Theme 3: Reveal Systems

13 13: Meaning as Action — Situate meanings through experience

How to words or symbols get meaning? With the MEANING AS ACTION principle, Gee explains that associations with embodied experiences (actions) provide deeper understandings of concepts than words. Without embodied experiences of words, finding meaning in a dictionary would be an exercise of futility. We trade words for words (like using a dictionary). People really only understand a word when we associate it with an image or an action or a goal or an experience. What gives the words in a Chemistry textbook meaning? The activities, goals and images.

In your course, how can you situate and connect meanings and understandings of course concepts in embodied activities and experiences that students have?

MEANING AS ACTION strategies in teaching

  • Model sharing details of your own situated understandings of course content. Students are often more engaged when hearing personal stories about people’s passions. This also helps create a climate of sharing and serves as a model for connecting content to lives.
  • Include a variety of ways for students to actively engage with the material throughout the course.
  • Challenge students to connect content to as many aspects of their lives as possible.
  • Have students share those connections with each other to trigger more connections.
  • Create new embodied student experiences in class lessons and assignments that situate course content in action.
  • Add a few strategies that might work in your course, and see others’ ideas here.

MEANING AS ACTION strategies in Canvas

  • Embed videos and other multimedia (e.g. H5P, Google Docs, Dotstorming, Padlet, etc.) in Pages to make content more interactive.
  • Share personal stories of how you developed a passion for course concepts. Include examples in your profile and biography pages.
  • Set up Piazza and/or Discussion forums for students to share connections between course content and popular culture, current events, and personally meaningful experiences.
  • In quizzes or other assignments, challenge students to find new situations in their embodied lives to relate course content.
  • Add a few strategies that might work in your course, and see others’ ideas here.

Knowledge Check


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