Multiple Intelligence Theory and Classroom Management in an ESL/EFL Classroom According to research conducted by


According to research conducted by Grant Miller and Tracy Hall, '' classroom order encourages student engagement, which supports learning' (Miller para. 1). In many articles and studies that are readily available, the popular perspective seems to be that classroom order must happen before learning can happen; order must be present for student engagement to be present. It is common to employ traditional classroom management techniques based on the creation of order: threat or promise of reward. Order, it is perceived, creates an environment where students are engaged. Perhaps that idea is slightly backwards. Perhaps it is not order that leads to engagement, but engagement that leads to order. Teaching to multiple intelligences engages more students. More students engaged means increased participation. Increased participation means increased success. Increased success means increased feelings of accomplishment, confidence, and self-esteem. This eliminates major causes of student behavioral problems and classroom management problems. Less students acting out means increased student learning and increased student success.

Howard Gardner first developed the Theory of Multiple Intelligence in 1983, introducing seven different types of intelligence. In 1999, he added one more (Smith para. 9 & 31). Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligence suggests that the traditional methods of measuring intelligence, the IQ test and the glorification of those with linguistic and mathematical talents, are both limited and limiting. According to Gardner, human beings are born with at least eight different types of intelligences: linguistic; logical-mathematical; musical; spatial; bodily kinesthetic; interpersonal; intrapersonal (Gardner para 6); and naturalist (Smith para. 31). In any given human being, these intelligences work together. Naturally some individuals lean more toward one or two than they do toward others.

Instructors are accustomed to teaching primarily to the first and second intelligences. The teaching of any language lends itself to solely a linguistic approach, and it is the linguistic learner who often enjoys the most success. This leaves many students bored and frustrated. Boredom and frustration often lead to acting out in the classroom. This does not have to be true. Howard Gardner agrees: 'We should use kids' positive states to draw them into learning in the domains where they can develop competencies,' Gardner states in an interview with Daniel Goleman. 'It's when kids get bored in school that they fight and act up'' (qtd. in Goleman 94).

Applying MI theory in the classroom leads to more student engagement and more student participation. This has been tried and tested in the ESL classroom. Nelly Ribot, an ESL teacher of first, eighth, and ninth grades at Los M'danos School in Trenque Lauqen, Argentina, after much research and development, employed the theory of Multiple Intelligence with her first grade class. It was so successful, she adapted the level to fit her eighth and ninth grade classes:

'My experience using MI to teach English as a second language has yielded successful results with students of different ages and abilities and has been accepted with much enthusiasm by parents and community members'' (Ribot para. 21).

Her story is not unique. Other instructors and researchers report similar success. When analyzing the effect of MI theory on a reading lesson, teachers report that ''students become more engaged in and enthusiastic about reading; the students gain greater understanding of material when they express what they have read in ways that are comfortable for them; and their reading strategies improve'' (Christison para. 13). Applying MI theory also improves participation: 'When multiple activities are available, more students can find ways to participate and take advantage of language acquisition opportunities' (Christison para. 11). Students involved in the learning process are less likely to disrupt or act out. This in turn leads to more student learning.

At the end of the day, and ESL classroom is a linguistic environment. Students must be assessed according to their linguistic abilities. Not all students who take these classes are linguistic learners, however. When frustration mounts, self-esteem plummets. When self-esteem plummets, engagement disappears. When engagement is absent, classroom management becomes an issue. Engaging the students is the key to a classroom dynamic that promotes learning. The key to engaging students is recognizing that multiple intelligences exist and employing MI strategies in the ESL/EFL classroom.

Works Cited

Christison, Mary Ann, and Deborah Kennedy. "Multiple Intelligences: Theory and Practice in Adult ESL." ERICDigests.Org. 2004. 30 Nov. 2006 . Gardner, Howard. "Intelligence in Seven Steps." Creating the Future: Perspectives on Educational Change. Comp. Dee Dickinson. New Horizons for Learning. 30 Nov. 2006 .

Goleman, Daniel. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. New York: Bantam Books, 1995. Miller, Grant, and Hall Tracey. Classroom Management. National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum. 2005. 30 Nov. 2006

. Ribot, Nelly. "My Experience Using the Multiple Intelligences." International Education News (2004). 30 Nov. 2006

. Smith, Mark K. "Howard Gardner and Multiple Intelligences." The Encyclopedia of Informal Education. 28 Jan. 2005. 30 Nov. 2006 .