Multiple Intelligence and Self-Esteem in the Classroom

P1 – Practice intentional inquiry and planning for instruction.

In planning and organizing lessons, teachers need a large repertoire of models to follow in order to ensure that instruction for each student is tailored to their learning styles. During this course, we have discussed several methods and models for teaching that can help me adapt standards-based curricula to fit the needs of my classroom. Two models in particular stood out to me; fostering self-esteem in the classroom, and Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. Both models will have an impact on how I teach, and how I will establish the learning environment in my classroom.

These concepts are very closely tied to one another, particularly with regards to student self-esteem. Students who try hard but still don’t understand something may feel that they are unintelligent, causing them to withdraw from the class and fall further behind. Although this could be due to several factors, and it’s important for teachers to be aware of as many as possible, one possibility is simply the format of instruction. Working with students to come up with a lesson plan that works well for them increases the chances that students will do better, and in turn have higher self-esteem.

Every brain is wired differently, and that can change from one moment to the next. Even acquiring “simple pieces of information physically alters the structure of our neurons” (Medina, 2014), meaning that every student may hear the same presentation in a different way. Howard Gardner (Edwards and Gardner, 2009) proposed that different kinds of minds perform, remember, learn, and understand in different ways, which was the base for his multiple intelligences theory. However, classrooms are often structured so that they teach to one type of learner, especially once students reach the university level. Criticism of Gardner’s suggestion that teachers individualize education for each student is also plentiful, as many teachers complain that it can be impossible to do so for 35-40 students. However, Gardner argues that with technology as it is, personalizing education should be much easier (Edwards and Gardner, 2009). There is software and internet resources that allow students to practice at their own level while the computer assesses their work.

Technology may not always be available to a classroom, though, and in that case, teachers should look for other resources. I am aware that my future classroom may not have the opportunity to use technology all the time, and even if that is possible, some students may not have access to it at home. This could further lead to negative self-concepts, which is something I hope to eliminate in my classroom. In order to foster a positive self-concept in my students, I won’t be able to rely on technology only as a resource. Part of creating the type of environment that encourages a positive self-concept while allowing for multiple intelligences involves giving students choices, both in the level of work they receive and in the way they wish to learn it. Strong self-concepts are heavily correlated with confidence and productive interactions (Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun, 2015), which can be attained by providing students with choices and allowing them to be active participants in their learning.

Multiple Intelligences Questionnaire

Figure 1: A possible activity for students to learn about how they learn

In my classroom, I would like to encourage my students to become involved in thinking about how they learn, both to give them confidence in their ability and to improve my own practice and help me to tailor education to my students’ specific needs. Figure 1 shows a portion of the Connell Multiple Intelligence Questionnaire for Children (Scholastic, 2015), which can be completed by students on their own. Though simple, the questionnaire can give my students and myself a general idea of how we learn, and can even be turned into a class discussion on the best way to assess and teach. Not only does this help my students become aware that they might learn differently from their peers, it also allows them to make important choices about their learning, one of the behaviors that can foster positive self-concepts (Rogers, no date).

These two models, though only a small sample at those we discussed in class, are highly important in creating a warm, nurturing, environment that every student can succeed in, regardless of background or learning style. I want my students to be able to confidently work through their learning in a way that best fits them, and I believe that employing practices with each of these theories in mind can benefit everyone. Lessons can be adapted to fit the needs of each student so that each learning style has a positive self-concept and strives for success.

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.

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

Scholastic. (2015). Clip and save checklist: Learning activities that connect with multiple intelligences. Retrieved from http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/clip-save-checklist-learning-activities-connect-multiple-intelligences

Medina, J. (2014). Brain rules: 12 principles for surviving and thriving at work, home, and school. Seattle, WA: Pear Press

Rogers, C. (no date). Teacher effects research on student self-concept. Retrieved from: https://bbwebprod.spu.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-1025182-dt-content-rid2034539_1/courses/EDU6526_27922201452/SIS%20Session%208%20Reading%20%28Rogers%29.pdf

Fostering Self-Esteem to Encourage Productivity

H1 – Honor student diversity and development. To me, this standard means teachers should be doing everything in their power to ensure that each student, regardless of background or level, feels comfortable, safe, and capable of tasks they are given. This includes using teaching models designed for increasing student self-confidence. As we learned last quarter from Marzano (2007), expectations, especially toward low-expectancy students, result in differential behavior of the teacher. Additionally, in a study by Rogers (no date), the researchers determined that “for students identified as having learning difficulties, the teacher’s level of interpersonal facilitation was the single most important contributor to the amount of gain on all outcome measures.” Because of the sensitivity students have to the expectations and beliefs of those around them, including teachers, their self-esteem could go either way based on an adult’s behavior. Teachers should foster warm and nurturing environments that encourage collaboration among teacher and students in order to boost self-esteem and create a productive classroom. According to Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2015), “strong self-concepts are accompanied by ‘self-actualizing’ behavior, a reaching out toward the environment with confidence that the interaction will be productive.” By showing students acceptance and empathy, and being genuine, teachers can begin to create a place where all students feel welcome. Rogers (no date) found that teachers who displayed this behavior were more likely to have quality conversations with students, have students who missed school fewer times, and made greater academic gains. He described methods of teachers relating to students in a person-to-person manner, regarding them as worthwhile human beings capable of self-direction (Rogers, no date). Empathic behaviors in teachers, like allowing students to make choices regarding their learning, more discussion with students, smiling, and using student ideas in instruction can go a long way toward increasing self-esteem in students. In one of the math classes I tutor, the teacher has the students come up with subjects or ideas for many of their practice problems, and often asks them to write the problems themselves. He has a mailbox for them to submit their story problems (with solutions on the back) and their teacher changes the numbers and gives them a bunch of these student-created problems for practice. Surprisingly (or not surprisingly), the students love having practice math problems, and are more confident, excited, and productive when they work on these.

