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Multiple Intelligences A common complaint heard in the
A common complaint heard in the classroom is that traditional tests and teaching methods are not designed to account for all the different ways that people comprehend and retain knowledge. This complaint appears to have a remedy in Howard Gardner´s theory of multiple intelligences (MI). By first examining the background of MI, one will be able to understand how it can translate into the ESL/EFL classroom.
According to Linda Campbell, Gardner´s researched aimed to establish criteria to determine if talent could be translated to intelligence (xv). The research determined that "[e]ach intelligence must have a developmental feature, be observable in special populations such as prodigies or ´idiot savants,´ provide some evidence of localization in the brain, and support a symbolic or notational system" (Campbell xv). Gardner defined seven intelligences: linguistic, logical- mathematic, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. The research notes that every person possesses all seven intelligences but may be more highly developed in some than in others (Armstrong 11).
Many teachers were extremely enthusiastic when Gardner´s research emerged as it provided, in their view, "a framework for developing new and creative ways of tapping into students´ potential" (Nolan 31). It also created better educational opportunities for students in traditionally disadvantaged groups (Nolan 31). Although many critics of MI have emerged, the theory can still prove useful to teachers in the ESL/EFL classroom.
In the ESL/EFL classroom, teachers should take the variety of intelligences into account. Teachers can incorporate a variety of activities that focus on the different intelligences. In doing so, students who may be slightly deficient in one intelligence but developed in another will be able to learn the material through one of the activities. As suggested by Armstrong, a teacher can, for example, use storytelling or journal writing to encourage development in linguistic intelligence and visualizations and picture metaphors for spatial intelligence. Campbell suggests that teachers should think about what concepts they want to teach and then decide which intelligences are most appropriate to incorporate (264). Thus, it is not necessary to include all seven types of intelligence in each activity, but instead teachers should use a combination of intelligence focused activities which match the curriculum and will help students learn. A vast array of lesson plans exist which incorporate MI for teachers who are interested in integrating MI into their classrooms.
Many believe that students can also benefit when teachers and schools use the theory of MI for assessment purposes (Campbell 315). These assessments rely "far less on formal standardizes or norm-references tests and much more on authentic measures that are criterion-references, benchmarked, or ipsative (i.e., that compare a student to his or her own past performance)" (Armstrong 115). It is critical, though, as Campbell points out, that instructors make very clear to the students what is considered high quality work before using this type of assessment (315).
Overall, multiple intelligences can be incorporated into the ESL/EFL classroom with relative ease. The theory benefits students by allowing them to demonstrate their abilities beyond standardized tests. Students may also learn more if they are exposed to material in a way that they understand more easily. Teachers benefit because they can teach and grade students based on their personal knowledge of the students. Despite the criticism the theory has received, it is likely that its inclusion in curriculums around the globe will continue to grow.