Back to search

FRIHUMSAM-Fri hum og sam

Knowing Bodies: The Role of the Moving Body in Learning Science and Mathematics Across Formal and Informal Settings

Alternative title: Knowing Bodies: Koppen bevegelses rolle i læring av naturfag og matematikk på tvers av formelle og uformelle omgivelser

Awarded: NOK 3.2 mill.

Bodily and affective engagement are central aspects of how people learn. Inside and outside of classrooms, learners participate in activities in which disciplinary knowledge is not just read or written about, but also felt and experienced. With a growing interest in creativity as an important part of learning and education, understanding how intellectual, bodily, and affective dimensions of learning are connected to each other has become an important goal in educational research. What role does the body and the emotions play in learning different disciplinary and interdisciplinary forms of thinking and doing? And how is the social context related to this? The aim of the Knowing Bodies project has been to investigate the role of the body and the emotions in the development of conceptual understanding of disciplinary and interdisciplinary forms of knowing formal and informal learning context. In order to addAs a key methodology to address this problem, the project used video analysis of materials collected through ethnographic work across a range of settings, including the school, after-school, and workplace settings. To achieve its goals, the project has engaged in collaboration with researchers at the University of Victoria (Canada) and the Washington University (USA) to build a broad database of video ethnographic data from formal and informal learning contexts, including school, workplace, and out of school settings. Particularly relevant has been a one-year participant ethnography at a growing arts-based school, where innovative teaching and learning practices where the role of the body and the emotions is key could be studied in detail as they developed through time. Drawing from the fine-grained analysis of videotapes, ethnographic documents and interviews, the project has documented forms of knowing that emerge and develop together with body movement and social engagement. The project findings have been published in 15 scientific works, including a monograph on Educational Psychology, two chapters in two respective volumes on learning and creative design, and twelve articles in highly ranked international scientific journals in the fields of learning and cognition. Through these publications, the project has documented and generated theoretical understandings about how embodied forms of knowing integrating intellectual and affective components emerge through social interaction, thereby contributing to overcome a divide that otherwise exists in the literature between sociocultural oriented approaches and embodied cognition accounts.


The Knowing Bodies project addresses current problems raised in contemporary research on the role of the body in learning and reasoning, which involve a divide between sociocultural oriented approaches and embodied cognition accounts. The Knowing Bodies research draws from an emergent theoretical approach that connects embodiment and sociocultural theories, and which has been partly developed by the research groups involved in the project, including the fellowship holder candidate. The project involves two ethnographic studies at Victoria, Canada. Groups of young learners at K-6 grades will be followed as they engage in (a) activities organized as after school and science camps by a local informal science learning organization, (b) visit a science center, and (c) attend formal science and mathematics courses at a local elementary school. The ethnographic research will address the following research questions: (1) How do young learners draw on bodily and immediate competences of everyday engagement during joint activities involving science and/or mathematics? (2)How do identified patterns of bodily and immediate everyday engagement develop and in and across different situations and settings? The project will establish a cooperation between the University of Oslo (Department of Education) and the University of Victoria (Canada). The proposed research builds upon and expands studies that the applicant has conducted as part of his PhD dissertation. In addition, the proposed research builds upon and takes advantage of the specialist expertise found both at the host institution abroad and the host institution in Norway. Both institutions share an interest and research agenda on ethnographic studies on learning and cognition in and across formal and informal contexts. The project represents an excellent career opportunity. The project represents an excellent opportunity for the fellowship holder candidate to establish himself as an strong researcher within the field.

Funding scheme:

FRIHUMSAM-Fri hum og sam