Volume 19, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1568-1475
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9773
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



Teachers often produce gestures, and, in some cases, students mimic their teachers’ gestures and adopt them into their own repertoires. However, little research has explored the role of gesture mimicry in technology-based learning contexts. In this research, we examined variations in the rate and form of students’ gestures when learning from a computer-animated pedagogical avatar. Twenty-four middle school students received a lesson on polynomial multiplication from a gesturing avatar video instructor. After the lesson, students were asked to provide an explanation of what they learned. Students varied in their gesture rates, and some students produced gestures that were similar in form to the avatar’s gestures. Students who produced gestures that aligned with the teacher’s gestures scored higher than those who did not produce such gestures. These results suggest that middle school students’ gestures play a key role when learning a mathematics lesson from an avatar instructor.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Adamo-Villani, Nicoletta , Wilbur, Ronnie , Eccarius, Petra , & Abe-Harris, Laverne
    (2009) Effects of character geometric model on the perception of sign language animation. Proceedings of the 2009 Second International Conference in Visualization (pp. 72–75). Washington, DC: IEEE Computer Society. doi:  10.1109/VIZ.2009.23
    https://doi.org/10.1109/VIZ.2009.23 [Google Scholar]
  2. Anasingaraju, Saikiran , Wu, Meng-Lin , Adamo-Villani, Nicoletta , Popescu, Voicu , Cook, Susan W. , Nathan, Mitchell , & Alibali, Martha W.
    (2016) Digital learning activities delivered by eloquent instructor avatars: Scaling with problem instance. InProceedings of SIGGRAPH Asia 2016 Symposium on Education, Article 5, 1–7. New York, NY: ACM. doi:  10.1145/2993352.2993355
    https://doi.org/10.1145/2993352.2993355 [Google Scholar]
  3. Alibali, Martha W. , Flevares, Lucia M. , & Goldin-Meadow, Susan
    (1997) Assessing knowledge conveyed in gesture: Do teachers have the upper hand?Journal of Educational Psychology, 89, 183–193. doi:  10.1037/0022‑0663.89.1.183
    https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-0663.89.1.183 [Google Scholar]
  4. Alibali, Martha W. , Spencer, Robert C. , Knox, Lucy , & Kita, Sotaro
    (2011) Spontaneous gestures influence strategy choices in problem solving. Psychological Science, 22 (9), 1138–1144. doi:  10.1177/0956797611417722
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797611417722 [Google Scholar]
  5. Baylor, Amy L.
    (2003, July). The impact of three pedagogical agent roles. InProceedings of the second international joint conference on Autonomous agents and multiagent systems (pp. 928–929). ACM. doi:  10.1145/860575.860729
    https://doi.org/10.1145/860575.860729 [Google Scholar]
  6. Berch, Denise , Singleton, Jenny L. , & Perry, Michelle
    (1995) Many hands make learning math easy. Paper presented at thebiennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Indianapolis, IN.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. Broaders, Sara C. , Cook, Susan W. , Mitchell, Zachary , & Goldin-Meadow, Susan
    (2007) Making children gesture brings out implicit knowledge and leads to learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 136 (4), 539–550. doi:  10.1037/0096‑3445.136.4.539
    https://doi.org/10.1037/0096-3445.136.4.539 [Google Scholar]
  8. Buisine, Stéphanie & Martin, Jean-Claude
    (2007) The effects of speech–gesture cooperation in animated agents’ behavior in multimedia presentations. Interacting with Computers, 19 (4), 484–493. doi:  10.1016/j.intcom.2007.04.002
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.intcom.2007.04.002 [Google Scholar]
  9. Cassell, Justine , Sullivan, Joseph , Prevost, Scott , & Churchill, Elizabeth
    (2000) Embodied conversational agents. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 10.7551/mitpress/2697.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/2697.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  10. Church, Ruth Breckinridge , Ayman-Nolley, Saba , & Mahootian, Shahrzad
    (2004) The role of gesture in bilingual education: Does gesture enhance learning?International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 7 (4), 303–319. doi:  10.1080/13670050408667815
    https://doi.org/10.1080/13670050408667815 [Google Scholar]
  11. Church, Ruth Breckinridge & Goldin-Meadow, Susan
    (1986) The mismatch between gesture and speech as an index of transitional knowledge. Cognition, 23 (1), 43–71. doi:  10.1016/0010‑0277(86)90053‑3
    https://doi.org/10.1016/0010-0277(86)90053-3 [Google Scholar]
