Can non-verbal gestures impact group success in STEM education? – UBNow: News and views for UB faculty and staff

UB researchers have received nearly $500,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study how nonverbal gestures shape or limit problem solving in groups of students enrolled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Supported by NSF’s Basic Education and Human Resources Research Program – which funds STEM education research – the study will analyze and categorize the gestures made by a diverse group of students in a classroom setting. introduction to undergraduate physics at an institution that serves Hispanics, Asian Americans, and Native Americans. Pacific Islander students.

Researchers will observe how students exchange and interact with each other’s gestures while working together. They will also identify and characterize non-verbal behaviors as beneficial or detrimental to group success, and create a comprehensive catalog of gesture types.

“There is a lot of research on verbal communication practices in group work, but little is known about how non-verbal communication practices such as gestures contribute to successful collaboration in STEM,” says the Principal Investigator Virginia J. Flood, Assistant Professor of Learning Sciences, Graduate School of Education.

“This project will improve our understanding of the role non-verbal communication plays in collaborative learning, and it will contribute to the development of broader definitions of the skills and practices involved in STEM learning and practice.”

Benedikt Harrer, Clinical Associate Professor of Physics, College of Arts and Sciences, is co-principal investigator of the study.