Human Development, 58(4-5), 218-244.
The combination of two methodological resources—natural-user interfaces (NUI) and multimodal learning analytics (MMLA)—is creating opportunities for educational researchers to empirically evaluate theoretical models accounting for the emergence of concepts from situated sensorimotor activity. 76 participants (9-12 yo) solved tablet-based presymbolic manipulation tasks designed to foster grounded meanings for the mathematical concept of proportional equivalence. Data gathered in task-based semi-structured clinical interviews included action logging, eye-gaze tracking, and videography. Analysis of these data indicates that successful task performance coincided with spontaneous emergence of stable dynamical gaze-path patterns soon followed by multimodal articulation of strategy. Significantly, gaze patterns included unmanipulated, non-salient screen locations. We present cumulative evidence that these gaze patterns served as ‘attentional anchors’ mediating participants’ problem solving. By way of contextualizing our claim, we also present case studies from the various experimental conditions. We interpret the findings as enabling us to revisit, support, refine, and perhaps elaborate on seminal claims from Piaget’s theory of genetic epistemology and in particular his insistence on the role of situated motor-action coordination in the process of reflective abstraction.