Learning theories in practice/Multiple Intelligences

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Multiple Intelligences in English Classroom[edit | edit source]

Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences make educators recognize the diversity of the learners in their learning styles, learning potentials, etc. and appreciate the development of learning strategies on the part of the learners. From my teaching experience, I found that many parents or students do not have correct concepts about learning English, and have negative experiences related to English learning, which cause frustration in learning English. This hands-on experience deepened my interest in language acquisition, learning modes and teaching methods. My purpose in this paper is to discuss the MI theory and its applications in the classroom as well as to help students build effective learning strategies for achieving lifelong learning.

As for the goals in this paper, first, this paper will make teachers gain a better understanding of how MI theory applies to teaching. Second, it will make learners and parents realize that there are many different ways that students can learn. Also, this chapter will help students make good use of different strategies in learning. Third, teachers will realize that there are various ways to assess teaching activities.

The scope of this paper will start from my teaching experience, and then I will introduce the MI theory, learning styles, and the application of MI theory to teaching. In addition, I will provide a lesson plan,and methods of assessment.

Multiple Intelligences Theory and Implementation in the Classroom[edit | edit source]

With the birth of some innovative language teaching methods and strategies, the mode within language education has turned to the learner-centered mode. However, the mode of evaluation of learning in my country--i.e., Taiwan-- still tends to the standardized tests, which results in many students’ frustration in learning. As an English teacher, I taught at a senior vocational industrial high school in Taiwan, where I experienced tremendous challenges and, at times, some frustrations. Vocational students are often less confident in or less motivated for learning English. Consequently, they are less prepared and competent in language learning. Although I found that my students own different talents in various fields, such as story telling, singing, or painting, they are marked with a poor image-- “academic failure.” To encourage them, I incorporated dozens of different methods and attempted to incorporate their learning styles into my curriculum. From my teaching experience, I found the basic concepts of MI theory conformed to my students’ needs. In addition, it helped my students to establish their confidence and self-esteem as well as their interest in language learning. Thus, many learned their English skills and gained competencies much better. That change or shift from a demotivating learning environment to one rich with student interest, ownership, and learning is the reason I choose the topic to discuss.

I. Introduction[edit | edit source]

Dr. Howard Gardner, a psychologist and professor from Harvard University, developed Multiple Intelligences Theory (MI) in 1983. His theory is an important contribution to educational practices and reform movements around the world. It challenges the traditional view of “IQ” and enables educators to take a renewed look at our views about learning and development. In the book Frames of Mind, Gardner questioned the validity of “IQ” score in deciding human intelligence because IQ tests only measures one's ability to handle academic subjects, and it predicts little of success in later life. He proposed that there are at least seven basic intelligences ((1) Visual/Spatial Intelligence, (2) Musical Intelligence, (3) Verbal/Linguistic Intelligence, (4) Logical/Mathematical Intelligence, (5) Interpersonal Intelligence, (6) Intrapersonal Intelligence, and (7) Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligence). And recently, in 1996, Gardner added the eighth intelligence--naturalist intelligence to his theory. Gardner pointed out that “it is not if you are smart, but how you are smart.” (Gardner, 1983) The following criteria have been used in MIT to identify intelligence: it “entails the ability to solve problems, it involves a “biological proclivity,” it has “an identifiable neurological core operation or set of operations” and it is susceptible to encoding in a symbol system…which captures and conveys important forms of information” (Gardner 1999: 15-16). These different kinds of intelligences reflect learners’ myriad ways of interacting with the world. Although each person possesses all intelligences to some degree, some intelligences are more strongly exhibited than others. By various stimuli and education, MI can be nurtured and strengthened or ignored and weakened.

II. Multiple Intelligences Theory[edit | edit source]

a. Description of the Eight Intelligences:[edit | edit source]

  • Linguistic Intelligence involves the capacity to use language effectively and creatively no matter in writing or speaking. Linguistic people like to use language to express their ideas, convey information, and understand other people. They are good at memorizing names, places, or other detailed information.
  • Logical-mathematical intelligence is the ability to use numbers effectively and engage in higher order thinking. People with this intelligence like to reason and analyze problems, work with numbers, and explore patterns and relationships. They are able to control visuals and mental pictures from various perspectives.
  • Spatial intelligence is the ability to manipulate and perceive objects or forms mentally and then to transfer those perceptions either mentally or concretely. They like to learn and think by visual stimuli and tend to organize things spatially. So, they learn best through graphic images.
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence involves using people’s whole body or parts of their body to solve problems, to express ideas and emotions. Bodily-Kinesthetic learners like to touch, talk, create things, and move around. They are good at physical activities such as dance, hands-on tasks, constructing models, and any kind of movement.
  • Musical intelligence is the capacity to think and express in musical forms. People with this intelligence own the sensitivity to the melody, sound, pitch or tone. They learn best through activities wherein they discriminate, transform, and express sounds.
  • Interpersonal intelligence involves the capacity to perceive the feelings, intentions, and motivations. Interpersonal learners can discriminate the cues from facial expressions, gestures, or intonation and response effectively to those cues. They like to join groups, communicate with others, and make a lot of friends. Such interpersonal learners learn best by interacting with people, cooperating, and leading others.
  • Intrapersonal intelligence means learners have the ability to understand themselves. They have a clear picture in who they are, what they can do, and what they want to do. They like to work alone and achieve their goals. They learn best through getting in touch with their inner moods, intentions, and self motivations.
  • Naturalist intelligence enables the learners to better relate themselves to the surroundings. They show strong interests in animals or natural phenomena. Being outside, making observation about the subtle changes in the environment, interacting with plants and animals allow such learners to perform with more confidence and ease.

