Kinesthetic Learners in Online Higher Education

Topic: Approach to Learning
Words: 4968 Pages: 18


The modern education system of the United States aims at helping young people to become influential members of society committed to progress and development. One of the ways to achieve this goal is the use of the learner-centered approach where the needs of every student are met (Celli & Young, 2018). The focus on students’ needs has made the VARK model influential framework teachers utilize to craft the most effective teaching techniques (Dantas & Cunha, 2018). According to this model, students have different learning preferences based on their cognitive peculiarities (Kusumawarti et al., 2020). Thus, visual, auditory, read/write, and kinesthetic learners process information relying on the corresponding senses. For instance, visual learners process information better when it is visualized (figures, diagrams, pictures are available). Auditory learners benefit from listening to information, while read/write learners process data better when they deal with texts. Kinesthetic learning style is characterized by the focus on movement or tactile ways to explore things. This paper is concerned with the peculiarities of kinesthetic learners’ preferences in the online higher education context.

Historical Summary

The increased attention to the learning style models at large and the VAK or VARK models, in particular, is associated with the shift in the educational system of the United States (and other countries). Up to the middle of the twentieth century, a teacher-led approach dominated classrooms, and students were passive recipients of knowledge (Martin et al., 2021). The second half of the past century was marked with a dramatic change in this perspective, and student-centered teaching became a new norm. Educators acknowledged the benefits of choosing the teaching practices consistent with learners’ academic preferences and peculiarities (Martin et al., 2021). Intrinsic motivation and learners’ full engagement became the goals to be attained in the educational environment, which led to the development of various models, methods, and techniques to meet the needs of each learner.

The concept of learning styles and various models based on such ideas appeared in the second half of the twentieth century. For instance, in the late 1970s, Claxton and Ralston introduced the concept of learning styles that were regarded as students’ “consistent way of responding to and using stimuli in the context of learning” (as cited in Mangal & Mangal, 2019, p. 482). Although numerous definitions of the learning style have been developed since the 1970s, researchers concentrate on several significant aspects, including processing information, gaining knowledge, and effective learning methods.

Many learning models have been introduced based on diverse perspectives of learning styles. It has been estimated that over 70 learning style theories and models have been developed during the past decades (Dantas & Cunha, 2018). Some frameworks were based on students’ cognitive and psychological (as well as emotional) characteristics, while others concentrated on sensory features. Some researchers have developed learning style models describing the learning process divided into stages, while others created categories of learners according to their characteristics.

The VAK (and later VARK) model is based on the categorization of learning according to their cognitive features and learning preferences. The VAK (visual, auditory, and kinesthetic) learning style model was developed in the 1980s by Barbe and Milone (Astri & Wahab, 2018). According to the findings of Barbe and Milone obtained in 1981, the division of learners as per their learning styles was as follows: visual (30%), mixed (30%), auditory (25%), and kinesthetic learners (15%) (Astri & Wahab, 2018). The researchers stressed that the number of visual learners became dominant in the 1980s. It is also important to note that mixed learners comprised a considerable portion as well.

The model became rather widespread as scholars and practitioners reported positive effects on educational outcomes (Kusumawarti et al., 2020; Rini et al., 2020). It was acknowledged that learners achieved higher results if they had an opportunity to use their preferred learning style to the fullest (Rini et al., 2020). The benefits of teaching techniques facilitating the utilization of a combination of learning styles were also testified. Teachers were encouraged to utilize methods that could be accommodated to each student’s learning style. Visual aids and movement acquired a higher popularity among teachers, and lecturing that was rather prevailing in the first part of the twentieth century became one of many ways to present material. Instruction was considerably revisited and teachers started employing a wide range of creative ways to present the necessary material (Rini et al., 2020). In addition to visuals and auditory means, teachers incorporated movement into their instruction. Assessment also underwent substantial changes, and teachers provided information regarding different ways to learn, so students could explore their own learning styles when working on their assignments.

