Our Project

What is Embodied Cognition?

Embodied cognition is best defined as actions which assist the brain’s cognitive processing as our thoughts are shaped by the types of perceptual and motor experiences we have as we interact each day with the world (Glenberg 2008). The project is rooted in modern neuroscience which notes that: "when we study the brain to look for the networks controlling cognition, we find that all of them are linked in one way or another to sensory systems, motor systems and / or motivational systems” (Tucker, 2007, 59).  For example, if you were explaining concepts related to forces (e.g. push and pull), you would ask the pupil to actually pull or push either real or imaginary objects using their limbs and body. Similarly, if explaining ‘friction’, the action of rubbing one’s hands across a kitchen table / school desk and then bedroom / classroom carpet would be used. The key factor is ‘cognition for action’ (Glenberg 2008, 43), where the child’s body is ‘active’ as they engage with the scientific concepts / skills. 

Project Phases

working with teachers

Phase 1: Working with teachers

In this phase the project team, with expertise in embodied cognition and science education, will work with teachers in the participating schools to discuss strand units / concepts that they would like to address during the project. The teachers will attend 2 X 1 day workshops in their schools.  During these workshops the teachers will engage with tasks that will support them in understanding (from pre-prepared aide-memoires) how to construct embodied cognition experiences for children. Within this domain, specifics such as interpreting Science skills and concepts through embodied cognition which include the use of gesture (gross and fine motor skills for example), body (trunk), limb movements, full body movement in space, facial expression (to include role of drama), olfactory cues, auditory cues, haptic cues and peer / parent collaborative exercises (based on the aforementioned).  The teachers will also engage with related science inquiries.


working with parents

Phase 2: Working with parents

Parents from each school will be invited to participate in 4 workshops over the course of the third term of the 2020 /2021 academic year or the first term of the 2021 / 2022 academic year.  These workshops will be held in the schools at a time that suits the school and the parents.  The workshops will be approximately 3 hours in length.

During the workshops the parents will engage with the inquiry-based, hands-on embodied cognition activities that were co-developed by the project team and participating teachers during phase 1. These workshops will also cover embodied cognition activities which can be developed which include the use of gesture (gross and fine motor skills for example), body (trunk), limb movements, full body movement in space, facial expression (to include role of drama), olfactory cues, auditory cues, haptic cues and peer / parent collaborative exercises (based on the aforementioned).

In between the workshops parents will be asked to try out some of these activities with their children at home.  They will then discuss these experiences in the workshops.  In workshop 3 the parents and project leads will collaborate to develop new embodied cognition activities.  Again the parents will be asked to try these at home with their children and to discuss their experiences in the final workshop. The project’s website will serve as an important source of information, advice and ideas for all participants. 


learning from other schools

Phase 3: Learning from Other Schools

Each school will twin with another school.  This will involve collaborative learning between each school (teachers, parents and pupils) as they begin to engage with the project. In particular, it will involve the sharing of ideas / activities and experiences of co-constructing embodied cognition activities.   Following approximately two months of engagement with the project, these ‘twinned’ schools will visit each other. This will involve a site visit to the ‘partner’ school in the latter phase of the project. The visit will involve pupils, parents and teachers in a sharing (to date) of their experiences and insights on co-constructing and applying embodied cognition to Physics education. In addition to site visits from the Physics in Action team, this visit will further refine and advance all project stakeholders’ skills and insights on applying embodied cognition to Physics education.

sharing experiences

Phase 4: Sharing of Experiences

At the end of the project the teachers, parents and a selection of students will be invited to attend a one-day event in the Dublin City University to share their experiences of participating in the Physics in Action Project.  In addition to celebrating the work of all involved, this event will explore and examine the challenges and opportunities which the project presented. It will also specifically seek pupil voice with a view to determining those factors which inhibit or assist embodied cognition in Physics education.

Insights from our Teachers

“Each week I begin to think more about how I can engage the children’s senses during learning and I am starting to make connections… It is really getting me thinking more about how I teach Science in the classroom and how I can engage the students more through science activities”

Through talking with the teachers involved in the project, we have been able to distinguish some common themes. Please find them listed below. 

Teachers are enjoying using embodied cognition as methodology for teaching Science
Reconceptualisation of how they teach physics and science generally with embodied cognition now central and valued
Teachers assert that embodied cognition supports students in applying and developing scientific skills
Teachers assert that embodied cognition strategies support the development of students' scientific content knowledge
Teachers assert that using embodied cognition strategies supports the development of students' critical thinking skills

Insights from our Pupils

During the project, we undertook focus groups with the pupils involved in the project. The pupils were very excited to talk to us about the lessons and gave us some very helpful insights. Please find them listed below.

Pupils recognise the value of using all senses to develop scientific observations
Pupils value the use of the body to develop an understanding of science concepts
Deeper interrogation of physics and science concepts through scientific inquiry and embodied cognition
Pupils are really enjoying hands-on and active science lessons
Pupils are coming up with testable questions based on their observations
Children engaged in science experiments

Science experiment