b. Key points in MI theory[edit | edit source]

With the reference of Thomas Armstrong (1994: 11-12), four points are listed below to display a few of the key ideas of MI theory.

  • First, each person possesses capacities in all intelligences. Some people perform extremely high levels of functioning in all intelligences while others tend not to display many, if any. Most of us, however, appear to possess some highly developed intelligence as well as some weak ones.
  • Second, most people have the capacity to develop each intelligence to an adequate level of competency. The combination of the environmental influences such as school instruction, parents, and exposure to cultural activities can strengthen or weaken certain intelligence. If given appropriate instruction and encouragement, all intelligences can develop and reach to a higher level.
  • Third, intelligences usually work together in complex ways. No intelligence works alone because intelligences always interact with each other. For example, to make a cake, one should read the receipt, weigh the flour, and decide the flavor to satisfy all members of the family and one’s own preference. The process of making a cake needs the intelligences such as linguistic, logical-mathematical, interpersonal, and intrapersonal intelligences.
  • Fourth, there are many ways to be intelligent within each category. In other words, one can perform each intelligence in different ways. For example, a bodily-kinesthetic person cannot dance well, but is highly bodily-kinesthetic because he can make manual products well.

III. The Application of MI Theory in the Classroom[edit | edit source]

Everyone owns different learning styles and preferences. Some people may find that they have a preferred style of learning or way of encountering the world and less use or experience with other styles. Others may find that they use different styles in different situations. As teachers, we need to know students’ learning preference, help them to make good use of their learning styles, and develop ability in less dominant ones. Thus, teachers need to present information using different styles. This variety in presentation of content and overall instructional approach allows students to learn better and more quickly; especially if the chosen teaching methods used better match their preferred learning styles. Also, students can learn in other ways, not just in their preferred style. There are various modes used to discriminate a learner’s learning styles. Kanar (1995) describes the three most common styles (1) visual, (2) auditory, and (3) kinesthetic in her book, The Confident Student. Teachers can integrate the following teaching strategies into the class to meet students’ learning styles.

  • Visual learning style involves learning through seeing images such as reading or writing tasks. Such students learn better by writing the information down, reading, and watching. They seem to have a vivid image in their mind, so visual learners can recall what they learn easily by a glance at the context.
Strategies for teaching Visual students
1.Various visual materials can be present in the class. For example, pictures, charts,fresh cards, videos, and maps are good resources for visual learners.
2.Use bright colors to draw or write some key points or concepts on the board.
3.Write the information in detail in handouts for students to reread.
4.Draw the picture on the board when it is necessary or have students draw pictures on the board or margin to connect the concepts.
5.Provide the assignment in writing and reading.
  • Auditory learning style involves filtering and transferring information through listening. They learn better by talking to people and hearing what was said. In addition, they may have some problem in reading and writing.
Strategies for teaching Auditory students
1.Give a brief explanation about the content of the lesson in the beginning and summarize the new material at the end of the class.
2.Have students read out loud the questions or whisper new information to themselves.
3.Auditory activities such as group discussion, brainstorming, and presentation all allow students to acquire auditory stimuli.
4.Advise the students to take notes by using tape recorders so that they can review what they learn or discuss in the class.
5.Ask questions and encourage students to share their ideas.
  • Kinesthetic learning styles involves learning through moving or touching. These learners seem to have more difficulty paying attention in the traditional classroom. They like to speak out what they learn and express emotion physically. They learn best by physical experience such as touching, holding, or doing hands-on activities.
Strategies for teaching Kinesthetic students
1.Advise students to take notes during lectures and underline the key points in the text.
2.Provide activities such as role-plays, project work, and games to help students to join learning.
3.Take frequent stand up and stretch breaks.
4.Have students transfer new information from the text books to another medium such as computers or posters.
5.Provide objects that are related to the subjects of the lesson so that students can learn things by touching, feeling, or operating the objects.