Later, the VAK model was further developed, and the VARK framework appeared. The new model was introduced in 1992, and the change consisted in the addition of a new category (read and write) (Hernandez et al., 2020). According to this pattern, some people benefitted from working with texts (reading, writing, listening, summarizing, and so on). It is noteworthy that this model is seen as debatable as some researchers believe that the new category can be seen as a combination of the other three learning styles (Hernandez et al., 2020). Nevertheless, this framework is widely employed in research and teaching practice.

Both models have the same perspective regarding kinesthetic learners who are described as the ones preferring tactile sensory and movement. Kinesthetic learning style can be referred to as “a preference related to experience and practice, either simulated or real, that produces sensory information through physical activities” (Stamm et al., 2021, p. 4). Although they can learn from receiving information from visual or auditory input, they prefer to learn from completing tasks and “physically experiencing the material” (Stamm et al., 2021, p. 4). The proportion of these learners is not high, which has been reported in numerous studies. At that, in some disciplines or spheres, kinesthetic learners are represented better than in others areas (Anggrawan, 2021; Hernandez et al., 2020). Kinesthetic learning style is more widespread among science students as compared to humanitarian disciplines (Hernandez et al., 2020). Many teaching techniques and even methodologies have been developed on the basis of this learning style. For example, the Montessori Method can be regarded as an illustration of the focus on kinesthetic learning style in teaching (Stamm et al., 2021). Students are exposed to diverse projects and tasks and encouraged to complete them.

Classroom education still dominates the educational system, but other forms and opportunities were available to students for decades and even centuries. Palvia et al. (2018) noted that distance learning (in a specific format) appeared in the USA as far back as 1728 when the Boston Gazette announced the start of journalism courses with materials sent via post. Radio and television were also employed for distance learning in the dawn of their use in the United States. Notably, the first steps in this direction are associated with higher education. For example, in 1919, students of some American higher educational establishments received materials by post and could listen to lectures broadcast by federal radio stations (Palvia et al., 2018). In the 1950s, television-based courses were introduced, and the first online (Internet-based) educational programs appeared in 1998 (Palvia et al., 2018). It is noteworthy that the very first attempts of completely online courses were rather unsuccessful, but further projects were characterized by improved effectiveness.

The development of technology offered various opportunities for learning and teaching, but technological advancement was also associated with certain challenges that are still apparent. For instance, computer-based learning enabled students to access high-quality educational services paying little attention to geographic or time obstacles (Stamm et al., 2021). Online learning became quite widespread in the 2000s when an increasing number of people started using the necessary equipment. First, a limited number of courses was offered by some educational establishments, but soon many more facilities followed. People acknowledged the benefits of online education so it became a part of the educational system. During the late 1990s and 2000s, practitioners and researchers began accommodating the existing teaching techniques and coming up with innovative methods of teaching in the online learning environment (Stamm et al., 2021). At present, quite many effective practices have been introduced and widely utilized by practitioners, but the creation of new means of teaching has not stopped.

Current Issue Described in the Present Culture of Education

These days, the VAK and VARK models are common frameworks researchers and educators employ to help students attain their academic goals. It is necessary to note that recently these models have faced a substantial degree of criticism. Some researchers express doubts that learning styles can have the influence assigned to this framework as many more factors tend to affect the learning process to a more significant extent. For instance, Husmann and O’Loughlin (2018) emphasized that multiple studies, including their own inquiries, suggest that students’ performance was not linked to their learning preferences. The researchers noted that other factors were more influential while learning styles could only be seen as students’ peculiarities that have little influence on academic outcomes (Husmann & O’Loughlin, 2018). The researchers stated that the rigor of methodology used in studies on learning styles is often questioned.

