) and g = 1.24 for progress through National Curriculum Levels in reading, writing and maths. Performance gains were maintained for at least 1 year after the end of the intervention.
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McClelland, Pitt and Stein, 2015. Embodied Cognition in the Classroom
Improving Schools (2015) Vol. 18(1) pages 83–100
Improving Schools (2015) Vol. 18(1) pages 83–100
Enhanced academic performance using a novel classroom physical
activity intervention to increase awareness, attention and self-control
– putting embodied cognition into practice.
Elizabeth McClelland*, Anna Pitt and John Stein.
University of Oxford
* Corresponding Author is Elizabeth McClelland, Department of Physiology, Anatomy and
Genetics, Sherrington Building, Oxford University, Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PT, UK.
Article submitted to Sage journal: “Improving Schools” 02.10.14
Manuscript revised and submitted 04.11.14
Accepted for publication: 10.11.14
Published in Improving Schools journal 18.03.15
Published by Sage at:
DOI: 10.1177/1365480214562125
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McClelland, Pitt and Stein, 2015. Embodied Cognition in the Classroom
Improving Schools (2015) Vol. 18(1) pages 83–100
Enhanced academic performance using a novel classroom physical
activity intervention to increase awareness, attention and self-control
– putting embodied cognition into practice.
Elizabeth McClelland*, Anna Pitt and John Stein.
*Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, University of Oxford
Key words: Concentration, improving reading, inclusive classroom intervention, mindful physical
activity, primary school, raising achievement
When language is processed, brain activity occurs not only in the classic “language areas” such as
Broca’s area, but also in areas which control movement. Our systems of understanding, including
higher-level cognition, are rooted in bodily awareness which needs to be developed as a precursor
to intellectual reasoning. Cognition is embodied, and this concept may offer a radical new way of
improving school education by improving children’s systems of physical understanding.
A new classroom physical intervention, called Move4words, based on embodied cognition,
was developed for pupils aged 7-13 and trialled with 348 typical pupils in 10 mainstream UK
schools. Three pilot controlled trials showed significant improvements in academic performance,
particularly for struggling pupils performing in the lowest 20%. Effect sizes were large for the
lowest achievers: Hedges g = 0.86 for national examinations at age 11 (KS2 SATs) and g = 1.24 for
progress through National Curriculum levels in reading, writing and maths. Performance gains were
maintained for at least one year after the end of the intervention.
Schools still largely regard the mind and body as two distinct things, with teaching designed to train
only the mind. However, recent developments in cognitive science suggest that there is much more
to thinking and learning than previously supposed
Throughout much of the twentieth century, prevailing ideas about human thinking and
cognition were based on a model which can be likened to the operation of a modern computer.
Knowledge was assumed to be held in a memory area, separate from the brain systems which sense
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the world and move our bodies. The way our brains use our existing knowledge to learn and to
solve new problems was thought to be through a series of logical steps (Barsalou, Simmons, Barbey
& Wilson, 2003). Thinking skills were “overwhelmingly seen as conscious, deliberate and rational”
(Claxton, 2012, p.79).
New evidence from neuroscience and psychology has given rise to a radically different
model of how the human brain thinks and learns. In the “embodied cognition” model, the body and
brain work together in an inextricably-linked “brain-body” system. Thinking skills are now seen as
dependent on the body in previously unimaginable ways (e.g., Boncoddo, Dixon & Kelley, 2010).
The origin of this brain-body link is thought to derive from the evolution of language from gesture
(e.g. Gentilucci & Corballis, 2006).and the key role of language in the development of sophisticated
thinking skills (e.g. Perlovsky & Ilin, 2013).
The sophisticated and abstract knowledge of the adult is built, brick by brick, on physical
experiences in the real world. For example, when we think of a car, our brains do not only provide
us with a logical list of its physical features, the car’s purpose, words associated with car etc, but
neurons also fire to re-enact our physical and sensory experience of driving: the muscle movements
of gear changing; sensations we had of movement when travelling; the sound of the engine, etc.
(Barsalou et al., 2003).
So our systems of understanding are rooted in bodily awareness, the human brain is primed
for action, even when processing abstract concepts. This includes higher level elements of cognition
such as conceptualisation, reasoning, planning and judgement, as well as planning of and
verbalising physical actions.
Neuroscientific and psychological evidence now points to a very surprising conclusion, that
experience gained from learning accurate muscle control in order to achieve physical tasks allows
the child to better understand how to achieve other, more abstract goals (Sommerville, Woodward
& Needham, 2005; Hung & Labroo, 2011).
Educationalists are now familiar with one aspect of embodied cognition, namely where the
body is actively involved in a very specific learning experience. An example of this is the type of
early-years phonics approach where the child makes a wriggly snake-like movement when making
the “ssss” sibilant sound, etc., to embed the learning. However, embodied cognition has
implications which go far beyond this. If our brains do not solve problems unaided, and the brain’s
control of the body plays an essential role in any form of thinking or problem-solving, then schools
could benefit by including physical training of sensorimotor control (Ionescu & Vasc, 2014).
This paper explores this new approach to school interventions, based on embodied cognition.
Our hypothesis is that improving attention and self-control through physical and visual bodily
activities and auditory tasks can lead to enhanced academic attainment. We have here only looked
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at results of nationally standardised examinations, which only measure one aspect of academic
attainment. Other important, but less quantifiable, aspects are beyond the scope of this paper.
We have developed and trialled a new whole-class 12-week physical action programme for
pupils aged 7 – 13, assessing its impact on national performance measures. The intervention can be
used with a whole class. It is easily transferable between different areas and contexts, and can be
delivered by the class teacher without upheaval of current teaching strategies.
We discuss three studies in this paper. One study was a matched-pairs controlled trial of 16
schools’ performance in national exams taken at age 11-12 (KS2 SATs), pupils participated in the
intervention in their Year 6 (aged 10-11) in 8 schools (50%). The other two studies took place in
the same three additional schools, pupils were aged between 8 and 10 years when they did the
intervention. One study was a time-series trial, where termly performance in reading, writing and
maths (National Curriculum Levels) was tracked for up to three years before the start of the
intervention and for one year after the end of the intervention. The final study was a two-group
controlled trial of reading performance (National Curriculum Levels) where one group did the
intervention and the other did not.
Embodied Cognition.
The human brain evolved to solve problems in the physical environment, using sensory input,
perceptual processing, and muscle control (the sensorimotor system). Reading, writing and maths
utilise already-existing brain systems which evolved for the very different purpose of controlling
action. So the idea that the brain can only develop sophisticated intellectual reasoning capacity once
well-developed sensorimotor representations have been formed through learning to control physical
actions (e.g., Gallese & Lakoff, 2005), may not be surprising.
Many neuroimaging studies have shown that when language is being processed, brain
activity occurs in the motor and sensory areas corresponding to the meaning being transmitted (e.g.,
Boulenger et al., 2006). Some cognitive scientists argue that all cognition is based on knowledge
that comes from the body (e.g. Gellese & Lakoff, 2005; Wilson, 2002). Gesture and miniature
muscle movements in the hands are a fundamental part of language production and comprehension
(e.g., Olmstead, Viswanathan, Aicher & Fowler, 2009). Hung and Labroo (2011, p.1046) showed
that controlling the body by tensing muscles actually improved participants’ self-control and mental
focus in unrelated cognitive tasks, and facilitated ‘the self-regulation essential for the attainment of
long-term goals’.