  12. Cook, Susan W. , Duffy, Ryan G. , & Fenn, Kimberly M.
    (2013) Consolidation and transfer of learning after observing hand gesture. Child Development, 84 (6), 1863–1871. doi:  10.1111/cdev.12097
    https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.12097 [Google Scholar]
  13. Cook, Susan W. , Friedman, Howard S. , Duggan, Katherine A. , Cui, Jian , & Popescu, Voicu
    (2017) Hand gesture and mathematics learning: lessons from an Avatar. Cognitive Science, 41 (2), 518–535. doi:  10.1111/cogs.12344
    https://doi.org/10.1111/cogs.12344 [Google Scholar]
  14. Cook, Susan W. & Goldin-Meadow, Susan
    (2006) The role of gesture in learning: Do children use their hands to change their minds?Journal of Cognition and Development, 7 (2), 211–232. doi:  10.1207/s15327647jcd0702_4
    https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327647jcd0702_4 [Google Scholar]
  15. Cook, Susan W. , Mitchell, Zachary , & Goldin-Meadow, Susan
    (2008) Gesturing makes learning last. Cognition, 106 (2), 1047–1058. doi:  10.1016/j.cognition.2007.04.010
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2007.04.010 [Google Scholar]
  16. Davis, Robert O.
    (2018) The impact of pedagogical agent gesturing in multimedia learning environments: A meta-analysis. Educational Research Review, 24, 193–209. doi:  10.1016/j.edurev.2018.05.002
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.edurev.2018.05.002 [Google Scholar]
  17. ELAN (Version 5.0.0-beta) [Computer software]
    ELAN (Version 5.0.0-beta) [Computer software] (2017, April18). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. Retrieved fromhttps://tla.mpi.nl/tools/tla-tools/elan/
  18. Ericsson, K. Anders & Simon, Herbert A.
    (1993) Protocol analysis. Cambridge, MA: MIT press. 10.7551/mitpress/5657.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/5657.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  19. Fyfe, Emily R. , Alibali, Martha W. , & Nathan, Mitchell
    (2017) The promise and pitfalls of making connections in mathematics. In E. Galindo & J. Newton (Eds.), Proceedings of the 39th annual meeting of the North American Chapter of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (pp. 717–724). Indianapolis, IN: Hoosier Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators.
    [Google Scholar]
  20. Goldin-Meadow, Susan
    (2005) Hearing gesture: How our hands help us think. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  21. Goldin-Meadow, Susan & Alibali, Martha W.
    (2013) Gesture’s role in speaking, learning, and creating language. Annual Review of Psychology, 64, 8.1–8.27. doi:  10.1146/annurev‑psych‑113011‑143802
    https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-113011-143802 [Google Scholar]
  22. Goldin-Meadow, Susan & Beilock, Sian L.
    (2010) Action’s influence on thought: The case of gesture. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 5 (6), 664–674. doi:  10.1177/1745691610388764
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691610388764 [Google Scholar]
  23. Goldin-Meadow, Susan , Cook, Susan W. , & Mitchell, Zachary A.
    (2009) Gesturing gives children new ideas about math. Psychological Science, 20 (3), 267–272. doi:  10.1111/j.1467‑9280.2009.02297.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02297.x [Google Scholar]
  24. Holmes, Jeffrey
    (2007) Designing agents to support learning by explaining. Computers & Education, 48 (4), 523–547. doi:  10.1016/j.compedu.2005.02.007
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2005.02.007 [Google Scholar]
  25. Hostetter, Autumn B.
    (2011) When do gestures communicate? A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 137 (2), 297. doi:  10.1037/a0022128
    https://doi.org/10.1037/a0022128 [Google Scholar]
  26. Kimbara, Irene
    (2006) On gestural mimicry. Gesture, 6(1), 39–61. doi:  10.1075/gest.6.1.03kim
    https://doi.org/10.1075/gest.6.1.03kim [Google Scholar]
  27. Kelly, Spencer D. , Church, Ruth Breckinridge , & Alibali, Martha W.
    (2017) Understanding gesture: Description, mechanism, function. In Ruth Breckinridge Church , Martha W. Alibali , & Spencer D. Kelly (Eds.), Why gesture? How the hands function in speaking, thinking, and communicating (pp. 3–10). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/gs.7.01kel
    https://doi.org/10.1075/gs.7.01kel [Google Scholar]
  28. Kontra, Carly , Goldin-Meadow, Susan , & Beilock, Sian L.
    (2012) Embodied learning across the life span. Topics in Cognitive Science, 4 (4), 731–739. doi:  10.1111/j.1756‑8765.2012.01221.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1756-8765.2012.01221.x [Google Scholar]
  29. Lester, James C. , Converse, Sharolyn A. , Kahler, Susan E. , Barlow, S. Todd , Stone, Brian A. , & Bhogal, Ravinder S.