Another area of researchers’ concern is the limited correlation among such aspects as teaching techniques, academic outcomes, and learning styles (Husmann & O’Loughlin, 2018). Several studies suggest that a more significant part of learning occurs outside of classrooms. Therefore, the value and relevance of teaching techniques and their direct influence on students’ outcomes are uncertain. At that, this argument can hardly be prudent as students can develop different learning techniques based on the activities employed in their classrooms (Husmann & O’Loughlin, 2018). Students understanding their learning styles can grasp the material more effectively as they can use their senses to the fullest. Husmann and O’Loughlin (2018) refer to the studies implemented in the 2000s. Thus, psychologists recommend educators make their students aware of their learning styles to promote learning (Husmann & O’Loughlin, 2018). Moreover, all stakeholders agree that a combination of techniques and approaches should be utilized in classrooms to help the students acquire the necessary knowledge and skills.

Irrespective of this criticism, a considerable number of practitioners and scholars still find the VARK (and VAK) model a practical framework that can inform the development of successful teaching tools and techniques. Teachers use a mixture of instruments to facilitate the learning process based on the visual, auditory, read/write, and kinesthetic learning styles (Hernandez et al., 2020). Instruction and assessment methods are characterized by the utilization of diverse visual and auditory components. Students listen to lectures and records, observe various processes and watch films during classes. Movement and the use of tactile senses have also become common in modern courses where students can use a hands-on approach when learning new things. At present, students are encouraged to work on numerous projects exploring their creativity (Stamm et al., 2021). Collaboration contributes to students’ raising awareness of their own learning preferences and strategies other students employ to achieve academic goals.

Online learning has also become a norm, and the recent COVID-19 pandemic challenges made it the only means of learning for many students. The role of computer-based learning increased substantially during the onset of the pandemic in 2019 (Stamm et al., 2021). Various instruments and policies have been created to support online education. Researchers and practitioners explore diverse aspects of the issue, including but not confined to academic outcomes, limitations and challenges, potential benefits, institutional and personal obstacles, and opportunities (Palvia et al., 2018). Clearly, the focus is on the creation of particular programs and techniques to ensure the effective use of e-learning platforms (Hernandez et al., 2020; Stamm et al., 2021). Researchers constantly introduce new software that is evaluated by practitioners and modified to address the needs of their students and classes. The creation of programs and projects for students based on their profiles is also a considerable part of modern research.

Teachers try to make students engaged and motivated during online classes and employ various methods to meet the needs of all students in this new environment. A lot of attention has been paid to accommodating the tools utilized in the classroom setting to students’ learning styles in the online education environment (Anggrawan, 2021; Stamm et al., 2021). As far as kinesthetic learners are concerned, these people benefit from the use of simulations, online discussions, modeling, and similar tools that will be discussed in the following section on the strategies to address the issue. Scholars evaluate the effectiveness of each of these instruments as well as different combinations of these methods. It is noteworthy that the focus is often on a particular discipline or learning activity. For example, Azrina et al. (2021) implemented a study on the use of a simulation to study history, which is found a practical and favorable teaching means. Anggrawan (2021) explores some teaching methods that can be utilized in English grammar teaching in the classroom and e-learning contexts.

Other areas have also attracted scholars’ and officials’ attention recently. Institutional challenges and opportunities have become widely discussed in modern academia (Palvia et al., 2018). Regarding the institutional opportunities for online education, the existing trends in higher education suggest that e-learning will play a more prominent role. The enrollment rate in the USA saw a considerable decrease in the mid and late 2010s (Palvia et al., 2018). Some of the most compelling reasons for this trend are high educational costs (combined with economic constraints people experience) and the widespread doubt apparent in American society regarding the relevance and value of higher education (Palvia et al., 2018). There is also growing discontent with the skills and knowledge undergraduates receive in higher educational establishments, as employers see a gap between students’ abilities and the same challenges in the professional area. Thus, people are reluctant to pay considerable funds for educational services.

At the same time, online education is expected to gain more popularity among American and international students due to lower costs and more flexibility. Student profiles (with the average age of students being 25 years old) also suggest that people choose to combine professional and academic lives (Palvia et al., 2018). People choose the courses they find necessary to accomplish their professional goals. Online education is more flexible compared to conventional forms, so it attracts more students and is turning to a preferred alternative to thousands. Hence, an increasing number of people consider e-learning as an optimal option to gain higher education.

