Friday, August 5, 2011

Haptic coordination thresholds and caveats

This 2001 research by Kelso, Fink, DeLaplain and Carson may suggest an explanation for a frequent observation: in haptic-based work there seems to be a threshold of some sort. Once a learner puts it all together, the coordination of the visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactile sensory input with the linguistic concept in focus, the learning process seems to go into overdrive, become much more efficient. Until that happens, however, it can be very frustrating for some.

Clip art: Clker
One conclusion of the study was that haptic engagement, if not well synchronized with the other sensory inputs, has the effect of seriously compromising the other elements, especially visual and auditory. (We know, for example, from other studies that visual can in some contexts easily cancel out auditory or haptic --but not combined auditory and haptic.) That may explain the sometimes contradictory results of studies looking at the benefits of kinesthetic strategies in instruction.

This also has important implications for haptic-based instructional task sequencing and scaffolding (or any type of multi-sensory teaching for that matter). To paraphrase "The Duke": "You ain't got a thing, if you don't [until you] got that swing."

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