How practical are multiple intelligence activities?

P2 – Practice differentiated instruction. To me, this means that teachers are applying their knowledge of different stages of development and learning, and theories on language acquisition and multiple intelligences to a variety of content areas to allow for broader student understanding. One way to accomplish this is by understanding the value of multiple intelligence activities within classroom instruction. According to Howard Gardner, the “Father of Multiple Intelligences” (Edwards and Gardner, 2009), students possess “different kinds of minds and therefore learn, remember, perform, and understand in different ways.” Our current system has us trying to assess and teach every student in the same (or similar) way, and it is progressing more toward this with the arrival of the Common Core, though admittedly the Common Core is designed with the idea that students learn at their own pace in mind. Gardner’s multiple intelligences go to show that teaching in this manner is not practical or efficient, and in the end doesn’t help either the students or society. Because students learn in so many distinctive ways, “the broad spectrum of students—and perhaps the society as a whole—would be better served if disciplines could be presented in a number of ways and learning could be assessed through a variety of means” (Edwards and Gardner, 2009). Take, for example, Gillian Lynne, ballerina and choreographer for Cats and Phantom of the Opera. As a child she was “hopeless in school” and was told she had a learning disorder (Robinson, 2006). Her mother took her to a specialist, who asked a lot of questions, then told Gillian he needed to speak with her mother out in the hall. They left the room, and as they left, he turned the radio on. As soon as they were gone, Gillian was on her feet, moving to the music. The specialist turned to her mother and said “Gillian doesn’t have a learning disorder. She’s a dancer” (Robinson, 2006). Gillian’s success speaks loudly to the effect being given the opportunity to express herself in a way that was familiar to her rather than being put on medication and stuffed back into an uncompromising classroom. I think that in any given classroom, it is imperative to understand that any of the students could be another Gillian Lynne, or simply in need of a different way of knowing things. In the classrooms I tutor, I see every day that some students work better with pictures and others need the systematic process to follow, and still others are able to intuit what they need. This kind of knowledge will be important as I start to form my own classroom and methods for teaching and assessment. In the future, I will need to be aware of not only Gardner’s theory, but many others that all have value and will affect the learning environment.

Edwards, O. (Interviewer) and Gardner, H. (Interviewee). (2009). Interview with the father of multiple intelligences [interview transcript]. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/multiple-intelligences-howard-gardner-interview.

Robinson, K. (2006, February). How schools kill creativity. Retrieved from: http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity#t-1043056

Important Concepts in my Instructional Setting

Currently, I am not teaching in my own classroom. However, I tutor math at a K-8 school, working with 3rd, 4th, and 8th graders. In this setting, the concepts that are most important to me are similar to teachers, though not exactly the same. For example, the concept attainment model described in Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2015) is difficult for me to incorporate, as I am not given instructional time, but rather am in the classroom as math support.

However, one of the most important models that I find useful is recognizing student effort, even when they are not quite grasping the subject. This is especially important in the 8th grade extra math class I tutor, where I spend much of my time. These students have been selected for extra math help to improve their understanding in algebra, and struggle with some functions that they learned in the 4th or 5th grade. Possibly this is because their class moved on before they fully grasped the concept of fractions or division. Whatever the cause, most of these students despise math (and school in general) and often won’t even pick up a pencil when asked to work. This is especially true if they see a problem that looks complex, despite it being within their capabilities. However, when I combine a little humor with encouragement, and sometimes a little bit of firmness, students are more likely to make an attempt the problem, and when they do, I try to make sure I show my support of their efforts and encourage them to reach their goal. Reinforcing a student’s effort toward a goal “helps them strengthen their resolve to complete the task or internalize the learning” (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, Stone, 2012). Another important concept is to keep in mind who I am talking to, and to be sure that my actions toward one student aren’t any different than those toward another based on prior behavior, race, or my own expected outcomes. There are students who sometimes respond to my presence very negatively, which can sometimes make it difficult for me to later offer help. However, on some days, these same students are the ones who really want help but if I don’t offer it, they won’t ask. I always try to be aware of my own perceptions toward students, and try to offer encouragement to everyone equally.

Something I don’t do in tutoring that I think would be useful is to explicitly remark about the connection between student effort and achievement. Dean, Hubbell, et al. (2012) explain that students need to understand this explicitly in order to become active participants in their learning and feeling of success. They also mention that this needs to be something that is not just explained once, but often, so that the concept is reinforced in the students’ minds, and really forces them to think about what it means. When I have my own classroom, the students will be younger, but I think that this concept applies to any age group (including adults!). I plan to explicitly teach students about the relationship between their success and effort—some possibilities are by having them graph their success, take time out occasionally to have lessons on the relationship between achievement and effort—as well as using praise when students are working hard with varied, direct phrases.

Dean, C., Hubbell, E., Pitler, H., Stone, B. (2012). Classroom instruction that works: Researc-hbased strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Joyce, B., Weil, M., Calhoun, E. (2015). Models of teaching. Boston, MA: Pearson.

The Importance of Action in Cultural Competence

As we discussed earlier in the quarter, cultural competence is a process, not a product (to tie us back in to my previous post). New challenges continue to find us, and as we work through these, we seek out other ways in which we can improve upon our current worldview. Just as with anything important, there is always room for improving, and in this case, increasing knowledge and views of the world.

