What Is Educational Kinesiology?

Dan Harkins

Kinesiology is concerned with the study of how the body moves — a field widely known as biomechanics. Educational kinesiology is a specialized track founded by educator Paul Dennison, a professor and proponent of learning through movement. At Dennison's Brain Gym International, students of all ages can learn a series of 26 exercises promised to encourage the completion of individual goals by balancing the body's energy centers.

Kinesthetic learning in a classroom can often be facilitated by an instructor through the use of physical objects a student can touch and interact with.
Kinesthetic learning in a classroom can often be facilitated by an instructor through the use of physical objects a student can touch and interact with.

Dennison has a handful of trained representatives in most states, many who teach educational kinesiology at local colleges and public schools. He teaches them through private sessions with other certified instructors or through online or in-person coursework. In the end, these educators apply what they have learned to improve learning strategies employed by students in classrooms across the world. Though the United States has the most certified educational kinesiologists in 2011, with a handful in virtually every state, the Brain Gym method is taught in countries as diverse as Indonesia and Croatia.

Some of the suggested movements are simple, while others are more complex — each employed to counter or further a certain action. A common movement is the "brain button," which involves touching the belly button with one hand and making the letter "C" with the other while attaching those fingers to the collarbones. This reportedly encourages a surge of electromagnetic energy from one hemisphere of the brain to the other, from the rational to the creative or the reverse.

Another recommended movement involves touching the forehead over each eye with each hand to increase the flow of blood forward to the brain's frontal lobes — the alleged seat of rational thinking. To counter the claim, neuroscientist David Atwell, a professor of physiology at London, England's Global University, states that rational thought does not just happen in the frontal lobes, and that no evidence has proven that touching the forehead can alter the brain's blood flow.

Dennison and the board of directors of Brain Gym International offer no independent scientific proof of their method's efficacy. This method does, however, offer anecdotal evidence in the form of testimonials from first-named success stories. Without doubt is the fact that some of the more rigorous exercises in educational kinesiology are at least beneficial at building muscle and flexibility, and even potentially relieving some of the stress inherent in growing up.

With teachers across the globe being educated on how to employ educational kinesiology in their classrooms, some debate has ensued. Educational groups in Great Britain and other countries have called for a ban on classroom instruction in the 26 movements. The nonprofit group Sense About Science also has decried the practice as irresponsible. Cognitive scientist Beth Losiewicz counters Brain Gym's claim that its movements let participants access unused portions of the brain by saying that science shows no evidence that any of the human brain is not used.

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