It has been acknowledged that students tend to have different learning styles that have an impact on the way they process information. The VARK model is one of the most utilized frameworks for categorizing individuals into visual, auditory, reading and writing, and kinesthetic learners. Quite numerous techniques and approaches have been developed to teach students based on the learning styles in the conventional setting while teaching and learning methods and tools for e-learning are still comparatively scarce. Some steps related to the exploration of the peculiarities of kinesthetic learning styles and teaching methods to facilitate their progress have been undertaken, but the focus has been on adult education. Due to the COVID pandemic, thousands of middle-school students have become online learners. At that, kinesthetic learners often encounter diverse challenges in a digital environment. This study is concerned with the features of effective teaching strategies used with the target population in online education.
Online education is becoming an indispensable part of people’s lives as an increasing number of people start online courses. K-12 education is also subjected to the transformations taking place in society. The rapid proliferation of online education in K-12 settings was caused by the COVID pandemic (Krishnan et al., 2021). Educators were often unprepared for such changes and had to develop quickly teaching strategies and tools addressing diverse challenges. For instance, Palvia et al. (2018) have reported that students’ performance, progress, and motivation decreased due to the peculiarities of digital settings. Some people find it difficult to concentrate because they cannot arrange a suitable environment for online studies. They find their home-based settings distracting and have difficulties focusing on the learning process. In many cases, students find instruction insufficiently clear or think that assignments are unmanageable (Stamm et al., 2021). Researchers and practitioners have tried to address these issues and develop effective models and strategies for teaching and learning.
It has been acknowledged that technology should be incorporated into the teaching process with considerable caution because diverse aspects should be considered. One of the factors to take into account when utilizing digital environments is students learning styles. People perceive information differently depending on their sensory preferences (Hernandez et al., 2020). Numerous models for learning style identification have been offered, and educators utilize the ones that are the most appropriate for their students. The VARK model has been one of the most utilized paradigms, enabling teachers to identify children’s learning styles. Based on this framework, such categories as visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic learners have been offered (Wood & Sereni-Massinger, 2016). The present study focuses on kinesthetic learners because they are seen as the most vulnerable group in terms of academic outcomes in a digital-based educational setting (Idrizi et al., 2018). This population prefers using a hands-on approach as kinesthetic learners need tactile experiences and manipulations with tools and materials, which can be difficult to arrange in online education.
It is necessary to note that some steps to address the challenges kinesthetic learners have to face have been undertaken. Practitioners and researchers have been working on multiple strategies and models and exact programs and materials to help the target group use their academic potential to the fullest. Such solutions include virtual reality, simulations, videos, and video conferences, as well as mobile-based tools (Bressler et al., 2018; Yuliyanto et al., 2020). Such aspects as collaboration, creativity, motivation, and instruction have been explored. However, diverse gaps still exist in the field, which is especially apparent in K-12 education. Middle-school kinesthetic learners’ needs have attained insufficient attention in academia. At that, this population can experience considerable difficulties that can be enhanced by their developmental peculiarities. Although some guidelines have been introduced and some tools have appeared, no sound research on these practices’ effectiveness has been executed (Palvia et al., 2018). Only a limited number of studies with quite small samples are available, so practitioners still have to develop teaching strategies based on their experience and the data regarding the use of online instruments with other age groups.
At the same time, the penetration of technology into the educational setting is inevitable and will increase gradually. As of 2015, the share of online education was 20% (Trilaksono & Santoso, 2017), and the COVID crisis led to the increased use of digital tools. The pandemic-related uncertainty and restrictions that still exist in many places, as well as the overall trend of an intensification of the use of technology in schools, unveil the urgency and relevance of further research in this area.
Therefore, it is necessary to explore the available techniques and methods used in online education when teaching middle schoolers. This research aims to examine effective models that can be employed with the target population. As mentioned above, numerous approaches and tools have been utilized, but this project will concentrate on instruction and a collaborative approach. In order to address the aim of this study, it is necessary to address the following research question: What effects do the utilization of a collaborative approach and appropriate instruction have on the academic outcomes of middle-school kinesthetic learners in the e-learning environment? The following section of this paper provides insights into the most recent advances in the research regarding learning styles and online education.
