Embodied Education and Education of the Body: The Phenomenological Perspective

  • Denis FrancesconiEmail author
  • Massimiliano Tarozzi
Part of the Phänomenologische Erziehungswissenschaft book series (PHE, volume 8)


The concept of Embodied Cognition (EC) includes a variety of approaches involving embodied, embedded, extended and enactive cognition (sometimes referred to as the 4Es) and it can offer meaningful contributions to educational research and practice, including the re-evaluation of the role of the body in educational experiences. To discuss the reciprocal relevance of EC and phenomenological pedagogy, in this paper we start by shortly reviewing the “disembodiment of Western culture” and the “disembodied school” model, we then outline the origins of the connection between EC and education, and we conclude by discussing embodied education in formal education context. We argue that embodied education goes far beyond sensorimotor processes, physical exercise and motor skills. Adopting a phenomenologically oriented embodied cognition perspective means taking seriously the idea that cognition is always and necessarily grounded into a bodily dimension and that it has a complex phenomenological nature intertwined with emotional, affective, reflective dimensions. Education, particularly formal one, must be able to consider and promote such embodied mind.


Embodied education Embodied cognition Lived body Phenomenological pedagogy Disembodiment Body-as-object 


  1. Bateson, Gregory. 1979. Mind and nature: A necessary unity. New York: Dutton. Google Scholar
  2. Bateson, Gregory. 2000. Steps to an ecology of mind: Collected essays in anthropology, psychiatry, evolution, and epistemology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  3. Beilock, Sian. 2015. How the body knows its mind: The surprising power of the physical environment to influence how you think and feel. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  4. Bertolini, Piero. 1988. L’esistere pedagogico: Ragioni e limiti di una pedagogia come scienza fenomenologicamente fondata. Firenze: La Nuova Italia.Google Scholar
  5. Bertolini, Piero. 1984. L’infanzia e la sua scuola. Firenze: La Nuova Italia.Google Scholar
  6. Bertolini, Piero. 1991. L’eros in educazione. Considerazioni pedagogiche. In Pedagogia al limite, eds. P. Bertolini and M. Dallari, 121–153. Firenze: La Nuova Italia.Google Scholar
  7. Biddle, S. JH, N. Pearson, G.M. Ross, and R. Braithwaite. 2010. Tracking of sedentary behaviours of young people: a systematic review. Preventive medicine 51.5: 345–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bottero, Enrico. 2002. Sapere del corpo e prospettive didattiche. In Voci del corpo: Prospettive pedagogiche e didattiche, ed. Lucia Balduzzi, 17–49. Firenze: La Nuova Italia.Google Scholar
  9. Brinkmann, Malte (in press). Purposes of School – A Phenomenological Approach with Hegel, Langeveld and Eugen Fink. Phenomenology and Practice.Google Scholar
  10. Cooper, John M. 1997. Plato: Complete Works. Indianapolis: Hackett.Google Scholar
  11. Cagliari, P., M. Castagnetti, C. Giudici, C. Rinaldi, V. Vecchi, and P. Moss. 2016. Loris Malaguzzi and the Schools of Reggio Emilia: A selection of his writings and speeches, 1945–1993. (Contesting Early Childhood). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  12. Chow, J. Y., K. Davids, C.Button, R.Shuttleworth, I. Renshaw, and D. Araújo. 2007. The role of nonlinear pedagogy in physical education. Review of Educational Research 77 (3): 251–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Descartes, René. 1993 [1641]. Meditations on first philosophy (E. S. Haldane, and G.R.T Ross, Trans.). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  14. Dreyfus, Hubert L. 1979. What computers can’t do: The limits of artificial intelligence (Vol. 1972). New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  15. Dreyfus, Hubert L. 1992. What computers still can’t do: a critique of artificial reason. Cambridge, MA.: MIT.Google Scholar
  16. Dreyfus, Hubert L. 2002. Intelligence without representation–Merleau-Ponty’s critique of mental representation. The relevance of phenomenology to scientific explanation. Phenomenology and the cognitive sciences 1.4: 367–383.Google Scholar
  17. Dreyfus, H., S.E. Dreyfus, and T. Athanasiou. 2000. Mind over machine. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  18. Dreyfus, S. E., and H. L. Dreyfus. 1980. A five-stage model of the mental activities involved in directed skill acquisition (No. ORC-80-2). California University Berkeley Operations Research Centre.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Foucault, Michel. 1976. Sorvegliare e punire: nascita della prigione (T. Alcesti, Trans.). Torino: Einaudi.Google Scholar
  20. Frabboni, Franco. 1980. Asilo nido e scuola materna. Firenze: La Nuova Italia.Google Scholar
  21. Francesconi, Denis. 2011. Pedagogia e neuroscienze cognitive in dialogo. L’esempio dell’esperienza corporea. Formazione & Insegnamento. Rivista internazionale di Scienze dell’educazione e della formazione 9(1): 179–184.Google Scholar
  22. Francesconi, D. and S. Gallagher. 2018. Embodiment and Sport Pedagogy. In MIT Handbook of Sport Psychology, ed. Massimiliano Cappucio. Cambridge, MA.: MIT.Google Scholar
  23. Francesconi, D., and M. Tarozzi. 2012. Embodied Education. A convergence of phenomenological pedagogy and embodiment. Studia Phaenomenologica 12: 263–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Galimberti, Umberto. 2017. Il corpo (23a edizione). Milano: Feltrinelli.Google Scholar
