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

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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