As for the institutional challenges, they are pretty severe and numerous. One of the primary obstacles to the successful implementation of online education projects in the USA (as well as other countries) is the lack of a clear understanding of online pedagogy. Palvia et al. (2018) stated that e-learning programs failure was often associated with considerable faculty training costs and associated investment, as well as educators’ resistance to such changes. Many educators, which is specifically true for older generations, find eLearning less effective and are unwilling to change the classroom setting to the online environment. As a result, some online courses and programs are characterized by lower quality of provided services. The lack of qualified teachers is also apparent in low-income communities. However, this peculiarity is a significant concern of the educational establishment rather than learners as the latter are free to choose any online courses. Competition in the academic domain increases, so many educational establishments experience considerable challenges.

Online education is also undervalued by employers, which makes online degrees less attractive to students. Some teachers pay less attention to online students and concentrate on conventional courses. The concerns regarding the consistency of online course content with face-to-face classes curriculum also divert students from these opportunities. Although online education costs are lower compared to conventional degree costs, they remain pretty high, and many low-income families cannot even afford online courses. In addition, the availability of financial aid is limited when it comes to online education, which leads to lower enrollment rates. At the same time, a growing number of platforms and educational facilities create new options for different groups of people. It is also necessary to note that international organizations also contribute to the promotion of online education by launches their own projects available to large audiences.

Strategies That Are in Place to Address the Issue

As mentioned above, kinesthetic students prefer touching things they explore and moving while learning. These preferences become problematic in the e-learning environment, but researchers and practitioners have developed various techniques to help such students achieve high academic results (Hernandez et al., 2020). Movement plays a crucial role in the process of information processing among kinesthetic learners (Kusumawarti et al., 2020). These people prefer moving and using their bodies to understand concepts better or memorize facts. Martin et al. (2021), examining successful teaching practices in social studies, note that human maps are standard tools in the classroom environment. This teaching method implies students’ moving across the classroom to represent some objects, events, processes, or concepts (Martin et al., 2021). However, such activities can be slightly modified for the e-learning context, and students can be asked to make their room maps using their furniture. Kinesthetic learners move around their room and apply their knowledge to reconstruct events or concepts. Collaboration is possible in such activities as well since each student may be asked to create a part of the picture that can be later combined with the help of images or videos.

Discussions are also effective instruments addressing the needs of kinesthetic learners. Students communicate using body language, expressing their views, or sharing knowledge (Martin et al., 2021). Kinesthetic learners benefit from participation in such activities as they employ multimodal sensory experiences while listening to others, observing, and expressing their own ideas. Notably, in the e-learning context, students feel more relaxed and can move more actively in front of their screens, which can be problematic when being in the classroom. Again, social distraction can be minimized in such activities as students may communicate in small groups, in pairs, or participate in whole-class discussions (Stamm et al., 2021). This flexibility is consistent with the student-centered approach that is regarded as the primary priority in the modern education system.

Simulation is another valuable instrument that has been commonly utilized by educators in the online learning environment. Various software opportunities have been offered in this area, and students benefit from simulations (Azrina et al., 2021). When manipulating objects on the screen or during online conferences, students employ a combination of senses, which promotes the acquisition of knowledge and data (Martin et al., 2021). Role-playing is a similar technique where students are encouraged to take up specific roles and act in situations discussed before the activity (Stamm et al., 2021). Leaners have to use knowledge and skills gained previously and address the issues that arise in the real-time context. Both simulations and role-playing encompass a considerable degree of motion as students can use body language or even move across their rooms to act out or manipulate objects. These are essential aspects for kinesthetic learners who rely on movement and hands-on tactics in their learning.

In addition to computer-based teaching techniques, mobile applications serve as an effective tool to facilitate learning. Applications are developed to meet the needs of students grounded on their preferred learning styles (Azrina et al., 2021). Mobile applications are mainly utilized as supplementary means of learning, but they have a positive impact on knowledge and skills acquisition. Mobile-based technology offers even more flexibility compared to computer-based means. Augmented reality is becoming an increasingly widespread technology that has proved its efficacy in educational contexts. Azrina et al. (2021) note that augmented reality has been employed in diverse areas and was also an effective tool in history teaching. The researchers note that such programs have been positively viewed by learners, which was apparent due to their improved academic performance. Students’ motivation and engagement are considerably enhanced, and the focus on different learning styles makes these tools appropriate for large populations.