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Published evidence for academic impact of physical activity interventions
There is a view in education that sensorimotor programmes are ineffective. Some high-profile
commercial techniques such as Brain Gym have been publicized without adequate evidence, made
exaggerated claims and used pseudoscientific explanations. The DDAT programme was taken up
by the press as a ‘cure’ for dyslexia, following the work of Reynolds, Nicholson and Hambly (2003)
which used unmatched control and experimental groups and had many other methodological flaws
(e.g. Stein, 2003; Snowling and Hulme, 2003).
Hyatt, Stephenson and Carter (2009) concluded that research on perceptual motor
programmes fails to support their use. However, the main cornerstone of their argument rested on a
30-year-old and technically primitive statistical ‘meta-analysis’ by Kavale and Mattson (1983)
which only used studies available in the early 1980s.
Now, however, there is a growing body of evidence that physical activity interventions do
have positive impact on academic performance. Tomporowski et al. (2011) carried out a large
review of the evidence to date, and found significant impact of physical activity and exercise on
children’s intellectual function, cognitive abilities, and academic achievement. Booth et al. (2014)
found long-term positive impact of medium-to-vigorous physical activity on academic attainment in
a study of almost 5,000 UK adolescents. Chaddock-Hayman et al. (2014) found that increased
aerobic fitness improved neural connectivity within the brains of 9-10 year-old children,
particularly between left and right brain hemispheres, which the authors suggest may explain the
connection between greater fitness and higher cognitive performance in children.
Focused awareness and mindfulness of physical actions may be more important than aerobic
impact (e.g., Best, 2010), which may explain why some studies show a positive relationship
between the amount of exercise and academic attainment and other studies do not (Rasberry et al.,
2011). High-intensity physical activity may actually be less effective at improving cognitive
performance than moderate exercise (e.g. Kashihara, Maruyama, Murota & Nakahara, 2009)
because of biochemical factors produced during intense exercise. There are also some indications
that physical activity performed in the classroom may have a greater impact on academic
achievement than classic exercise done on the sports field or in the gym (e.g. Donnelly and
Lambourne, 2011; Hill et al., 2010).
Various research groups have explored the impact of exercise on attention spans, and find
that short bursts of physical activity can have a surprisingly positive impact on improving
concentration levels, at least in the short term (e.g., Budde, Voelcker-Rehage,Pietraßyk-Kendziorra,
Ribeiro & Tidow, 2008; Hill et al., 2010; Pontifex, Saliba, Raine, Picchietti & Hillman, 2013).
Diamond and Lee (2011) showed that executive function (the ability to predict, plan and act) in
children aged 4 – 12 could be developed through physical as well as cognitive activities, so long as
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the physical activities involved incremental steps which gradually increased the challenge and
which included repeated practice.
More specific elements of physical activity have been researched. Children’s phonological
awareness and reading can be improved by participating in rhythmic exercises (Moritz, Yampolsky,
Papadelis, Thompson & Wolf, 2013). McPhillips, Hepper and Mulhern (2000) and Jordan Black
(2005) assessed the impact of a year-long thoughtful classroom physical activity programme, and
reported significant outcomes of a randomised, double-blind, movement-placebo-controlled trial
with combined effect sizes on reading age of d = 0.77 (our calculation from their published figures).
A controlled trial of the effect on reading ability of participation in a six-week two-handed
coordination programme (Uhrich and Swalm, 2007) showed a significant improvement in reading
comprehension in the experimental group compared to controls (p < 0.05). A movement placebo
controlled trial by Byl, Byl and Rosenthal (1989) showed that balance exercises had significantly
greater impact on reading grade levels six months after the intervention, compared to an aerobic
exercise regime (p < 0.05).
The practice of relaxation exercises and mindfulness also appears to positively improve
aspects of academic performance. Secondary school students who were taught self-relaxation
exercises performed significantly better in orthography tests than controls (Krampen, 2010). Weare
(2013) reviewed work on the positive impact of mindfulness on improving concentration in lessons.
This wide range of effective physical interventions suggests that working with the body
offers a valuable tool to improve cognitive functioning in a very broad sense.
The intervention
Pupils’ mindful control of visual, motor and auditory skills was trained by following videos of child
actors modelling a set of over 200 individual activities. Activities started out very simply at the start
of the 12 week programme, and built in complexity with each week. To make delivery easy for
participating teachers, the Move4words intervention was highly prescriptive, with each element of
the 60 daily activity sessions laid out in step-by-step format. Short video segments, 45 seconds to 2
minutes in length, gave the children clear verbal, musical and visual instruction how to perform
each activity, so the children effectively taught themselves the necessary skills.
The intervention is based on physical training in incremental steps, with repeated practice,
aiming to improve focused attention and executive function, and has a number of elements as
Visual attention and eye tracking skills;
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Classroom mild aerobic exercise;
Concentrating attention on limb-movement patterns;
Cross-lateral body coordination;
A few examples of how pupils’ attention is focused are as follows. Their awareness is drawn to
physical sensations in hands, arms and feet by rubbing or tapping the area before physically moving
a limb. Animations teach how ribcage muscles work, including the diaphragm, during breathing to
help the pupils to feel the muscles working as they do mindful breathing exercises. Animations
show how eye muscles work during tracking and convergence and pupils are encouraged to feel
these muscles activating during eye tracking exercises.
Teachers and learning-support assistants who participated in recent trials received one 2.5 hour
training session to enable them to deliver the intervention. Longer training is not necessary because
they play a supporting, rather than a teaching, role.
Trial design and participants
Study 1 - Two-group controlled trial of exam results at age 11
Study 1 compared the impact of the intervention in whole classes of 10-11 year-old children (Year
6) in 8 matched pairs of primary schools: 16 schools in total. The intervention was provided to one
in each pair of schools in either 2011 or 2012, but the outcome measure was determined for both
schools in each pair, in four consecutive years – three years before the intervention, and the
intervention year. The total number of pupils in the study was 1955 over 4 years, 235 pupils from 8
schools participated in the intervention in the final year.
The outcome measure was the percentage of pupils in each school who achieved or
exceeded the threshold of Level 4 in English and Maths in national examinations taken at end of
primary school (SATs). These figures are published each year by the Department for Education.
Pupils need to achieve a minimum score in UK SATs tests to be able to access the secondary
curriculum successfully, this threshold is Level 4 in English and Maths or 27 points. In 2011 and
2012, the Government-set floor standard was 60% of all pupils reaching their target of Level 4
in English and Maths. Schools were considered to be failing if they fell below these standards.
All schools were in urban areas of relative deprivation in the Midlands and North West
of England. The ability range and gender distribution of participating children was typical of
regular classrooms in the UK including approximately 20% of children with special educational
needs (Department for Education, 2011b). Most participating schools had a diverse ethnic mix,
with up to 60 different languages being spoken at home.
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Eight comparison schools were chosen from similar environments to the intervention
schools, and matched as closely as possible to each of the intervention schools on final year
performance in each of the three previous years (using matched pairs, following the method of
Mant, Wilson and Coats, 2007). A further four factors were also taken into account in the
matching process; urban environment; Year 6 pupil numbers; percentage of children with
special educational needs and percentage of children receiving free school meals.
