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Holistic Education: Movement and Motion Can Enhance Learning

Holistic Education: Movement and Motion Can Enhance Learning

If you find this information interesting and helpful, subscribe today to Wholistic NOW! a quarterly e-newsletter that features multidisciplinary perspectives on topics in holistic health, wellness, leadership, and education. Go to

Adult learning is a fascinating and complex field of study. Many would agree that learning can have a relatively lasting change in behavior: in the cognitive (thinking), psychomotor (doing), or affective (believing) domains. It is also believed that these changes can be measured.

There are some general concepts that most adult learning experts agree on: Adult learners bring with them an array of life experience, are associative learners, are largely intrinsically motivated, and are problem-solvers. As an instructor, you are tasked with facilitating changes in behaviors by helping to identify needed change and by delivering instruction to promote that change.

There are many ways to deliver instruction. Movement and Motion Enhances Learning (MMEL) is one such strategy. MMEL assumes that people learn best when they are healthy. Physical health, wellness of the mind, and emotional health are essential to creating long-lasting changes in behavior.

Let’s look at some of the concepts associated with MMEL and some of the strategies.

Instructors have great influence on students and can effect change by messaging health concepts and strategies. Encouraging students, in fun and creative ways to eat healthy food, drink water, and exercise regularly is one component of MMEL. For example, institute a guideline of eating only healthy snacks during class. A fun water bottle contest or water consumption log can encourage the students to stay hydrated. A quick start of class share about what they did for exercise that day (or week) may motivate some students.

Inside the classroom movement can enhance learning. “Stand and be Heard” is a movement methodology in which anyone speaking must stand. The physical act of rising releases neuro-chemicals that increase the pulse rate and respiration, and increases blood-flow to the brain and body. This simple act can re-focus attention for several minutes and increases a person’s ability to learn.

Another movement methodology is “Last Person Standing” in which all of the students stand and answer quiz questions. If a student answers correctly he or she remains standing. If a student answers incorrectly, he or she sits down. Continue asking questions with increasing difficulty until only one person is standing. That person wins a “fabulous prize” – usually a trinket such as a pen or small item from the dollar store.

The final example of a movement methodology is “Spin Around.” In this activity, three to four students stand back-to-back with small white-boards and a marker. The instructor asks a question and students have 20 seconds to write answers on their board. At the 20-second mark the instructor calls out “Spin” and the students face each other to review their answers. They then have an additional 60 seconds to discuss their answers and choose the best answer. Once, decided, each group shares their answer with the class. This is a form of distillation using movement; it is fun and highly effective.

Remember that the act of seeing and hearing motion can be effective tools to refocus attention. Motion elicits a type of startle response in the brain.This releases neurotransmitters, which in turn, establishes a better memory pathway. A simple motion technique is called “Sign Posting.” Imagine the classroom as a baseball diamond. The instructor begins at home plate and delivers instructional content related to a key learning concept. After this first instructional content, the instructor walks to first base and presents additional content related to the concept. It is important to not speak while walking. Wait until arrival at the next base.This stimulates an anticipation response in the student and refocuses attention. Then, walk to second base and deliver the second additional content related to the concept. Then walk to the third base and deliver the final content related to the concept. Finally, walk to home plate and deliver a summary of what was shared related to this key learning concept. The use of motion can effectively maintain and refocus attention.

Instructors have the privilege of helping people change what they know, can do, and believe. As agents of change finding and using new and innovative ways to create learning environments will help students make these changes. MMEL is one you can start using tomorrow. It has unlimited potential to promote health, movement, and motion in your classrooms.

If you find this information interesting and helpful, subscribe today to Wholistic NOW! a quarterly e-newsletter that features multidisciplinary perspectives on topics in holistic health, wellness, leadership, and education. Go to

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