Based on the use of these instruments, researchers examined the advantages and disadvantages of e-learning. The advantages include accessibility and multiple opportunities to learn at the student’s own pace (Stamm et al., 2021). Students have access to a vast volume of resources, such as prerecorded lectures, literature, databases, and so on. Stamm et al. (2021) also report that students are able to receive answers to their questions after the lectures, which is not always possible in the classroom environment. Discussions held online are often seen as more focused, and some learners find them more intimate, which is vital for students who feel more comfortable when communicating in small groups compared to talking in front of the entire class. Limited social distractions are also seen as a positive component of online education (Stamm et al., 2021). Students report that digital environments are less disrupting as they have direct access to materials and specific limits of social contacts and distractions. Although specific interferences may occur at home, they are more controlled and less influential as students can always go back to the necessary material.

As far as the disadvantages are concerned, they are also quite serious and need consideration. One of the most common issues is related to technological aspects (for example, inappropriate equipment and poor Internet connection) (Palvia et al., 2018; Stamm et al., 2021). These issues are often associated with low-income communities where people may have difficulties related to their socio-economic status. Another widespread concern is students’ feeling isolated from peers and faculty. This domain is an integral part of their academic life for many learners, making their educational experiences incomplete. Notably, various networks and online platforms are introduced to address this issue, but many students find online communities insufficient to fully satisfy their social needs.

Students often have regrets or doubts associated with implementing research as online laboratories do not provide the same level of analysis and an opportunity to employ the hands-on approach that is typical of physical labs (Palvia et al., 2018). Some learners argue that digital environments are less collaborative in some cases as compared to the conventional classroom setting. Stamm et al. (2021) report that students feel somewhat uncertain they are able to conduct proper research after the corresponding online practice. However, the vast majority of students still acknowledge the opportunities e-learning offers, and an increasing number of learners choose this model. The pandemic-related restrictions also made many people see computer-based learning as the only option under some circumstances.

Biblical Integration

The review of some Biblical texts can enhance the exploration of kinesthetic learning style as these writings provide a comprehensive view of the Christian perspective on learning. One of the basic concepts of the Holy Scripture is the idea of the uniqueness and value of every human being. Each individual is exceptional as every person is a bearer of the Holy Spirit. Each person has gifts making the person capable of holding the Spirit. This view is adequately illustrated in the Bible. When discussing spiritual gifts, it is stressed that to “each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” such as “the utterance of wisdom” or “the working of miracles” or “the ability to distinguish between spirits” (English Standard Version Bible, 2001, 1 Corinth. 12:4-8). According to this extract, every person has certain peculiarities gifts that help them learn and teach others. Learning styles are also gifts given to people as these are instruments they can utilize to self-develop and live good lives. Hence, the fact that people have different abilities is recurrent in the Bible.

Another instance related to different learning styles can be found in Solomon’s words of wisdom. When addressing to sinners, Solomon unveils some of the teaching strategies he employed: “Because I have called and you refused to listen, / have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded” (English Standard Version Bible, 2001, Prov. 1 1:24). The preacher appeals to auditory learners by calling them, and he waves his hand to address the needs of visual and kinesthetic learners. He employs several training instruments simultaneously to facilitate the learning process. The king’s dismay is understandable as he utilized different techniques to address people, but he remained unheard. The depiction of diverse teaching strategies used by wise men in the Bible is rather recurrent, which shows that the difference in people’s perception is reflected in the Script.