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

Marzano, R. J. (2007). The art and science of teaching. Alexandria, VA: ASCD

Rogers, C. (no date). Teacher effects research on student self-concept. Retrieved from: https://bbweb-prod.spu.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-1025182-dt-content-rid-2034539_1/courses/EDU6526_27922201452/SIS%20Session%208%20Reading%20%28Rogers%29.pdf

The Practical Use of Advance Organizers

Advance organizers, a concept formed by Ausubel (1978), give students a toolkit to organize new, incoming knowledge. By directing attention to what is important before a lesson, students know what to focus on during the lesson. Ausubel (1978) also describes relating new learning to old learning, such as in the example of the students in the art gallery described in Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2015).

Though it may seem more reasonable to focus on what students enjoyed most about a lesson, it is also important to focus on what is important about a lesson when using advance organizers (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, Stone, 2012). In order to use advance organizers, it is important to consider both student interest as well as key points from a prior lesson you wish to expand on.

I have used advance organizers before without realizing it. While teaching preschool, often I would introduce a unit by reading a story related to the theme (narrative advance organizer) or with a graphic advance organizer where I explain the lesson topics and goals (often KWL charts). These applications are useful for preschool, in particular, but also for my future elementary classroom as well. KWL charts (what we know, what we want to know, and what we learned—to be completed after the unit) are a good way to introduce kids to a topic, get them to think about the topic, and then later revisit the topic to connect their learning with what they discussed at the beginning of the unit.

The other two advance organizers discussed by Dean, et al. (2012) are skimming and expository advance organizers. I can see the advantages to using either one. An expository advance organizer might be more beneficial to older students. I can give them key points before a unit, which they can then refer back to as needed. This method is used by one of the teachers I work with while tutoring. In his class of 8th graders, he started off his latest unit of scatter plots by having them explore a website called gapminder.org on iPads, which shows a large variety of data from the past 200 years for all countries. Not only did this spark their interest, but he asked them questions about the website they were looking that walked them through key phrases like “correlation”, “positive trend”, or “weak trend”. Though I will be teaching elementary students, I think this is something I could adapt to my own grade level. The other advance organizer I haven’t used is using skimming. Students can go over a chapter briefly to get a general overview of what it contains, then I can ask students to describe what they think it is about, and have them make inferences about it. I’d never thought that skimming might be so useful, but I think that when I have a classroom I will try it. I think it is a good way to get kids to make predictions and really think about what they will be learning before it occurs, and will also help to keep their interest longer.

Ausubel, D., et al. (1978). Instructional materials. Educational Psychology: A Cognitive View. New York, NY: Holt McDougal.

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.

Questioning as a Teaching Strategy

Most people, when they think of teaching, imagine one of their prior teachers, standing at the front of the room pointing to something on the white/blackboard (or at least, I assume they do). While imparting knowledge on young students can be beneficial to some, it is not a teaching model that encourages student interaction. The readings from this week describe a variety of teaching methods involving knowledge that students inquire about and discover for themselves (constructive knowledge), giving them the skills they will need to find knowledge in the future while promoting lifelong learning. Now when I picture teaching, I try to imagine my old teachers asking questions that encourage students searching for the answers themselves. It is the process of discovery and learning that builds the deep connections in students’ minds. After all, you’re more likely to remember the day WWII ended if you experienced it rather than if you learned it in a classroom.

Questioning can be a strategy used in any subject. Beginning with a question, the teacher can then guide students to form their own questions and make their own discoveries during the lesson. For example, Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2015) describe a situation where a teacher—Mr. Hendricks—questions his students as they listen to sounds. He begins by allowing the students to play with the “instruments” for a bit, then asks if they notice anything about two sounds he makes. They begin by describing what they hear, but are confused about why two may sound similar but different at the same time. Mr. Hendricks continues the lesson by asking students to experiment with the sounds, ask questions and make predictions, then test these theories and present their findings. They are following the process of scientific inquiry as stated in the common core state standards (Common Core Sate Standards Initiative, 2015), while the teacher also continues asking questions to guide them. Rather than focusing on dictating to students what they should remember, according to the National Research Council, “the learning process should be built around in-depth inquiries into topics selected because they contain…important concepts from each discipline at any given grade level” (Joyce, Weil, Calhoun, 2015).

Other examples of questioning as a teaching strategy can range from subject to subject. In my own tutoring experience, I try to never give out answers to math questions kids are stuck on. Instead, I ask questions about what they already know, or what they can tell me about the problem, and we work from there. One of the teachers I work with almost always uses this inquiry process when teaching mathematics to his fourth grade students. Rather than showing them how to multiply fractions, he gives them a problem, asks students how they think they can solve it, then gives them the tools they might need to solve the problem. This helps them to develop their own cognitive reasoning skills, while also allowing him to assess where students are at as a group. For language arts, teachers can show students a picture, then ask students to describe the picture, to create a “picture dictionary” which students can then compose sentences with (Joyce, Weil, Calhoun, 2015). These photographs encourage students to think about what the picture represents and what it doesn’t represent, and requires students to form their own ideas of the new vocabulary they are learning.

While I believe it is important for memorization for many things in school, I think it is also important that we take a constructionist approach to building new knowledge. This way, we are giving students the foundation they need and the skills to build further upon their foundation at the same time, allowing them to form connections and act on their natural curiosities.

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

Common Core State Standards Initiative (2015). CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.3. Retrieved from http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/RST/6-8/