will moving help you learn?

learning linesI’ve been having fun with learning myself recently as I’ve joined a drama class and surprise, surprise we have to learn lines.

Last week, a newbie to the group, asked what she could possibly do to learn her lines as she had a really busy week ahead of her.  Whilst I tried to hold back I couldn’t help but throw in some suggestions and it got me thinking.

I’d noticed previously that when learning my lines it was much easier if I was physically doing something; like gardening, folding washing or tidying up.

Other people also talked about how they learned their lines walking or jogging.  One friend is rehearsing Lady Macbeth whilst walking her daughters to school; her venomous expression whilst muttering her lines under her breath means people are crossing the street to avoid her.

One man says he knows his lines when he is driving in the car but when he is in the rehearsal room he just can’t quite remember them.  We all suggested he learn them whilst really moving.

So we got to wondering about movement and learning and it turns out there are some useful studies that show how movement makes learning easier.

One talks about how children find learning maths easier when they use gestures to describe what they are learning, rather than describing without gestures; it appears the gestures may reveal some elementary information, like equations need to be balanced, that isn’t initially consciously available to the child, but that helps them learn more quickly.

Another found that we can learn words better if we make left / right eye movements.  These movements were not related to the words in any way and were effectively random but more effective than up / down eye movements.  You could hypothesise that when we move we automatically have to move our eyes to keep from bumping into things so that might be one reason why movement helps.

Yet another study describes the impact on standing up rather than sitting on brain storming and how more, better ideas were generated. The researchers concluded: “Our results suggest that if leaders aspire to enhance collaborative knowledge work, they might consider eschewing the traditional conference room setup of tables and chairs and, instead, clear an open space for people to collaborate with one another.”

So give it a go, ask your learners and your thinkers to move around and see what happens.

For lots more practical ideas about how to put this into practice join us at www.howtobeabrainfriendlytrainer.com


Broaders, S.C., Cook, S.W., Mitchell, Z. & Goldin-Meadow, S. (2007). Making children gesture brings out implicit knowledge and leads to learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 136, 539-550.

Parker, A. & Dagnall, N. (2007). Effects of bilateral eye movements on gist based false recognition in the DRM paradigm. Brain and Cognition, 63, 221-225.

Knight, A., & Baer, M. (2014). Get Up, Stand Up: The Effects of a Non-Sedentary Workspace on Information Elaboration and Group Performance. Social Psychological and Personality Science DOI: 10.1177/1948550614538463

Thanks to BPS Research Digest for making it easy to find good research. http://bps-research-digest.blogspot.co.uk/