While taking the self-analysis on cultural competence from Sue & Sue (2009), I noticed two important things about my own answers. First, that I didn’t mark “often” (or the equivalent) for a single question or topic. I marked myself generally around the middle. The second thing I noticed was that when it came to action, I marked “never” on almost every single one. While I am generally comfortable discussing class, race, and religion with others, I am not usually motivated to take action in order to make things more equal. This is partly from lack of opportunity, from lack of knowledge about what I can do, and also partly from an ingrained belief that there is nothing I can do. What can I, as a young female graduate student, do to help the millions of people who are treated unfairly? Changing this belief, I think, is one of my personal goals in my own journey of cultural competence. For myself, I think what is most important is first learning what I can about problems dealing with race, then follow it up with inquiring about steps I can take as an educator to help students in my own class. Once I am an educator, I will certainly have the power to make changes, even if they are just small ones. I think that it is important for me to start realizing this now, and work toward changing my own attitude toward race, especially with regards to education.

In order to promote some of the values from the self-assessment, I think the most important thing is to educate myself and others on what is happening in the country (and also the world) right now having to deal with race. For example, in Ferguson, Missouri, a young white cop shot a black youth, causing ripples of anger and hatred across the country. As teachers, this is something we need to be aware of, yet remain impartial to, in my opinion. Since all we know is what we hear from the media, and the opinions of those around us, it is hard to really know what happened that night. But children, especially young ones, form opinions based on what they hear from their parents. I’ve heard both sides of the coin on this matter; the officer was profiling the youth, who did nothing wrong, or the youth attacked the cop. Whichever is the case, students will be bringing these opinions to school, though they may not do so expressly. It is up to the teacher to take action within his or her classroom to ensure that these conflicting opinions do not bring about more inequality and anger.

Sue & Sue. (2009). What is cultural competence? Retrieved from https://bbweb-prod.spu.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-970649-dt-content-rid-1852070_1/courses/EDU6133_10069201451/EDU6133_20328201232_ImportedContent_20130101084145/Cultural%20Competence%20Self-Asssessment.pdf

Personal Background Story

Because I grew up in a predominantly white, middle-class town—a farming community near Mt. Rainier—I feel that several things occurred in me in terms of my worldview. One was that financial hardship was something I learned about later in life, and only was able to scratch the surface of, since I never truly experienced it for myself. It is something I can understand and sympathize with, but not truly something I can empathize with, since even now I know that if I need help, I will receive it. While my parents, both coming from families with seven children, grew up among financial hardship, neither I nor my siblings faced such challenges. And for the most part, neither did my classmates. Part of the separation from hardship I enjoyed was geographical. While my community was not entirely made up of middle-class European Americans, I went to an elementary school that was far from the “city” (which is in reality a small town, though I didn’t realize it then), so the students I was grouped with also lived on medium or large properties, and were from families of moderate wealth. When I reached middle school, I was closer to the town and therefore closer (geographically) to a larger variety of people. My town had a single mini-population of Mexican immigrants, which I didn’t even know existed until my middle school years. These students grew up in a mobile-home community. Though the students were American citizens from being born here and spoke English fluently, their parents often spoke no English and stuck to their own small community. It was a kind of shock to realize that not everybody in my country, or even my own community, spoke the same language as me. While I have never really considered myself to be a biased person, looking back on my childhood it is easy to see where my own ignorance of cultural disparities has influenced the way I look at and rationalize things. I’ve recently realized that when I see mobile homes, I don’t really consider that they could be populated by families other than Mexican immigrants, though logically I know that’s not sound.

Another building block in my worldview is something a little more subtle and fine-tuned than financial aspects. It has more to do with a “culture within a culture”, as I like to call it. One of the things I took note of while reading the Banks chapter was that he mentioned that teachers also bring their personal and cultural knowledge to the classroom. Although the majority of US teachers (as of 1996) are European American females, “there is enormous diversity among European Americans that is mirrored in the backgrounds of the teacher population, including diversity related to religion, social class, region, and ethnic origin” (Banks, 1996). This particularly stood out to me as I was reflecting on my experiences growing up. While the vast majority of my community was the “same” in terms of class and race, the reality of the matter is that even within this culture of middle-class families of European descent, there was a variety in power structure and family structure. As a result, I tend to see major differences among those who are in the same population categories as me. Part of this is due to family backgrounds; my family was very open and welcoming, they encouraged creativity and freedom while also not allowing us to neglect our work. My dad’s motto is “be happy, be responsible”. He claims that if you follow these two rules, then you can be successful in life. My parents provided support through college and beyond, always encouraging more learning and whatever endeavor I or my siblings chose to follow. However, even among my peers of the same race and class, there is much diversity. A close friend who is white, middle-class, and female, did not receive the same encouragement from her family as I did. When we were younger, we were very similar in personality and beliefs, but as we got older, we drifted apart because of differences in worldviews. Things I thought were important were not important to her and vice versa. Because of the way I was raised, I have found that I actually believe some methods for running day-to-day operations are wrong—though in fact, they are just different.

My experiences in teaching so far have taken me to classrooms that are also middle-class, though kids of European descent were actually a minority there. I think that this has only perpetuated my own beliefs about family dynamics, since much of what I had seen was very similar to my own upbringing in terms of finances and family. In the future, these biases may present a challenge to me as I encounter students from either a lower or higher socio-economic status. I think I tend to have a tiny amount of disdain for those who I perceive as more privileged than me, and sympathy for those who I believe are less so. While this seems to be a common theme among those of the white middle-class, I think it is also important that we realize our cultural biases and work to understand them so we don’t allow them to influence our perceptions of people.

Banks, J. A. (1996). Multicultural education, transformative knowledge, and action. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.