Study 2 - One group time-series trial of reading, writing and maths performance
Study 2 followed individual pupil’s academic performance for up to three years before the start and
one year after the end of the intervention. The intervention was delivered in the summer term of
2011 to whole classes. 113 pupils aged 8 to 10 years participated from three schools in a total of
five classes. One participating class was in Year 3 (age 7-8 years) and two from each of Year 4 (age
8-9 years) and Year 5 (age 9-10 years).
The performance measures were assessments of National Curriculum levels in reading,
writing and maths which the schools routinely made three times each year for each pupil. These
were assessed by each class teacher as part of each school’s normal practice, using normalised tests
which allow comparison to national performance averages. Results can be presented as levels (e.g.
Level 3c) or the equivalent points score (e.g. 19 points).
The Government set benchmark standards at age 7 (at the time of this trial: Level 2b = 15
points), and at age 11 (Level 4b = 27 points). The Department for Education published data on how
pupils’ performance in reading, writing and maths advances through Key Stage 2 (Department for
Education, 2011b). We have used these data to determine national average point scores for each
term through KS2 to compare against pupils’ performance in the intervention schools.
Tracking started at age 7, so the time period of tracking before the intervention depended on
the age of the participating children, ranging from 6 months for children in Year 3 (aged 8 at the
time of intervention) up to 2 years for children in Year 5 (aged 10 at the time of intervention). All
children’s performance was monitored for one complete year after the end of the intervention.
The three schools were in urban areas of relative deprivation in the Midlands and North
West of England. One of these schools participated in study 1, because they also ran the
intervention with Year 6 pupils, the other two schools did not participate in study 1.
Study 3 – Two-group controlled trial of National Curriculum reading scores
The data from 51 pupils from one school in study 2 provide a two-group control trial of reading
performance. Three year groups (Years 3, 4 and 5) participated in the intervention, and the
school provided tracking data for all three groups.
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We compared group mean reading scores for pupils of the same age but from two
different cohorts. Thus reading scores assessed in the Spring of 2011 for Year 5 pupils (i.e.,
before they participated in the intervention in their Year 5) were compared with scores assessed
in the Spring of 2012 for a group of Year 5 pupils who were a year younger than the first group
(i.e. 9 months after they had participated in the intervention in their Year 4). We repeated the
procedure for reading assessments made for the two groups of pupils who were in Year 4 in
2011 and 2012.
Intervention delivery
The 20 minute intervention was delivered daily for 12 weeks to the whole class at the start of the
school day during normal lessons, using the video-based programme on DVD provided to each
school. Delivery was by trained class teachers or learning support assistants.
Statistical analyses
Children were included in the data analysis in study 2 only if they had been present in school for
sufficient tests to allow progress rates to be calculated before and after the intervention. 21 pupils
(18% of the total) were excluded from analysis because they had been absent for several tests, had
left the school or joined part way through the relevant time period. In order to determine whether
the observed changes in performance were statistically significant, we calculated effect sizes and
carried out t-tests, and checked whether inequalities between groups might contribute to the
observed effect using ANCOVA (analysis of co-variance). T-test results are presented as the
probability, p, that the difference between outcome measures has come about by chance. If p is less
than 0.05, then we are more than 95% sure that the differences are real and significant, this is the
widely-accepted cut-off for significant effect.
Effect sizes were calculated from our controlled trials in order to determine the magnitude of
the impact of the intervention. The effect size is the improvement in learner achievement brought
about by the intervention divided by the variation in student performance. Effect sizes provide a
standardised measure which allows fair comparison between similar studies.
We used the effect size calculator provided by the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring at
Durham University, to calculate the recommended effect size and its confidence interval (CI). This
is the bias-corrected Hedge’s g, which compensates for small sample numbers. The Educational
Endowment Foundation (Sutton Trust) consider that the educational impact of effect sizes can be
categorized into ‘low’ (d = 0.02 to 0.18), ‘moderate’ (d = 0.19 to 0.44), ‘high’ (d = 0.45 to 0.69) and
‘very high’ (d equal to or greater than 0.7). We have used these categories in our interpretation of
our data.
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Study 1: Two-group controlled trial of exam performance at age 11 - Key Stage 2
In the three years before the intervention, the average percentage of pupils reaching the
government’s target of Level 4 or more in English and Maths in national examinations (KS2
SATs) was 59% in both the experimental and comparison groups of schools. The national
average score was 73% over this time period. Thus twelve of the schools were performing
considerably below the average and some were in danger of being put into special measures
(Table 1).
After using Move4words, 79% of pupils in the intervention schools reached their target,
a 20% rise compared to the previous three years (Figure 1). This increase was statistically
significant, (t = 5.340; p = 0.001), so is unlikely to have come about by chance.
Only 66 % of pupils from the comparison schools reached their target in the intervention
year, a 7% increase compared to the previous three years, only marginally better than the
national average improvement of 4% over the same time period. This was not a statistically
significant improvement (t = 1.748, p = 0.124).
The intervention schools’ performance in the trial year was statistically significantly
better than that in the comparison schools (N = 16; t = 2.630; p = 0.034; effect size g = 0.86, CI -
0.16 to 1.89).
The increase in the percentage of children achieving their target in KS2 SATs tests in the
intervention schools was three times greater than the improvement seen in the comparison schools
over the same time period. The intervention schools’ performance in the trial year was statistically
significantly better than that in the comparison schools (N = 16; t = 2.630; p = 0.034; effect size g =
0.86, CI -0.16 to 1.89).
Because the range of school performance was large, the confidence interval was large. Six schools
in each group were performing below the average, and the comparison between these schools may
provide a more reliable estimate of the effect size (g = 1.51, 0.23 to 2.80). ANCOVA analysis
showed that the differences between schools in previous years' performance do not explain the
differences between control and experimental schools' performance in the trial year.
Participating heads and teachers reported many improvements. Formerly difficult year
groups began doing well, reading ability increased, classrooms were more focused, and children
were in a better learning mood.
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Table 1. Comparative study of academic performance at end of primary school exams (KS2 SATs) taken in Y6 at age 11, in eight matched pairs of comparison
and intervention schools. N indicates the number of pupils in Y6 each school in the intervention year (total of 258 in comparison schools, 235 in intervention
schools). Stars indicate that teachers boycotted the KS2 exams in 2011.
Comparison schools Intervention Schools
Percentage of pupils achieving Level 4+ in
English and Maths in KS2 SATs Percentage of pupils achieving Level 4+ in
English and Maths in KS2 SATs
School code
Yr 1 Yr 2 Yr 3 Average
of Yrs
1-3 Yr 4 N
in %age School
code Yr 1 Yr 2 Yr 3 Average
of Yrs
1-3 Yr 4 N
in %age
2011 2011
C1 34 48 * 41 57 46 + 16 Ex1 27 50 * 39 67 14 + 29
C2 75 88 * 82 81 20 - 1 Ex2 77 88 * 83 100 25 + 18
C3 95 90 * 93 82 44 - 11 Ex3 97 90 * 94 100 31 + 7
C4 52 * 34 43 41 29 - 2 Ex4 49 * 37 43 79 29 + 36
C5 48 * 42 45 47 34 + 2 Ex5 44 * 43 44 69 48 + 26
C6 58 33 59 50 68 22 + 18 Ex6 43 43 58 48 68 31 + 20
C7 58 44 61 54 68 22 14 Ex7 59 44 63 55 79 24 24
C8 48 71 73 64 80 41 + 16 Ex8 49 77 71 66 70 33 + 4
(SD) 58.50
(18.78) 62.33
(24.09) 53.80
(15.64) 58.92
(19.02) 65.50
(15.81) + 6.58
(10.65) 55.63
(21.98) 65.33
(22.12) 54.40
(14.10) 58.75
(20.13) 79.00
(13.77) + 20.25
National average 73 77 + 4 National
average 73 77 + 4
KS2 SATs: Key Stage 2 Statutory Assessment Tests; SD: Standard Deviation
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Comparison schools
Intervention schools - before M4W
Intervention schools - after M4W
59% 66%
Years 1, 2 & 3 Year 4
Percentage of pupils achieving
target at KS2 SATs
Average 73%
Average 77%
Figure 1. Study 1 - Percentage of children reaching target level (Level 4+) in English and Maths in final-year
Primary School KS2 SATs over a four year period in 8 trial schools (total N = 995) and 8 comparison schools
(total N = 960). White bars indicate data from comparison schools, grey bar indicates data from intervention
schools in three previous years when intervention was not used, black bar indicates data from intervention
schools where pupils did the intervention in their Year 6 (N = 235).
