Students who physically experience scientific concepts understand them more deeply and score better on science tests, according to a new UChicago-led study.
Brain scans showed that students who took a hands-on approach to learning had activation in sensory and motor-related parts of the brain when they later thought about concepts such as angular momentum and torque. Activation of these brain areas was associated with better quiz performance by college physics students who participated in the research.
The study, published online April 24 in Psychological Science, comes from the Department of Psychology’s Human Performance Lab, directed by Prof. Sian Beilock, an internationally known expert on the mind–body connection and author of the book How the Body Knows Its Mind.
Beilock and her co-authors, Prof. Susan Fischer at DePaul University, UChicago graduate student Carly Kontra and postdoctoral scholar Dan Lyons, explain that hands-on experiences may benefit students more than previously realized, particularly in the world of virtual laboratories and online learning, This may be especially true for the initial stages of learning and in areas of science education that lend themselves to physical experiences.