An embedded and embodied cognition review of instructional manipulatives
Recent literature on learning with instructional manipulatives seems to call for a moderate view on the effects of perceptual and interactive richness of instructional manipulatives on learning. This "moderate view" holds that manipulatives' perceptual and interactive richness may compromise learning in two ways: (1) by imposing a very high cognitive load on the learner, and (2) by hindering drawing of symbolic inferences that are supposed to play a key role in transfer (i.e., application of knowledge to new situations in the absence of instructional manipulatives). This paper presents a contrasting view. Drawing on recent insights from Embedded Embodied perspectives on cognition, it is argued that (1) perceptual and interactive richness may provide opportunities for alleviating cognitive load (Embedded Cognition), and (2) transfer of learning is not reliant on decontextualized knowledge but may draw on previous sensorimotor experiences of the kind afforded by perceptual and interactive richness of manipulatives (Embodied Cognition). By negotiating the Embedded Embodied Cognition view with the moderate view, implications for research are derived.
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