Study 2: one-group time-series trial of progress through National Curriculum
levels in reading, writing and maths
The data comprised National Curriculum Levels (converted to points scores) in reading, writing and
maths before and after the intervention from all pupils from five classes from three participating
schools, and the national average scores at each age.
Figure 2 shows examples of group average reading scores from two classes from one
participating school. The rate of progress in reading was considerably faster throughout the year
after completing the Move4words programme, than before the intervention,.
The study-average progress rate for the time periods before and after the intervention were
calculated for reading, writing and maths scores (Table 2). The slope of the best-fit lines in Figure 2
are examples of these rates. We have also subdivided the data into performance measures for pupils
performing in the top 50%, those between 50% and 20% and those performing in the bottom 20%
(Table 2) and have calculated progress rates for these sub-groups.
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Figure 2. Studies 2 & 3 - Two examples of reading progress through National Curriculum levels for whole
classes in one school, for a) pupils who did the intervention in their Year 4, b) pupils who did the intervention
in their Year 5. White bars indicate national averages at each age, grey bars indicate the group average
scores before intervention, black bars indicate group average scores after intervention. The arrows show the
12 week intervention period. The lines show average rates of progress before and after the intervention. The
black stars indicate data compared in study 3 and Figure 4.
Average reading progress rates for the whole group were statistically significantly faster
after the end of the intervention (p < 0.001; Table 2). Reading progress rate increased by 63% to
4.80 points per year (a considerably greater rate than the national average rate of 3 points per year
for this age range). This is a large effect (g = 0.73). A similarly large impact was seen for maths
with an 88% increase in progress rate (g = 1.06). The intervention had only a small impact on
writing, with a 19% increase in progress rate (g = 0.29).
Schools also are interested in overall performance scores, with reading, writing and maths
scores combined, so these have also been calculated, and tabulated in Table 2. Figure 3 and Table 2
show the progress rates before and after intervention for the combined reading, writing and maths
scores. Study-average progress rates were significantly enhanced after the intervention (Figure 3,
Table 2), with very high impact (g = 0.91). The greatest impact was experienced by the bottom 20%,
who experienced a 128% increase in progress rate of reading, writing and maths combined (g =
1.24). Children between the 20th and 50th percentile improved by 81% (g = 1.3), while those in the
top 50% improved by 15% (g = 0.42, a moderate effect). All these effects are statistically
Figure 3 also shows national average progress rates calculated from published figures for the
three achievement bands. Before the intervention, the participating pupils’ average reading progress
was similar to the national average.
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Progress rates through National Curriculum sub-levels converted to points scores per year
Overall combined
score (SD)
Ability range N
Pre Post Pre Post Pre Post Pre Post
All 96 t = 4.450; p < 0.001;
g = 0.73
t = 1.832; p = 0.070;
g = 0.29
t = 7.187; p < 0.001;
g = 1.06
t = 5.970; p < 0.001;
g = 0.91
Below 20th
percentile 11 t = 3.052; p = 0.012;
g = 1.44
t = 1.511; p = 0.151;
g = 0.41
t = 3.294; p = 0.002;
g = 1.22
t = 2.738; p = 0.021,
g = 1.24
Between 20th
and 50th
43 t = 5.369; p < 0.001;
g = 1.21
t = 1.722; p = 0.093;
g = 0.41
t = 6.046; p < 0.001;
g = 1.30
t = 5.755; p < 0.001;
g = 1.30
Above 50th
percentile 42 t = - 0.775; p = 0.443;
g = - 0.18
t = - 0.387; p = 0.701;
g = - 0.11
t = 3.348; p = 0.005;
g = 0.82
t = 2.173; p = 0.036;
g = 0.42
Table 2. Comparing Key Stage National Curriculum level progress rate in points per year during a time
period of one to two years before intervention (Pre), and one year after the end of the intervention (Post) for
three ability bands. Data combined from five classes in three schools. T-tests were used to compare pre and
post rates; t is the test statistic and p is the probability level; g is Hedges bias-corrected effect size.
Below 20th
percentile Between 20th and
50th percentile Above 50th
National Average Before M4W After M4W
Figure 3. Study 2 - Progress rates in combined reading, writing and maths scores in points per year before
the start of and after the end of the intervention. 92 children from 5 classes in three schools, intervention took
place in Years 3 to 5. Data from National Curriculum sub-levels converted to points scores for three
achievement bands. The white bars show national average progress rates for the age ranges studied here.
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After the intervention, the combined progress rates in reading, writing and maths were
surprisingly large (Figure 3), particularly for pupils in the bottom 20% (exceeding 6 points per year,
more than double the national average rate of 2.8 points per year). These high progress rates have
transferred into substantial improvements in KS2 scores, narrowing the gap between lower and
higher achievers.
Study 3: two-group controlled trial of National Curriculum reading scores
Figure 2 illustrates how trial 3 was constructed using data from Year 5 pupils. Black stars
indicate class-average reading scores in spring Year 5 for two groups of pupils of the same age
but from two different cohorts. One test was carried out in spring 2011 (group A) before these
pupils participated in the intervention in summer term of their Year 5 (Figure 2b). The other test
was carried out in spring 2012 (Group B) on a different cohort, nine months after this cohort had
completed the intervention in their Year 4 (Figure 2a). We used the same procedure to compare
performance in spring Year 4 for pupils who were one year younger than described above.
Spring Year 4 Spring Year 5
National average 2011 - before M4W 2012 - after M4W
Figure 4. Study 3 - Controlled trials of the impact of the intervention on group average National Curriculum
points scores for reading with pupils in Year 4 and Year 5. White bars indicate National Average scores at
this age. Grey bars indicate reading performance in spring 2011 for pupils who had not yet experienced the
intervention, compared to reading scores for a different cohort at the same age (black bars), assessed in
spring 2012, nine months after the end of the intervention.
Figure 4 shows group mean reading scores for all four groups in the controlled trial.
Post-intervention scores were 3.4 points higher than pre-intervention scores for the Year 4 trial
(a statistically significant improvement;p = 0.006). The intervention had very high impact with
Year 4 (g = 0.94). The intervention also had a large effect for Year 5 pupils (an increase of 2.8
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points; g = 0.64), which was significant at the 90% confidence level (p = 0.069). Expected
progress rates were 3 points per year (two complete KS Levels in 4 years), so results of this trial
showed that, after using Move4words, pupils were one year ahead, compared to pupils of the
same age in the previous year, for both Year 4 and Year 5 pupils.
