What is Kinesthetic Learning

Giddyap, horsy. There I was, preparing to lead the entry parade into the Mesquite Rodeo Arena in 1984. Old Mr. Hood, the owner and ancient trainer at the stables where I kenneled Miss T. told me how to manage her in the new setting and what the pattern would be that we were to make for the other horses to follow. I practiced ahead of time, but was nervous about remembering what he’d told me to do. When Friday night came, I bumbled through, but it wasn’t very pretty.

Afterwards, with a bit of embarrassed flush on my face, I began to ruminate about why I hadn’t been able to do a better job. It was then that I began to recall times buried in my memory including driving a stick-shift car in traffic for the first time, diving into a community pool for the first time, writing poetry in a college class, writing anything as a matter of fact, ballroom dancing with a new partner, running a meeting using Robert’s Rules of Order and on and so on.

The following week when I tackled the Mesquite Rodeo for the second time, I recalled the first curve to the right as I looked at the picture in my mind that had been implanted when I ran the first curve at the first rodeo. Interestingly, I also recalled the next curve several seconds ahead of time so that I could adjust to a truly smooth transition, and so it went—a smooth, graceful entry for the other horses to follow.

I thought about why things were so hard for me to learn initially. Writing, something that was very important to me, turned out to be the activity that gave me insight. I had wanted to write a book for as long as I could remember. But, since fifth grade my writing had been criticized by others. It was impossibly hard and felt stiff to accomplish. All the teaching I received about writing made no sense to me; I couldn’t remember what I was told about past participles, passive clauses, and parallel constructions.

I was discouraged until I discovered that my brainStyle didn’t lend itself to learn about things. As an ADD, Analogue person, I was a hands-on, kinesthetic learner. I couldn’t learn about things. I had to do them in order to learn.

My solution was to hire a successful writer to write by my side. As we wrote, I began to see patterns emerging that made sense to me, as if I were creating a picture on a weaving loom. I clearly knew the intent of the story and automatically saw the Big Picture. I felt the book come together in my mind and experienced a sensory visual image that lay as a foundation behind the voice of the words.

The second book I wrote with my writing teacher went even smoother and I began to feel how to write. By the third book, I was basically on my own. Not long after that I discovered that I could also successfully edit. It, too, was dependent upon paying attention to the sensory-visual cues I was experiencing.

So, what was going on? I knew what didn’t work, and hadn’t worked for years and years and years in school. It was the method of teaching—the tell me about how to do something method. It was and continues to be a useless way to teach many of us ADD people because we’re hands-on learners.

For centuries, kinesthetic learning was the predominant learning method. Doctors, lawyers, craftsmen, medicine women, shamans and service workers and many more apprenticed with someone who was a fully trained person in their field.

As it turns out, there are a lot of apprentices like me still around. Let us revitalize our natural skills and become who we are meant to become as we use the skills that are natural to you.

Please comment below letting us know your special kinesthetic learning experiences. I look forward to hearing from you. And be sure to look for next week’s post on the ADD Attribute: Having an Inner Locus of Perception and Control. It’s a wonderful way to be.

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