  25. Gallagher, Shaun. 2014. Phenomenology and Embodied Cognition. In Routledge Handbook of Embodied Cognition, ed. Lawrence Shapiro, 9–18. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  26. Gallagher, Shaun. 2012. On the possibility of naturalizing phenomenology. In The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Phenomenology, ed. Dan Zahavi, 70–93. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Gallagher, S., and D. Francesconi. 2012. Teaching phenomenology to qualitative researchers, cognitive scientists, and phenomenologists. Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology 12 (sup3): 1–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gallagher, S., and D. Zahavi. 2007. The phenomenological mind: An introduction to philosophy of mind and cognitive science. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gamelli, Ivano. 2011. Pedagogia del corpo. Roma: Meltemi editore.Google Scholar
  30. Gardner, Howard. 2008. The mind’s new science: A history of the cognitive revolution. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  31. Gardner, Howard. 2011. Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  32. Gibson, James J. 2014. The ecological approach to visual perception: classic edition. New York: Psychology Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Glenberg, A. M., and V. Gallese. 2012. Action-based language: A theory of language acquisition, comprehension, and production. cortex 48 (7): 905–922.Google Scholar
  34. Glenberg, A M., A. B. Goldberg, and X. Zhu. 2011. Improving early reading comprehension using embodied CAI. Instructional Science 39.1: 27–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Glenberg, A. M., J. K. Witt, and J. Metcalfe. 2013. From the revolution to embodiment: 25 years of cognitive psychology. Perspectives on Psychological Science 8.5: 573–585.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Husserl, Edmund. 1997 [1907]. Thing and Space: Lectures of 1907 (R. Rojcewicz, Trans.). Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  37. Husserl, Edmund. 1983. Ideas pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy, First Book (F. Kersten, Trans.). Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  38. Husserl, Edmund. 1950–2004. Husserliana. Gesammelte Werke. Ed. H. Van Breda, S. Ljsseling, R. Bernet. The Hague: Suhrkamp.Google Scholar
  39. Juntunen, M.-L., and L. Hyvönen. 2004. Embodiment in musical knowing: how body movement facilitates learning within Dalcroze Eurhythmics. British Journal of Music Education 21 (2): 199–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kontra, C., D. J. Lyons, S. M. Fischer, and S. L. Beilock. 2015. Physical experience enhances science learning. Psychological science 26 (6): 737–749.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lindgren R., and M. Johnson-Glenberg M. 2013. Emboldened by Embodiment. Six Precepts for Research on Embodied Learning and Mixed Reality. Educational Researcher 42 (8): 445–452.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Maturana, H. R., and F. J. Varela. 1987. The tree of knowledge: The biological roots of human understanding. Boston: New Science Library/Shambhala Publications.Google Scholar
  43. Mehta, R. K., A. E. Shortz, and M. E. Benden. 2015. Standing up for learning: A pilot investigation on the neurocognitive benefits of stand-biased school desks. International journal of environmental research and public health 13 (1): 59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Menary Richard, ed. 2010. Special Issue: 4E Cognition: Embodied, Embedded, Enacted, Extended. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 9 (4).Google Scholar
  45. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 2013. Phenomenology of perception. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  46. Montessori, Maria. 1942 [1935]. Ginnastica. In Maria Montessori, Il metodo della pedagogia scientifica, Roma, 1935. Ripubblicato in M. Montessori, Educazione alla libertà. Antologia a cura di M.L. Leccese. Bari: Laterza.Google Scholar
  47. Putnam, Hilary. 1981. Reason, truth and history. Vol. 3. Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Roth, Michael W. 2013. On the Birth of the Intentional Orientation to Knowledge. Encyclopaideia: Journal of Education and Phenomenology. Scholar
  49. Scheler, Max. 1973 [1954]. Formalism in Ethics and Non-Formal Ethics of Values. Evanton, IL: Northwestern University Press.Google Scholar
  50. Shapiro, Lawrence. 2011. Embodied Cognition. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  51. Standal, Oyvind. 2016. Phenomenology and Pedagogy in Physical Education. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Stein, Edith. 1964. On the Problem of Empathy. The Hague: Nijhoff.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Tarozzi, Massimiliano. 2017. Piero Bertolini and the Italian phenomenological movement in education. In Pädagogik – Phänomenologie. Verhältnisbestimmungen und Herausforderungen, Buchreihe Phänomenologische Erziehungswissenschaft, Bd. 3, Eds. M. Brinkmann, W. Lippitz, and U. Stenger. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.Google Scholar
  54. Tarozzi, M., and D. Francesconi. 2013. Introduction to the Special Issue “Embodiment and pedagogy. Education between phenomenology and neurocognitive sciences”. Encyclopaideia: Journal of Education and Phenomenology.
  55. Thompson, E., and D. Cosmelli. 2011. Brain in a vat or body in a world? Brainbound versus enactive views of experience. Philosophical topics 39 (1): 163–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Varela, F. J., E. Thompson, and E. Rosch. 2017 [1991]. The Embodied Mind: Cognitive science and human experience. Cambridge, MA: MIT.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Weare, Katherine. 2002. Promoting mental, emotional and social health. A whole school approach. London: Routledge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH, ein Teil von Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Danish School of EducationAarhus UniversityCopenhagenDänemark
  2. 2.UCL Institute of Education and University of Bologna LondonGreat Britain

Personalised recommendations