All three trials showed that pupils who participated in Move4words had significantly enhanced
academic performance levels compared to pupils who did not use the intervention. After using the
intervention in low-achieving schools, 13% more pupils had reached the Government’s target in
national examinations (KS2 SATs) at age 11 compared to matched comparison groups. Nine
months after the intervention finished, pupils aged 9 and 10 were one year ahead in National
Curriculum Levels in reading, writing and maths, compared to how pupils of the same age had
performed in the previous year. Overall, progress through National Curriculum Levels in reading,
writing and maths was 50% faster in the year after the intervention compared to pre-intervention
rates. Pupils in the bottom 20% experienced the greatest improvement in reading, progressing
almost three times faster than before.
The new movement intervention appears to have had significant impact and high effect
(effect sizes exceeding 0.64) on academic performance in reading and maths with whole classes.
The impact was greater for pupils performing below average.
Hattie (2009) reviewed a substantial body of educational interventions and recommended
that new interventions should be taken up by education only if they produced effect sizes greater
than 0.4. He found that effect sizes of approximately 0.5 were equivalent to increasing GCSE
grades by one complete grade.
The high effect sizes are comparable to the largest impact for pupils in Year 3 or older
reported by Brooks (2013) in his review of what works for pupils with literacy difficulties. Brooks’
greatest reported impact was for the one-to-one Catch Up Literacy pilot (Year 3; d = 1.0). The new
intervention is designed to take 15 minutes per day for 3 months with the whole class. It requires
considerably less teacher time than one-to-one interventions, offering a cost effective addition to
current provision. It does not replace literacy support, but adds to it, and does not require high levels
of teacher expertise to implement.
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Long term impact
Successful literacy interventions of many types are often found to have a ‘wash out’ effect (e.g.,
Hurry and Sylva, 2007) where performance gains are not maintained and literacy performance
slowly trends back towards the original baseline.
But our data suggests that gains in reading, writing and maths performance were maintained
for at least one year after the end of the intervention.
Comparison with impact of aerobic exercise on academic performance.
Effect sizes for the impact of exercise on academic performance are about 0.25 (see review by
Etnier, Nowell, Landers & Sibley, 2006), which is considerably smaller than the effect sizes
calculated in these pilot studies of the new intervention which exceed 0.8 for low-ability children
and 0.4 for above-average ability children.
Possible causative mechanisms
A number of possible mechanisms have been proposed which might explain the positive impact of
physical activity on academic performance.
These proposed mechanisms include increased embodied cognition, improved focusing of
attention (e.g., Budde et al., 2008), improved cognitive arousal (e.g., Lambourne and Tomporowski,
2010), enhanced executive function (e.g., Best, 2010; Davis et al, 2011), promotion of growth of
new neurons and connections between existing neurons through stimulation of the molecular
machinery of the brain (e.g., Cotman and Berchtold, 2002), increased inter-hemispheric neural
connectivity (Chaddock-Hayman et al., 2014), and improved brain function in magnocellular (Solan,
Shelley-Tremblay, Hansen & Larson, 2007) or cerebellar (Krafnick, Flowers, Napoliello & Eden,
2011) systems.
The trials described in this paper were not designed to determine the underlying mechanisms
by which change might be brought about. We propose two possible mechanisms which might
specifically contribute to the impact of the programme, but do not exclude the contribution of others
listed above. Further study would be required to resolve this question.
Improving the brain’s attentional systems is the first step in utilising embodied cognition to improve
learning capacity. The process of attention requires the filtering out of most of the sensory input to
the higher centres of the brain (Lennert and Martinez-Trujillo, 2011), leaving only the information
which the brain expects to be important (based on previous experience) available for cognitive
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processing. Physical, visual and auditory attention is therefore key to how the brain deals with the
sensory information which provides our only interaction with the outside world, and to the
functioning of the integrated brain/body problem-solving systems.
The coordinated movement programme is partly designed to focus children’s attention to
their limb and eye movements, so this may contribute to its observed impact. To follow the 200+
activities in the programme, pupils have to carefully concentrate and plan their physical actions,
promoting focused attention. It was not within the scope of this study to directly assess the impact
on attention, although anecdotal evidence suggests that teachers observed increased alertness,
increased ability to pay attention, to work for longer periods without distraction, and better listening
Inter-hemispheric coordination
Part of the programme involves a graduated set of limb-control exercises building up to slow and
controlled cross-body coordination, touching the hand to the opposite knee. The coordination of
movement on opposite sides of the body requires information transfer between left and right brain
hemispheres, via the corpus callosum, a network of nerve fibres which joins the brain hemispheres.
The corpus callosum plays an important role in reading, allowing inter-hemispheric
coordination of activity in hemispherically specialized elements of the reading network into a fluent
orthographic process (e.g. Henderson, Barca and Ellis, 2007). Carreiras et al. (2009) showed that
the process of learning to read in initially illiterate adults demonstrably changes the structure of the
brain, in particular by increasing the size of the corpus callosum. Shillcock and MacDonald (2005)
observed impaired inter-hemispheric co-ordination of orthographic information in reading in
dyslexic subjects.
The corpus callosum develops throughout childhood, normaly reaching approximately 90%
of full maturity by age 11 (Paul, 2011). Perhaps repetitive conscious planning of contralateral body
movements stimulates the maturation of the corpus callosum (e.g. Geffen, Jones & Geffen, 1994),
which in turn supports the interhemispheric elements of reading (Chaddock-Hayman et al., 2014;
Carreiras, Armstrong, Perea & Frost, 2014).
Possible confounding factors
Hawthorne effect
In trials where the outcomes of delivering a new intervention are compared against a ‘no-treatment’
condition, as in these studies, the pupils might be responding positively to increased attention from
their teachers, and the intervention actually has no real impact. In other words, the changes may be
due solely to the ‘Hawthorne effect’.
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We argue that it is unlikely that there is a significant Hawthorne effect contributing to the
positive outcomes of this study. Progress rates through National Curriculum Levels more than
doubled after the intervention period for the 11 pupils who were performing in the bottom 20%
before the intervention period in study 2. These pupils had been receiving a considerable amount of
one-to-one support and teacher attention in the period before the intervention. If the Hawthorne
effect could improve academic performance so dramatically by increased teacher attention, then
previous special needs support should have caused the same response.
Regression to the mean
A possible explanation for the greater improvement observed for below-average pupils is statistical
regression to the mean. This occurs when a low- or high-achieving group is identified on the basis
of how they perform on a pre-test. The impact of regression to the mean depends on the accuracy of
the testing procedure. If the test is not very accurate, then some pupils who appeared to be below-
average in the pre-test should not have been included, and some other poor readers will have been
given spuriously high test scores but should have been included. At the re-test, after the intervention,
then most of the incorrectly included higher-ability pupils will now provide higher test results, and
the group average will increase, even if the intervention has no effect. The same effect occurs in the
opposite direction, for any group chosen on the basis of above-average scores.
It is unlikely that regression to the mean is an important phenomenon in this study, because
the time-series trial in study 2 involved up to 10 separate termly assessments, which would reduce
noise and substantially reduce any effect of regression to the mean.
