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