Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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4. Different Kinds of Smart - Multiple Intelligences

Session Content Outline

Key Questions
  • How are students "smart" in different ways?
  • How can teachers use multiple intelligences in the classroom?

Learning Objectives
  • Defining intelligence – Teachers will understand that intelligence is multidimensional and can be developed. Teachers will consider how definitions of intelligence inform thinking.
  • Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences – Teachers will consider and understand eight different intelligences, how they might be accessed, and how they might be instrumental in helping students learn.
  • Applying the theory of multiple intelligences – Teachers will become familiar with how the theory of multiple intelligences can be used in their classrooms by helping to identify students' strengths, providing entry points into subject matter, and encouraging students to represent their understanding in different ways.

Session Outline

What does it mean to be smart? Tests of "intelligence" typically measure how well you read and write or how quickly you can work with numbers. In 1983, Howard Gardner presented an alternative view of intelligence. In his book, Frames of Mind, he outlined seven intelligences:

  • Linguistic and logical mathematical (abilities typically measured by IQ tests)
  • Musical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic (movement and motor skills)
  • Interpersonal (skills and abilities in working with others)
  • Intrapersonal (self-knowledge and awareness)

Since then, Gardner has added one more to the list:

  • Naturalistic intelligence (the ability to make distinctions in the natural environment)

Traditionally, IQ was seen as an innate capacity – something you are born with in a given quantity. However, multiple intelligences theory suggests that intelligences can be developed over time.

The Eight Intelligences

Gardner (1983) emphasizes that intelligence is most accurately thought of as a potential, and the various intelligences are sets of "know-how" – or ways of doing things.

Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom

Teachers can draw on Gardner's theory for their classrooms in three ways:

  • By assessing and building on students' strengths
  • By providing points of entry to subject matter
  • By creating interdisciplinary curricula

Assessing and Building on Students Strengths
  • In order for students to remain motivated in school, they need opportunities to succeed in learning. An important aim of schooling is to give students opportunities to feel successful.
  • However, students' preferred mode of intelligence should not become the medium for all of the student's work in place of developing other needed abilities.
  • Teachers should also be careful to avoid the "pigeon-holing effect" – labeling students forever as "X" types of learners. All individuals possess certain combinations of the various intelligences, and they can apply these differently in different contexts.
  • How can these differing intelligences be assessed? Kreshevsky and Seidel (1998) suggest teachers look for the following things to develop better understandings of individual students:
    • What choices do students make when given options?
    • What roles do they play when working together?
    • How do they handle unanticipated problems?
    • What captures their attention? When do they lose interest?
    • What problem-solving strategies do they offer?
    • How do they communicate ideas, understandings, thoughts, and feelings?
    • What does their physical behavior suggest?
  • MI theory also recommends a range of classroom assessments that tap into the different ways students' think and learn.
  • Portfolios and public presentations that are evaluated by outside audiences also provide opportunities for students to share what they have learned through several communication modes.

Providing Powerful Points of Entry

Part of being an intelligent learner is demonstrating that you can think about the same idea in different ways. Gardner suggests three ways teachers can enhance students' understanding:

  • by providing powerful points of entry – many ways to introduce and approach a topic
  • by offering apt analogies – connecting new topics to ideas and concepts that are more readily familiar to students
  • by providing multiple representations of the central or core ideas of the topic

Creating Interdisciplinary Curricula

The intelligences are pathways or entry points to understanding, not necessarily ends in and of themselves. Teachers should still be clear about teaching and learning goals. There are many ways a teacher can incorporate multiple intelligences in the service of understanding.

  • MI theory prompts a consideration of what it means to solve problems in different disciplines using all of the human abilities at our disposal.
  • MI theory is a way of thinking about how children learn and how best to teach them. The theory provides a way of thinking about how we learn that urges teachers to extend the boundaries of traditional curriculum, consider the many talents and abilities students bring to a school setting, and put greater emphasis on the variety of skills necessary to succeed in today's world.

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