Helping the “tail” of low achievers in England
Recent international comparative research has shown that in England, more than twice the number
of pupils leave school without basic skills in literacy and numeracy than in comparable countries
with similar levels of affluence such as Australia, Canada and Japan (data reviewed by Amadeo and
Marshall, 2013) despite record levels of spending on education. This leads to there being a “long
tail” of 40% of English children who fail to achieve the national standard of 5 good GCSEs at age
16 (Amadeo and Marshall). The lowest-achieving 20% of UK children leave school poorly
educated and singularly ill equipped for a successful or productive adult life.
The new intervention discussed in this paper may have a considerably greater impact on
reading and academic performance for the bottom 20% than for higher achievers. Thus progress
through National Curriculum levels for pupils below the 20th percentile increased by 128% during
the year after the end of the three month intervention (effect size d = 1.698; p = 0.021), in contrast
to a 15% increase for those above the 50th percentile (effect size d = 0.440; p = 0.036).
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There is little data of this kind available to allow comparison of the new intervention with
other literacy interventions. Tanner, Brown and Day (2011) assessed the impact of the Every Child
a Reader programme on different ability cohorts, and found that reading progress for children aged
5-7 and performing below the 10th percentile was larger, but not significantly greater than for the
year group as a whole.
Our new intervention may therefore offer a powerful new approach to add to methods
currently available to help improve prospects for low-achieving children.
These pilot trials were very successful. The greatest impact was seen for pupils performing below
the 20th percentile (with large effect sizes in excess of 1.0). Higher-achieving pupils achieved
smaller but still significant improvements, justifying the inclusive use of the Move4words
intervention. These improvements were long-lasting.
The new intervention has a very simple delivery model which requires very little adaptation
of a school’s current teaching strategy, and its inclusive approach allows all children to participate.
Low-cost, large-group interventions which improve performance and ability for low-
achieving pupils, which are easily transferable between local areas and contexts, and which can be
delivered by the class teacher without upheaval of current teaching strategies, particularly in areas
of relative deprivation, would be a very cost-effective addition to current provision. Hill (2010, p.
888) wrote “Classroom interventions that do not single out specific children, and appear to benefit
all children, will be crucial in improving outcome for all”.
Hill (2010) contended that the development of motor skills (i.e. the development of good
physical muscle control) is closely related to cognitive achievement, and emphasised how the
contribution of skill (or difficulty) in one domain can have a positive (or negative) impact on
development in other apparently unrelated areas. Our data supports this view.
The use of physical intervention programmes has caused considerable controversy. However,
the new model of “embodied cognition” provides an exciting possibility that improving brain/body
communication and body control could indeed improve cognitive performance, by improving the
effectiveness of the whole interactive brain/body problem-solving system.
This study suggests that well-targeted choices of physical, visual and auditory intervention
elements which have a firm grounding in science (e.g. the key role of rhythm in the development of
phonological awareness) have lead to a viable educational intervention approach.
Larger-scale and independent trials are required to determine whether this may be a new
paradigm for education.
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We thank the participating schools, teachers and children for their invaluable contributions to these
pilot studies. Professor Tim Brighouse is thanked for his support in providing contacts and
recommendations so that the trials could be set up. Move4words is available to schools via a
Community Interest Company, formally regulated by the UK Government Regulator to ensure the
company works for the benefit of the community and is not for profit.
This study received no grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit
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Wilson, M. (2002). Six views of embodied cognition. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 9, 625–636.
... Aktivitas fisik terbukti memberikan banyak dampak positif pada subjek baik anak-anak maupun dewasa. Pada anak-anak program aktivitas fisik dapat meningkatkan fungsi eksekutif (kemampuan inhibition, working memory, kemampuan shifting), kinerja akademik yang baik dan peningkatan prestasi akademik, serta reaction time dan proses attention yang lebih baik (Jäger et al., 2015;McClelland et al., 2015;Syväoja et al., 2014;van der Niet et al., , 2015. Pada masa kanak-kanak awal (prasekolah), latihan fisik terkoordinir menguntungkan tugas-tugas yang bergantung pada prefrontal cortex (PFC) anak yang belum matang, dimana latihan fisik tersebut meningkatkan alokasi sumbersumber attentional dan meningkatkan proses neurokognitif (Chang et al., 2013). ...
... Dalam hal durasi, latihan fisik dapat dibedakan dalam dua jenis intervensi, yaitu intervensi jangka pendek dan jangka panjang. Intervensi latihan yang diberikan selama 12 minggu dengan durasi selama 20 menit setiap harinya dapat meningkatkan academic performance anak setelah anak tersebut mendapat aktivitas fisik(McClelland et al., 2015). Pada intervensi jangka pendek, latihan hanya diberikan dalam satu kali ativitas fisik, sedangkan pada jangka panjang latihan diberikan dalam beberapa minggu.Prinsip latihan yang pertama yaitu individualization, artinya aktivitas fisik yang diberikan pada latihan harus memperhatikan karakteristik individu. ...
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Fun learning is one of the principles applied in the independent curriculum. Learning needs to be designed by considering the stage of development and level of achievement of students, according to learning needs, and reflecting the characteristics and development of diverse students so that learning becomes meaningful and fun. The purpose of this study is to offer physical activity-based cognitive stimulation as a fun learning model. The method used is a literature review. The results showed that physical activity had a physiological effect on the body which ultimately had an impact on the child's cognitive function and the positive emotions felt by the child. Through this article, it is hoped that it can provide knowledge for teachers in designing physical activity-based learning activities as a fun learning model for students. In addition, schools can also collaborate with parents in developing programs of fun learning activities through the involvement of physical activities at home.
... Extensive research has shown that children who participate in classroom-based physical activity are more likely to meet the World Health Organization (WHO)'s recommendation of 60 min of daily physical activity [1,9,10] and show improved physical strength, attentional focus, overall academic achievement, and reading and math proficiency [11][12][13][14][15]. Classroom-based physical activity has also been shown to increase students' feelings of joy and motivation to learn, as well as positive classroom behaviour (i.e., time-on-task); these effects can be seen both acutely and over the long term [15][16][17][18]. ...
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Background: Schools are the front lines of children’s physical activity. Students who participate in daily physical activity (DPA) within their classrooms show improved physical strength, physical fitness, academic success, and mental well-being. However, teachers face many barriers to DPA implementation. The current study evaluated whether providing a DPA toolkit that offers greater access to DPA resources and requires minimal training for teachers to implement could improve DPA implementation. Methods: A total of 343 teachers from Ontario, Canada, completed a pre-survey assessing DPA practices and were given access to a DPA toolkit containing easily accessible and usable DPA resources to implement between January and March 2023. A total of 142 participants completed the post-survey to assess for changes in DPA practice. Several repeated measures of ANOVA were conducted with a three-level factor of grade level (1–3, 4–6, and 7–8) and within the subject factor of time (pre- to post-survey) on key outcome variables. Results: Findings revealed that the DPA toolkit improved DPA fidelity (p = 0.007, η2p = 0.053) and promoted teacher confidence in implementing DPA (p < 0.001, η2p = 0.285) and enjoyment in implementing DPA (p < 0.001, η2p = 0.177). Many improvements were most prominent among teachers teaching grades 1–3 and 4–6. Conclusions: By providing teachers with adequate DPA resources that minimize teacher training, there can be significant improvements in DPA implementation with notable cognitive and psycho-emotional benefits for both teachers and students.