People’s learning styles have been a topic of exploration for decades, with a major focus on such age groups as adolescents and adults. The use of technology in the educational environment has also been extensively explored. The review of the current literature shows that primary attention is paid to such aspects as learning styles, learning techniques used by learners with different learning preferences, and approaches and models used by educators.
E-Learning in the USA
As mentioned above, the rapid proliferation of online education in the USA (as well as in other countries) has been attributed to the transformations taking place in modern society. Technology penetrates all spheres of people’s lives, including education, and offers various opportunities. The accelerating utilization of online tools has been studied, and diverse benefits and disadvantages have been explored in detail (Trilaksono & Santoso, 2017). The primary advantages of the digital setting were acknowledged during the pandemic restrictions that made e-learning the only option (Stamm et al., 2021). At, certain challenges are also evident as the existing inequity in the USA decreases the accessibility of online education (Chen et al., 2019). Many students have limited access to diverse tools and programs due to the socioeconomic issues their families encounter. In addition to the inequality problem linked to online education, the digital platform is characterized by some limitations associated with teaching strategies and the learning process. For example, students with certain sensory preferences may find a digital environment inappropriate or less effective compared to conventional classroom settings.
Kinesthetic Learning Style
As mentioned above, the VARK model is one of the most utilized frameworks used for the identification of students’ learning styles. Based on the peculiarities of people’s perception and processing of information, their learning styles are categorized as follows: visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic learners (Hernandez et al., 2020). Visual learners prefer images and observations, while auditory learners perceive information more effectively by listening. Reading and writing learners can comprehend and memorize a larger bulk of information when reading or writing texts. Kinesthetic learners prefer tactile methods of exploring, and they try everything using a hands-on approach (Vazquez et al., 2018; Puntambekar et al., 2020). For example, when implementing experiments, kinesthetic learners tend to carry out procedures and find practical solutions (Puntambekar et al., 2020). In contrast, people with other learning styles may focus on concepts, measuring variables, making predictions, and so on.
Kinesthetic learners learn from touching, trying, moving, and actively observing. All these preferences have been researched, and teachers have developed the corresponding teaching techniques (Vazquez et al., 2018). For instance, students are asked to manipulate objects to explore shapes or materials. They may benefit from manipulating particular objects to grasp concepts or memorize words or diverse types of data. All these tools can be exploited in the classroom setting, but many of these instruments are unavailable in e-learning.
In the online environment, teachers cannot ensure the availability of various materials. It is found that kinesthetic learners may find conventional types of instruction, assignments, or assessments rather challenging in digital-based settings. In contrast to reading written instructions, these learners benefit from watching a recorded video or participating in a video conference with a teacher giving instructions. Cheng (2019) has explored the sensory preferences of kinesthetic learners in foreign language learning in an online environment. Kinesthetic learners’ comprehension and performance improve when videos are utilized and when the teacher uses gestures. Virtual reality is another promising platform for enhancing the academic outcomes of kinesthetic learners (Puntambekar et al., 2020; Vazquez et al., 2018). Numerous studies have been implemented in this field, and it has been found that the target group achieves higher results when this platform is employed.
At numerous studies’ findings show that the use of certain digital tools is not directly related to students’ performance. For example, Rogowsky et al. (2020) have emphasized that kinesthetic learners’ comprehension does not correlate with the use of the instruction developed for the e-learning setting. At that, the researchers noted that using specific types of instructions accommodated to certain learning styles led to enhanced motivation and engagement (Vazquez et al., 2018). Therefore, researchers and practitioners agree that paying attention to students’ learning styles is beneficial since the development of the most suitable instruments for kinesthetic learners makes them more motivated and engaged, which is important for the learning process.
Collaborative Approach and Instruction Development for Kinesthetic Learners
Numerous studies have focused on the analysis of kinesthetic learners’ performance and comprehension. Researchers and practitioners tried to examine the challenges this group of students faces and identify the most effective tools to improve their academic outcomes (Wood & Sereni-Massinger, 2016). Some studies have been aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of particular tools, such as virtual reality (Puntambekar et al., 2020) or mobile applications (Bressler et al., 2018). It is noteworthy that the most common conclusion researchers draw is related to the favorable effect of these instruments on students’ engagement and motivation (Yuliyanto et al., 2020). Another important finding that researchers report is the benefits of collaboration in the online setting.