Notably, Jesus, who is one of the primary teachers from the Biblical perspective, also guides his people using diverse techniques. In a way, he tries to teach his students based on their learnings styles. Jesus employs lectures, discussions, debates, stories, and anecdotes to convey his meanings. For instance, he chooses a form of a lecture when he has a large audience during his Sermon on the Mount (English Standard Version Bible, 2001, Matt. 5–7). During the Supper, Jesus utilizes multiple techniques to ensure that his disciples understand his messages (English Standard Version Bible, 2001, Luke 22:17–20; Matt. 26:26–29; Mark 14:22–25). This event is a remarkable illustration of the use of diverse techniques to meet the need of students with different learning styles. Thus, Jesus talks to his disciples, telling stories and answering questions, which is a preferred method for auditory learners. Additionally, Jesus employs several techniques that are most appropriate for kinesthetic learners sharing bread and wine with his apostles. He uses movement and particular actions to help His students use several means to learn.

The two examples above also serve as a depiction of the Biblical perspective regarding teaching platforms and environments. Be it a mount or a dining room, as well as a classroom or online setting, teachers can achieve their objectives and enable their students to attain their academic goals. Like in the cases described above, the teacher should choose the most appropriate instruments and techniques. Various ways to teach people appealing to different senses are depicted in the Bible, so the Script can be specific guidance and a source of inspiration for teachers and learners.

It is also necessary to mention that Jesus used the project as a teaching technique, which is an effective tool for kinesthetic learners. For instance, once he sent some of his apostles to bring a donkey, which meant an encounter with people and using the knowledge and skills they gained (English Standard Version Bible, 2001, Matt. 21:1-3). Clearly, the final project is one of the most remarkable teaching strategies employed as Jesus sends his disciples to use all the things they have learned putting everything into practice: “and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal” (English Standard Version Bible, 2001, Luke 9:2). His apostles continued their learning by teaching and using their skills to help people.

This major project is illustrative as it can be seen as an example of an effective teaching method for kinesthetic learners who learn by doing. This project can also serve as a reminder for all educators who must know that the knowledge and skills students gain should be valuable in their lives. The primary goal of education is to help people live among others and contribute to the development of their community and entire human society.

From the Biblical perspective, learners have different abilities and needs, so the role of the teacher is to understand that and choose the most appropriate strategies to be heard. Thus, some of the most influential preachers and leaders in the Script, Solomon and especially Jesus, utilized multiple teaching techniques that addressed the needs of all types of learners. These leaders wanted to make sure that their students can understand their message, and, importantly, can use the acquired knowledge and skills in their lives. These methods and strategies are often combined, which can serve as an excellent example for educators. In order to attain teaching goals, it is critical to utilize numerous instruments without any reliance on a set of practices that can be effective in particular contexts.


In conclusion, it is necessary to state that the VAK model and the research into learning styles attract much scholarly attention. Researchers and practitioners use this model to develop and evaluate various teaching techniques that can help learners acquire knowledge more effectively. It has been acknowledged that kinesthetic learners constitute a smaller part of the learner population, but this group often prevails in specific areas, such as science and sports. Therefore, scholars try to create practical tools to meet the needs of these students.

Technological advances offer new learning opportunities, and online education has become a norm in the western world (or rather the most significant part of the globe). Online education is becoming an appropriate alternative for many American and international students due to various reasons, including financial and pandemic-related issues. At that, this environment is seen as a platform associated with some challenges for kinesthetic learners. These students tend to benefit from using motion, movement, and a hands-on approach when learning, which can be challenging to find in online courses. Nevertheless, various methods are already at hand to ensure the best academic outcomes as kinesthetic learners benefit from the use of online simulations, discussions, projects, and virtual reality.

It is essential to add that the concept of learning styles can be found in the Holy Script. From the Biblical perspective, all people are unique and have different abilities, so leaders (and all those who teach) employ numerous instruments to make themselves heard. For instance, such preachers as Solomon and Jesus utilized multiple techniques and chose educational approaches and platforms appropriate for different groups of people. Likewise, modern teachers should make sure they use all available tools and settings to help their learners to achieve their academic goals. Educators should remember that learning occurs in different environments, where each platform promotes learning and ensures the proper acquisition of knowledge and skills.


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