... These activities are likely to increase attachment to school and self-esteem that are important contributors to academic achievement (Trudeau & Shephard, 2008). A study conducted with pupils aged 7-13 years studying in 10 UK schools, has shown that introducing motor sensory activities (like visual attention and eye tracking skills; classroom mild aerobic exercise; concentrating attention on limb-movement patterns; cross-lateral body coordination; relaxation) can significantly improve academic performance (McClelland, Pitt, & Stein, 2015). Place-based learning furnishes possibilities for motor sensory experiences when students perform activities with physical movements using their body and also utilize multiple senses in a unique environment that is determined by the place of interaction. ...
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There is a growing body of research internationally on place-based learning (PBL) and its contribution to the development of connectedness to the local place, enhancement of ecological awareness and its overall impact on learning. This research conducted in two government primary schools in two different villages situated in the state of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu provides insights into the possibilities for the adoption of PBL in rural schools in India. It investigates the current practices and teaching methodologies adopted in these schools, and also the status of PBL. Though the study has found out that PBL is not been implemented currently in both the schools, it demonstrates the possibilities within the existing education system in these schools that utilize Activity-Based Learning (ABL) as the teaching methodology, to make the transition to PBL. It identifies the key stakeholders-1. Teachers, 2. Headmaster, 3. Parents and 4. Children, who influence the implementation of PBL in the village, and also provides significant insights on how they influence. It contributes to a body of research that demonstrates how the teacher training forums influence the adoption of innovative teaching practices like ABL, and PBL, and the support provided by the administration for the 'local' teachers. This study shows how the current trend of private English medium schools in the faraway towns negatively affect PBL and the transfer of local knowledge. Finally, considering the huge rural population in India, this research conducted at the local village schools is of vital importance that sheds light on the possibilities and the barriers for the adoption of PBL at the ground level, and also provides short-term and long-term solutions for its implementation. This study thereby contributes to the international research on place-based learning.
... These and other studies show that various forms of priming related activities intended to improve mindset or academic performance can help reduce scarcity and improve abundance mindset. Emotionally preparing prior to the main activity (Gyllen et al, 2021;Mrazek et al, 2014), changing situational context , allowing reflection (Di Stefano et al, 2016), motivating (Ryan et al, 2006), directing attention (Porter et al, 2010;McClelland et al;, visualization (Davies, 2019, Wong et al, 2009), creativity (Isen et al, 1987;Bhagwatwar et al, 2018), and increased sense of inclusion (Peck et al, 2013, Banakou et al, 2016 are all viable priming intervention techniques. ...
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Recent research indicates that most post-secondary students in North America "felt overwhelming anxiety" in the past few years, negatively affecting well-being and academic performance. Further research revealed that other emotions, biases, perceptions, and negative thoughts, can similarly affect student academic performance. To address this problem, we classify these counterproductive mindsets, including anxiety, into Scarcity Mindset, a self-limiting perspective that appropriates cognitive bandwidth required for essential processes like learning in favour of addressing more critical needs or perceived insufficiencies. Through a multi-disciplinary literature analysis of ideas in cognitive science, learning theories and mindsets, and current technology approaches that are suited to address the limitations of scarcity thinking, we identify strategies to help transition students to a more positive Abundance Mindsets. We demonstrate that these priming intervention strategies can transfer to leading-edge digital environments, particularly Virtual Reality (VR). Offering further insights into the findings of our two previously presented studies, we argue that priming interventions related to preparatory activities and the context priming are transferable to virtual reality environments. As such, building on our multidisciplinary research insights, we propose a comprehensive priming model that exploits priming techniques in an iterative process called Cyclical Priming Methodology (CPM). These intervention strategies can focus on student preparation, motivation, reflection, the context of the learning environment, and other aspects of the learning process. Building on CPM, we further propose a technology implementation within VR called Virtual Reality Experience Priming (VREP) and discuss the process to embed CPM/VREP activities within the Experiential Learning Theory (ELT) cycle.
... Though previous research has found that movement can help prepare students to learn Krog & Krüger, 2011), unfortunately, movement is still excluded from today's classrooms for several reasons. These reasons include a lack of adequate equipment, a lack of knowledge about the benefits of movement for learning, and teacher apathy (McClelland et al., 2015). ...
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Embodied Learning (EL) technologies are now used in educational research as an emerging technology that has the potential to influence the function of the brain to drive learning, especially by integrating the physical body into the learning process. This research examines EL in different learning contexts and circumstances to see how it can improve the overall performance of students in real classroom settings. The study consists of four sequential phases that use data collection and analysis to explore the impact of EL on actual classroom practice. A total of 211 elementary students (n = 211) and 21 primary teachers (n = 21) participated in the study. Applying a multiphase mixed-methods approach, the study focuses on investigating how EL impacts student performance in real learning environments within different elementary classrooms, including Special Education (SE) and General Education (GE) contexts. Results reveal significant gains in students’ cognitive performance, motor skills, and academic performance in language. Results also show improvements in students’ emotional state, resulting in increased students’ motivation to participate in the learning process. Overall, this four-year investigation provides a comprehensive understanding of how EL approaches can be integrated into real classrooms, allowing researchers and teachers to enrich their existing practices, taking into account the benefits of including the movement in their teaching and research.
... Donohue and Bornman (2015), Forlin (2010), Spaull (2015) and they were, therefore, unable to identify its manifestation during learning (Lepola et al., 2016;McClelland et al., 2015). Three teachers explained the concept as follows: ...
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49 This paper draws on Kolb's experiential learning theory. Experiential learning can be used to create and verify knowledge or to analyse truths and belief systems. The experiences of third-year Bachelor of Education (BEd) students and the benefits of stakeholder engagement in the delivery of teacher training are highlighted in this paper. Although learners were the focal point of this community engagement project, both in-service and pre-service teachers benefitted in terms of skills transfer and upskilling. Special emphasis was placed on reading comprehension and the effects of the underdevelopment of perceptual skills on learning. The epistemological theoretical insights in this paper contribute to teaching practice, equipping in-service teachers with the skill to link perceptual skills development to learning. The project made use of participatory action research (PAR) underpinned by Kolb's interactive learning cycle of active experimentation, reflective observation, concrete experience and abstract conceptualisation. Two hundred and seventeen (217) student teachers, 20 Foundation Phase teachers and 300 learners from one school participated in this project. The results of this community engagement project revealed that community projects are essential in disseminating theoretical knowledge to in-service teachers, and thus, in sharing learning support strategies for children with special needs.
Purpose : We investigated the effects of classroom-based physical activity (CBPA) interventions on academic performance and assessed the impact of different CBPA elements on academic performance. Methods : Relevant experimental studies in four databases were searched from their inception to September 2022. Random effects models were used to compute standardized mean differences (SMDs) and 95% confidence intervals. Results : A total of 13 studies were included. CBPA interventions could improve academic performance in children and adolescents (SMD = 0.17, p = .02). For the CBPA elements, low frequency (no more than three times per week; SMD = 0.19, p = .01), moderate intensity (SMD = 0.19, p = .01), long time (more than 20 min in each intervention; SMD = 0.14, p = .05), integrated physical activity (SMD = 0.18, p = .04), no more than 400 metabolic equivalents of energy-min/week (SMD = 0.33, p = .001), and more than 8-week interventions (SMD = 0.19, p = .04) tended to improve academic performance. Conclusions : CBPA may improve academic performance in children and adolescents. CBPA elements also have an impact on academic performance.