The tools created for kinesthetic learners tend to be characterized by the use of the collaborative approach. This aspect is seen as a strength of the offered methods and strategies (Stamm et al., 2021). As mentioned above, kinesthetic learners prefer active participation in the learning process and actually taking part in diverse activities. Collaboration as a feature of teaching strategies has multiple outcomes when it comes to the target group (Wenger, 2018). On the one hand, collaborative assignments and settings enhance students’ motivation, which makes them more engaged and concentrated. On the other hand, collaboration encompasses the active participation of the members of the group, which is a favored environment for kinesthetic learners.
Exploring the effectiveness of diverse teaching strategies based on students’ learning styles is associated with instruction, exact assignments, and assessment. Instruction is regarded as one of the most important aspects teachers need to consider. Cheng (2019) found that students with different sensory preferences tend to comprehend information better when teachers use certain techniques. For example, kinesthetic and visual learners find the use of gestures important. Stamm et al. (2021) have also reported that students have positive attitudes towards the use of videos and online conferences, which is specifically valued when the comprehension of instructions is concerned.
Learning Theory Association
People’s cognition has been in the lens of researchers for decades and even centuries. Diverse theories regarding students’ learning have been developed to describe and explain the major peculiarities of this process. The major approaches to this aspect include behaviorism, constructivism, social cognitive theory, and neuroscientific methodologies (Schunk, 2019). As far as learning preferences are concerned, several theoretical paradigms have been offered as well. Some of the most widely-used frameworks include the VARK model, Kolb’s model of experiential learning, and the theory of multiple intelligences (Selvi, 2018). The theory guiding the present research is the VARK model due to its clarity and ease of application.
The VARK model is based on the assumption that four major learning styles exist, including visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic learning styles. Visual learners find the visual presentation of information the most appropriate as they can easily comprehend and process such data (Selvi, 2018). Auditory learners comprehend and process the information they hear better as compared with the messages they see. The reading/writing learning style is characterized by preferences associated with reading and writing texts rather than observing or listening to something. Finally, kinesthetic learners prefer tactile experiences and actually do and actively participate in activities (Hernandez et al., 2020). It is also accepted that people are often characterized by features typical of different learning styles. This model has been chosen as a theoretical background of the present research as the VARK model offers a well-designed and easy-to-use four-component pattern. Since the early 1970s, when the theory was introduced, it has been verified by numerous researchers and supported by a bulk of evidence (Hernandez et al., 2020). Therefore, this theory is an appropriate model for a study aimed at exploring the peculiarities of people’s learning in specific environments.
Theoretical Paradigms and Online Education
Other theories (for example, the theory of multiple intelligences) are often based on a similar categorization with a focus on visual, auditory, and tactile sensory preferences. Some frameworks aim at explaining the learning process rather than the cognitive peculiarities of learners. For example, Kolb’s model is one such paradigm, as it illustrates the stages of learning. According to this model, learning consists of experience, observation, conceptualization, and experimentation (Morris, 2019). It is also noted that a learner can start the process at any stage, or some of the stages can be omitted. It is also apparent that this model is linked to the VARK framework, as both of these theories are based on the peculiarities of people’s perceptions and cognition.
E-learning (also referred to as online education, digital-based or computer-based learning) is a type of distance learning that occurs in digital spaces with the use of traditional formats “by sending pre-prepared work home,” giving instructions, and assessing students’ progress with the help of software (Hodges et al., 2020, p. 3).
Kinesthetic learning style can be referred to as “an inclination for physical experience” that includes but is not confined to holding, contacting, doing, feeling, and experimenting (Pratama, 2019, p. 23).
The VARK model is the learning theory describing the peculiarities of learners’ sensory preferences in terms of four major domains: visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic (Wood & Sereni-Massinger, 2016).
Gaps in the Research
The review of the recent literature shows that the peculiarities of kinesthetic learner’s learning styles and sensory preferences have been analyzed, and the corresponding teaching strategies, as well as learning tactics employed in the classroom context, have been developed. It is noteworthy that recent research suggests that the use of these tactics, especially when it comes to instruction and assessment, is not directly linked with students’ performance but has an impact on their motivation and engagement (Rogowsky et al., 2020). At the same time, the learning preferences and tactics to be used in digital settings are still underdeveloped.
