Real body versus 3D avatar: the effects of different embodied learning types on EFL listening comprehension

  • Yu-Ju Lan
  • Wei-Chieh Fang
  • Indy Y. T. Hsiao
  • Nian-Shing ChenEmail author
Development Article


The current study aimed at investigating how different types of embodied learnings influence elementary school students’ English as a foreign language (EFL) listening performance. Two kinds of embodied learnings: real and physical body versus the 3D avatar, were compared with non-embodied learning. 69 fifth graders from two elementary schools participated in this study, and were randomly assigned into three groups (Kinect, Second Life, and paper). They learned the identical English phrases of doing sports by involving different types of embodied learnings. During the 11-week experiment, an identical EFL performance test was administered six times: before (once), during (3 times), and after (twice) the learning activities. The results depict that students learned better by watching their own 3D avatars doing motions than by moving their own bodies to produce the motions or doing nothing. Further analysis showed that the improvements made by those in the Second Life group were greater than those made by the participants in the other two groups when the performances of students with low achievement were compared. It was also found that learning by watching one self’s avatar benefits both students with high- and low-achievement in EFL performance. Some suggestions for pedagogical applications and future research are also provided.


Embodied cognition Gesture-based learning Virtual worlds Avatar English as a foreign language (EFL) 



The authors would like to thank the Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan, R.O.C., for financially supporting this research under Grant Nos. NSC 101-2511-S-003-031-MY3, MOST 104-2911-I-003-301, MOST 105-2511-S-003 -018 -MY3, MOST 106-2511-S-003 -015 -MY3, and MOST 103-2628-S-003-002-MY3. They are also thankful that this research was partially supported by “Chinese Language and Technology Center” and “Higher Education Sprout Project” of National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU), sponsored by the Ministry of Education, Taiwan.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yu-Ju Lan
    • 1
  • Wei-Chieh Fang
    • 2
  • Indy Y. T. Hsiao
    • 1
  • Nian-Shing Chen
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Chinese as a Second LanguageNational Taiwan Normal UniversityTaipeiTaiwan
  2. 2.Department of EducationWashington University in St LouisSt LouisUSA
  3. 3.Department of Applied Foreign LanguagesNational Yunlin University of Science and TechnologyDouliou City, YunlinTaiwan

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