Embodied learning method provides interaction with a real or virtual world when we start a learning process by using this method. For example, physical movement plays a significant role when we learn a new sport. The purpose of embodied learning will make the mind and body work together to enhance the learning process with physical feedback and actions. This technology collects the physical, biological, personal data, visual systems that keep track of movement with wearable sensors, and mobile devices respond to behavior such as tilting and supporting the motion. This chapter introduces Embodied learning, its principles on bringing it to the classroom, and how it can help the students.
The aim of this meta-analysis was to evaluate the effects of movement strategies during academic time, on children's and adolescents' cognitive processing, memory, behavioral control, and academic skills. We used a 2 × 2 design to categorize studies, based on their level of integration with (low vs. high) and relevance to the learning content (low vs high). Meta-analyses were conducted per overarching outcome constructs. Age was explored as a potential moderator. A total of 83 studies involving 25,641 participants were included. The high integration-high relevance movement strategy applied in longer-term (i.e., chronic) physical activity interventions had positive effects with the largest effect (ES = 0.94) on memory. The low integration-low relevance movement strategy had large effects on behavioral control measures for longer-term physical activity (ES = 1.42) and single (i.e., acute) bouts of physical activity; ES = 1.15). A nuanced pattern of results emerged in the other categories (high-low and low-high). A theory-based mapping of studies was used to disentangle the effects of different types of movement strategies during academic time on selective outcomes. Consistencies were identified and explained referring to theories grounded in educational psychology and exercise and cognition research.
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Extensive research on humans suggests that exercise could have benefits for overall health and cognitive function, particularly in later life. Recent studies using animal models have been directed towards understanding the neurobiological bases of these benefits. It is now clear that voluntary exercise can increase levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and other growth factors, stimulate neurogenesis, increase resistance to brain insult and improve learning and mental performance. Recently, high-density oligonucleotide microarray analysis has demonstrated that, in addition to increasing levels of BDNF, exercise mobilizes gene expression profiles that would be predicted to benefit brain plasticity processes. Thus, exercise could provide a simple means to maintain brain function and promote brain plasticity.
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Aerobic fitness has been found to play a positive role in brain and cognitive health of children. Yet, many of the neural biomarkers related to aerobic fitness remain unknown. Here, using diffusion tensor imaging, we demonstrated that higher aerobic fitness was related to greater estimates of white matter microstructure in children. Higher fit 9- and 10-year-old children showed greater fractional anisotropy (FA) in sections of the corpus callosum, corona radiata, and superior longitudinal fasciculus, compared to lower fit children. The FA effects were primarily characterized by aerobic fitness differences in radial diffusivity, thereby raising the possibility that estimates of myelination may vary as a function of individual differences in fitness during childhood. White matter structure may be another potential neural mechanism of aerobic fitness that assists in efficient communication between gray matter regions as well as the integration of regions into networks.
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Embodied cognition considers that human cognition is fundamentally grounded in sensory-motor processes and in our body's morphology and internal states. In this paper, we discuss some of the features of this post-cognitivist approach and the challenges that follow for psychology and education. These challenges point to the need to reconsider cognition and the way we pursue education today. If we want to have an efficient educational system we have to look at fundamental research in cognitive science to have an accurate description of what cognition is. Only then can we design optimal educational settings for the development of thinking.
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To test for cross-sectional (at age 11) and longitudinal associations between objectively measured free-living physical activity (PA) and academic attainment in adolescents.Method Data from 4755 participants (45% male) with valid measurement of PA (total volume and intensity) by accelerometry at age 11 from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) was examined. Data linkage was performed with nationally administered school assessments in English, Maths and Science at ages 11, 13 and 16. In unadjusted models, total volume of PA predicted decreased academic attainment. After controlling for total volume of PA, percentage of time spent in moderate-vigorous intensity PA (MVPA) predicted increased performance in English assessments in both sexes, taking into account confounding variables. In Maths at 16 years, percentage of time in MVPA predicted increased performance for males (standardised β=0.11, 95% CI 0.00 to 0.22) and females (β=0.08, 95% CI 0.00 to 0.16). For females the percentage of time spent in MVPA at 11 years predicted increased Science scores at 11 and 16 years (β=0.14 (95% CI 0.03 to 0.25) and 0.14 (0.07 to 0.21), respectively). The correction for regression dilution approximately doubled the standardised β coefficients. Findings suggest a long-term positive impact of MVPA on academic attainment in adolescence.
This unique and ground-breaking book is the result of 15 years research and synthesises over 800 meta-analyses on the influences on achievement in school-aged students. It builds a story about the power of teachers, feedback, and a model of learning and understanding. The research involves many millions of students and represents the largest ever evidence based research into what actually works in schools to improve learning. Areas covered include the influence of the student, home, school, curricula, teacher, and teaching strategies. A model of teaching and learning is developed based on the notion of visible teaching and visible learning. A major message is that what works best for students is similar to what works best for teachers - an attention to setting challenging learning intentions, being clear about what success means, and an attention to learning strategies for developing conceptual understanding about what teachers and students know and understand. Although the current evidence based fad has turned into a debate about test scores, this book is about using evidence to build and defend a model of teaching and learning. A major contribution is a fascinating benchmark/dashboard for comparing many innovations in teaching and schools.
Purpose This paper aims to explore the growing field of the teaching of mindfulness to young people, looking at its social and policy context, its applications, and other areas of work that it might support and within which it might fit. It focuses particularly on the state of the current evidence for such teaching and the conclusions that can be drawn from it. Design/methodology/approach The paper is a literature review, drawing mainly on the 20 or so significant and good quality studies (i.e. those with significant numbers of participants, published in peer‐reviewed journals) that make up the evidence base for mindfulness and the young, along with some comments on the policy context into which mindfulness can and might fit. Findings Work on mindfulness with young people is popular with both staff and students, has a developing presence and can be effective in promoting a very wide range of outcomes. When well taught and when practised regularly, it has been shown to be capable of improving mental health and well‐being, mood, self‐esteem, self‐regulation, positive behaviour and academic learning. There are many possible promising locations for mindfulness within mainstream education and the health services, including work to improve on mental health and well‐being for staff and students, social and emotional learning, special education and mainstream subject based work. Originality/value Mindfulness is a new and growth area. Work with adults is well developed with a convincing evidence base, but work with the young, although developing rapidly, is much younger and this review is one of only a handful attempting to bring it to wider professional awareness.
A long-standing debate in reading research is whether printed words are perceived in a feedforward manner on the basis of orthographic information, with other representations such as semantics and phonology activated subsequently, or whether the system is fully interactive and feedback from these representations shapes early visual word recognition. We review recent evidence from behavioral, functional magnetic resonance imaging, electroencephalography, magnetoencephalography, and biologically plausible connectionist modeling approaches, focusing on how each approach provides insight into the temporal flow of information in the lexical system. We conclude that, consistent with interactive accounts, higher-order linguistic representations modulate early orthographic processing. We also discuss how biologically plausible interactive frameworks and coordinated empirical and computational work can advance theories of visual word recognition and other domains (e.g., object recognition).
The assumption that bodies have little to do with thinking – other than to be the vehicle that gets a mind to a classroom – deeply underpins the traditional model of schooling. Lessons and seminars are designed on the premise that thinking happens best when people are pretty still, their bodies are quiet and undemanding of attention, and they are writing or talking. Unless it is interfering, the physical body has little to do with cognition. This paper offers an overview of the emerging field of ‘embodied cognition’ that profoundly challenges this model of the mind, and therefore undermines many of the assumptions that underlie the dominant sedentary and disembodied approach to the high-status bits of education.