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Depictive Gestures as Evidence for Dynamic Mental Imagery in Four Types of Student Reasoning Documents

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Depictive Gestures as Evidence for Dynamic Mental Imagery in Four Types of Student Reasoning 

written by A. Lynn Stephens and John J. Clement

We discuss evidence for the use of runnable imagery (imagistic simulation) in four types of student reasoning. In an in-depth case study of a high school physics class, we identified multiple instances of students running mental models, using analogies, using extreme cases, and using Gedanken experiments. Previous case studies of expert scientists have indicated that these processes can be central during scientific model construction; here we discuss their spontaneous use by students. We also discuss their association with spontaneous, depictive gestures, which we interpret as an indicator of the use of dynamic and kinesthetic imagery. Of the numerous instances of these forms of reasoning observed in the class, most were associated with depictive gestures and over half with gestures that depicted motion or force. This evidence suggests that runnable, dynamic mental imagery can be very important in student reasoning.

Published January 30, 2007
Last Modified February 1, 2011

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