2010 Presentation

The model-gesture-diagram link in elementary astronomy education



We make a case for using gestures and actions to understand and convey spatial and dynamic properties of systems. We consider a system which is not amenable to direct perception, namely, the Sun-Earth-Moon (SEM) system. We propose a pedagogy which uses gestures (most often in combination with concrete models and diagrams) to facilitate the visualisation and simulation required in elementary astronomy. We analyse these gestures in terms of their purpose in pedagogy: to internalise the natural phenomenon, or the astronomical model, or general characteristics of space. The purpose of the gestures is then to link the real world with the appropriate mental models. In terms of design these pedagogical gestures mediate between concrete models of the SEM system and related spatial configurations, on the one hand, and their corresponding abstract diagrammatic representations on the other: we call it the Model-Gesture-Diagrampedagogical link. Next we summarise some data on students’ gestures observed during collaborative problemsolving which took place in our the pedagogic course of intervention. Implications of these results are drawn for embodiment and multimodality of thought.


Thesis advisor: Jayashree Ramadas
Discussant: Nagarjuna G.