Reiner - IJSE 2009

Sensory Cues, Visualization and Physics Learning
International Journal of Science Education, Volume 31, Issue 3 February 2009 , pages 343 - 364
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09500690802595789

Miriam Reiner

Bodily manipulations, such as juggling, suggest a well-synchronized physical interaction as if the person were a physics expert. The juggler uses “knowledge” that is rooted in bodily experience, to interact with the environment. Such enacted bodily knowledge is powerful, efficient, predictive, and relates to sensory perception of the dynamics of objects. This paper describes results of an empirical study in physics learning, aimed at exploring links between sensory input, visual representations, and corresponding conceptual learning in physics. The central finding is that through sensory interaction (e.g., touch, vision) with a physical system in the physics laboratory, learners spontaneously generate a novel reference-system of pictorial representations, typical to the situation explored. Results show that in collaborative hands-on problem-solving in physics, a pictorial referential communication system is generated. Elements of the pictorial communication system were found to be one of three: photographic, metaphoric, or symbolic. The constituents of the communication system are socially shared, hence valid, are used repeatedly when similar experience happens, therefore consistent. Thus visual-spatial representations of non-explicit knowledge turn into pictorial representations for communication. It is powerful because it allows access and retrieval of tacit knowledge, inaccessible by symbolic interaction.