One of the primary gaps regarding this area is the teaching strategies and learning techniques that could facilitate the learning process of kinesthetic learners in online education. The existing studies tend to be concerned with evaluating and analyzing particular teaching and learning strategies and methods (Puntambekar et al., 2020; Yuliyanto et al., 2020). Such studies are also characterized by comparatively small samples, limiting their generalizability. Another apparent gap in the current research is the lack of data on the peculiarities of middle-school students with kinesthetic learning styles. Research on online education is mainly associated with adult and postgraduate education, but K-12 environments have been poorly explored so far.
Therefore, it is essential to implement studies that would cover larger populations in the K-12 setting. The sensory preferences and peculiarities of learning styles of primary-school students and middle schoolers should be explored in more detail. The focus can be on performance and comprehension, as these aspects are characterized by certain controversial findings related to the use of different techniques for students with a kinesthetic learning style. The introduction of the new methods, the validation of their utilization, and the assessment of their effectiveness are also necessary. The peculiarities of performance, comprehension, and motivation of middle-school students characterized by the kinesthetic learning style are also under-researched. Potential differences based on gender or ethnicity among the target population have not received the necessary attention in academia so far.
From the Biblical perspective, a deeper understanding of the specifics of kinesthetic learners of the target age will assist in the further evolvement of the educational system and the overall society. God created man and “put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it” (American Standard Version, n.d., Genesis 2:15). Hence, in terms of the Biblical worldview, one of the highest values for humans is to explore the world God gave them. People are responsible for the planet, which makes the transfer of knowledge an important task for adults who teach younger generations (Wayne, 2017). Children should be able to understand the world and cherish it, which can be accomplished if they use the most effective learning strategies. They try to know as much as possible about the environment and the people around them. Hence, it is clear that the individualized approach to teaching, which is ensured by the use of the VARK model, is consistent with the Christian perspective.
Moreover, students are all different, which is also one of the major concepts of the Bible. Each person is a child of God, so each of them has the right to be loved and cared for (Kristiana et al., 2017). It lies within the scope of the Biblical worldview that people should care for the ones in need. Children need the guidance of adults who should ensure their offspring’s proper development. Therefore, educators should try to provide the best care to each child and every student. The best care encompasses the focus on learners’ peculiarities and specific needs (Kristiana et al., 2017). Clearly, the use of the VARK model and the effort to address the needs of kinesthetic learners are consistent with this Christian value. Teachers value their students’ differences and facilitate their progress by helping young people realize their potential and explore their creativity. In the case of the target population, teachers should help their students to observe and try various things utilizing a hands-on approach. Children should experiment and examine the world’s beauty to keep the garden of God.
The Biblical worldview can also be considered when developing kinesthetic learners teaching strategies. As mentioned above, the collaborative approach is regarded as an effective model for these learners. Collaboration is another Christian value based on the Biblical perspective (Wayne, 2017). People should care for each other and be able to work together making this world better. Kinesthetic learners benefit from the utilization of this teaching mode and can be well-prepared for further life in the community. Some of the highest Christian values can be taught when teaching different disciplines, making sure that students acquire the necessary knowledge and skills. Again, learning through close interaction and caring for each other can be instrumental in the development of a community of responsible people who are committed to the progress of humanity and the sustainability of the planet.
In conclusion, it is necessary to note that the exploration of the peculiarities of kinesthetic learners’ needs in the digital setting and the development of the most appropriate teaching strategies to facilitate these people’s progress can contribute to the development of the educational system of the USA. It is clear that technology will continue penetrating diverse areas of people’s lives at a rapid pace. Therefore, educators need to be well-prepared for these changes that have already started. Although some steps in this direction have been undertaken and some effective methods in online education have been introduced, numerous gaps remain yet to be addressed. It is important to explore the methods middle-school students with the kinesthetic learning style use to comprehend and process data they receive in the e-learning environment. Educators should create effective tools to provide instruction and assess the progress of these students. It is possible to evaluate the effectiveness of the existing instruments that have been employed with students of other age groups.
Some of the identified approaches that can be effective with middle-school students characterized by the kinesthetic learning style include collaboration and the use of the corresponding tools (virtual reality, videos, projects). Although the direct relationship between learning style and performance is questioned, researchers agree that the use of techniques crafted for specific learning styles improves students’ motivation and engagement. At this impact is valuable as motivated and engaged students are more diligent, which affects their performance. Thus, research in this sphere is necessary, especially when it comes to particular populations (such as middle-school students).
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