IV. Lesson Plan[edit | edit source]

In order to help teachers to gain a better understanding about how MI theory applies to classroom teaching, I sketched two lesson plans which were used in my English class. The reading material in the first lesson plan is a novel "The Chocolate War" written by Robert Cormier. The second lesson plan is for teaching cultural knowledge. The activities in these lessons will address all of the intelligences:

Lesson Plan 1

Step 1: Ask students to browse the title and the picture of the cover of the book and answer some questions. (linguistic/Spatial)

Step 2: Ask students to read the opening section of the story and work in the group to write down their prediction about the following events of the story. Next, students read out loud their prediction to the class. (linguistic/ interpersonal/ logical-mathematical)

Step 3: Distribute ten cards with the descriptions of the following events of the story. Ask students to work together with the other group members to arrange cards in appropriate order according the plot of the story. (logical-mathematical/ linguistic/interpersonal)

Step 4: Do a role play of the story, The Chocolate War, according to one of the role play cards. Students choose music which matches the plot to play while performing their little drama. (musical/ body-kinesthetic )

Step 5: Write a letter to the author about their responses to the story. (intrapersonal/linguistic)

Lesson Plan 2

Step 1: Students are presented with items of etiquette such as accessories or pictures which belong to the target culture. (Visual/Bodily)

Step 2: The teacher ask students to collect resources such as articles, items, or videos. Then, students share their findings and discuss with group members to learn the cultural relevance of the item. (Logical/Interpersonal/Visual/Musical)

Step 3: Each group of students design a short drama and act out the drama based on their understanding about etiquette. (Linguistic/Bodily)

Step 4: Students write a paper to reflect what they learn and compare their native culture with the new culture. (Logical/Intrapersonal/Linguistic)

V. Authentic Assessment in the MI Classroom[edit | edit source]

Gardner believes that standardized tests only measure linguistic and logical/mathematical intelligences within artificial settings and tend to ignore the capability in other intelligences. In his opinion, the purpose of assessment should measure students’ learning processes in order to obtain information about students’ understanding of skills or knowledge as well as their approach to solving problems. In addition, assessment, from Gardner’s perspective, should connect their class work to real-life experiences and apply their knowledge to new situations. Thus, Gardner (1993) points out that instruments for measuring intelligence should be "intelligence-fair." Consequently, we should get away from traditional paper and pencil test that reflects only logical/mathematical and linguistic abilities and look instead at more specific intelligences in operation. The following examples are some important components in implementing authentic assessment.

Observation: The best way to assess students’ multiple intelligences is by observing students’ learning processes. For example, a teacher can observe how students operate a machine, solve problems, or interact with their group members. The teacher can create a checklist or note cards to write down students’ performances. The teacher uses these tools to make records while students are working rather than checking the learning products.

Portfolio: This is the way to collect students’ products and acknowledge their accomplishments. The teacher (or the students) can put student’s writing draft, final report, photos, videotapes, self-assessment essays, or drawings in the portfolio. Students might also be asked to reflect on their work and their various learning journeys. In this way, the teacher not only can evaluate students’ work but also grasp additional information about students’ learning progress.

Performance: Performance assessments require students to demonstrate their skills or multiple talents for the class or other audiences. Performance tasks can be presented individually or in groups. Tasks such as oral presentations, role plays, exhibits, or instrument playing all directly help instructors evaluate a student’s complex skills and high-level understanding.

Teacher-made tests or response: The teacher can prompt questions and let students display their understanding in response of their work. For example, students can write down their comments or feedback to the work. Questions allow students to think more on their own opinion, and develop insightful thinking.

VI. Conclusion[edit | edit source]

In the classroom, teachers need to keep in mind that all students have at least eight intelligences, but differ in the strengths. Gardner discovered that these intelligences are not fixed but malleable capacities which can be enhanced by educational opportunities. So, as teachers, we should exercise teaching methods and activities to develop student’s intelligences. Each student’s learning style and intelligences should be respected because the teachers’ attitude toward students’ ability will influence the ways teacher’s present material to their students and the methods to evaluate students’ capacity. If we can provide opportunities for authentic learning based on students’ interest, talents, and needs, students will be able to present their strengths, while acquiring more motivations to be an “expert” and leading to increased confidence. Thus, it is extremely important to develop a curriculum that can nurture the undeveloped intelligences and strengthen the developed ones. In fact, this new curriculum based on MI theory can be used for students with weak linguistic and logical intelligences. With the implementation of MI, it is clear that a more “student-centered” curriculum is necessary. Gardner's purpose in MI theory is to create “real life” learning situations for learners. For this reason, teachers need to help students link their prior knowledge with the to-be-learned information so that students can apply what they have learned in the classroom to the real outside world. Once the knowledge is gained, students will have ability to solve their own problems in new situations and become successful learners.

Reference[edit | edit source]

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