    (1997, March). The persona effect: affective impact of animated pedagogical agents. InProceedings of the ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human factors in computing systems (pp. 359–366). ACM. doi:  10.1145/258549.258797
    https://doi.org/10.1145/258549.258797 [Google Scholar]
  30. Libertus, Klaus & Needham, Amy
    (2010) Teach to reach: The effects of active vs. passive reaching experiences on action and perception. Vision Research, 50 (24), 2750–2757. doi:  10.1016/j.visres.2010.09.001
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.visres.2010.09.001 [Google Scholar]
  31. Louwerse, M. Max , Graesser, Arthur C. , McNamara, Danielle S. , & Lu, Shulan
    (2009) Embodied conversational agents as conversational partners. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 23, 1244–1255. doi:  10.1002/acp.1527
    https://doi.org/10.1002/acp.1527 [Google Scholar]
  32. Lusk, Mary M. & Atkinson, Robert K.
    (2007) Animated pedagogical agents: Does their degree of embodiment impact learning from static or animated worked examples?Applied Cognitive Psychology: The Official Journal of the Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 21 (6), 747–764. doi:  10.1002/acp.1347
    https://doi.org/10.1002/acp.1347 [Google Scholar]
  33. McNeill, David
    (1992) Hand and mind: What gestures reveal about thought. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  34. Moreno, Roxana & Mayer, Richard
    (2007) Interactive multimodal learning environments. Educational Psychology Review, 19 (3), 309–326. doi:  10.1007/s10648‑007‑9047‑2
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-007-9047-2 [Google Scholar]
  35. Mori, Masahiro , MacDorman, Karl F. , & Kageki, Norri
    (2012) The uncanny valley [from the field]. IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine, 19 (2), 98–100. 10.1109/MRA.2012.2192811
    https://doi.org/10.1109/MRA.2012.2192811 [Google Scholar]
  36. Moses, Robert P. & Cobb, Charles E.
    (2001) Radical equations: Math literacy and civil rights. Boston: Beacon Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  37. Nathan, Mitchell J. & Walkington, Candace
    (2017) Grounded and embodied mathematical cognition: Promoting mathematical insight and proof using action and language. Cognitive research: principles and implications, 2 (1), 9. doi:  10.1186/s41235‑016‑0040‑5
    https://doi.org/10.1186/s41235-016-0040-5 [Google Scholar]
  38. NGACBP (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices) & Council of Chief State School Officers
    NGACBP (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices) & Council of Chief State School Officers (2010) Common Core state standards for mathematics. Washington, DC: Authors.
    [Google Scholar]
  39. de Nooijer, Jacqueline A. , Van Gog, Tamara , Paas, Fred , & Zwaan, Rolf A.
    (2013) Effects of imitating gestures during encoding or during retrieval of novel verbs on children’s test performance. Acta Psychologica, 144 (1), 173–179. doi:  10.1016/j.actpsy.2013.05.013
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.actpsy.2013.05.013 [Google Scholar]
  40. Noma, Tsukasa , Zhao, Liwei , & Badler, Norman I.
    (2000) Design of a virtual human presenter. IEEE Computer Graphics Applications, 20 (4), 49–85. 10.1109/38.851755
    https://doi.org/10.1109/38.851755 [Google Scholar]
  41. Parrill, Fey & Kimbara, Irene
    (2006) Seeing and hearing double: The influence of mimicry in speech and gesture on observers. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 30 (4), 157–166. doi:  10.1007/s10919‑006‑0014‑2
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s10919-006-0014-2 [Google Scholar]
  42. Ping, Raedy & Goldin-Meadow, Susan
    (2008) Hands in the air: Using ungrounded iconic gestures to teach children conservation of quantity. Developmental Psychology, 44 (5), 1277–1287. doi:  10.1037/0012‑1649.44.5.1277
    https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-1649.44.5.1277 [Google Scholar]
  43. Popescu, Voicu , Adamo-Villani, Nicoletta , Wu, Meng-Lin , Rajesakaran, Suren D. , Alibali, Martha W. , Nathan, Mitchell J. , & Cook, Susan W.
    (2014, April). Animation killed the video star. Paper presented at theCHI (Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems), Satellite Workshop on Gesture-Based Interaction Design: Communication and Cognition. Toronto, Canada.
    [Google Scholar]
  44. Singer, Melissa A. & Goldin-Meadow, Susan
    (2005) Children learn when their teacher’s gestures and speech differ. Psychological Science, 16 (2), 85–89. doi:  10.1111/j.0956‑7976.2005.00786.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0956-7976.2005.00786.x [Google Scholar]
  45. Tellier, Marion
    (2008) The effect of gestures on second language memorisation by young children. Gesture, 8 (2), 219–235. doi:  10.1075/gest.8.2.06tel
    https://doi.org/10.1075/gest.8.2.06tel [Google Scholar]
  46. Valenzeno, Laura , Alibali, Martha W. , & Klatzky, Roberta
    (2003) Teachers’ gestures facilitate students’ learning: A lesson in symmetry. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 28 (2), 187–204. doi:  10.1016/S0361‑476X(02)00007‑3
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0361-476X(02)00007-3 [Google Scholar]
  47. Yeo, Amelia , Cook, Susan W. , Nathan, Mitchell J. , Popescu, Voicu , & Alibali, Martha W.
    (2018) Instructor gesture improves encoding of mathematical representations. In T. T. Rogers , M. Rau , X. Zhu , & C. W. Kalish (Eds.), Proceedings of the 40th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 2723–2728).
    [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): algebra; avatar instructor; gesture mimicry; instructional technology
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error