Teach English in Qiuji Zhen - Xuzhou Shi

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Back in the days an individual’s intelligence was based on his or her verbal and computational abilities. In fact, at the end of the 19th century, two French psychologists, Alfred Binet and Theodor Simon claimed that intelligence was measurable, and proceeded to do so by testing several individuals on a combination of mathematics and language skills. Those who scored higher were assumed to be more intelligent than the others (96-97, Stephen). Nevertheless, we are referring to a time when teachers physically punished their students for being distracted, not having the right answer at the right time, or for simply being children. Lessons were basically only lectures, and students had to learn most of the material in the program by heart. Fortunately, during the 1990s, researchers developed the theory of different learning styles, suggesting that educators address how a discipline is taught based on the learner’s individual cognitive skills and instructional preferences. It stresses the fact that learners can be conditioned by a variety of factors: environmental, temperature, emotional, physiological, psychological, and other variables. The lesson plans would have to change (100, Stephen). We were finally out of the dark ages, and into a new era of education. Students where not seen as a collective unit anymore, but as individuals. However, as time progresses so does research, and Rita and Kenneth Dunn’s development of the learning styles theory is not enough. Their work, although revolutionary in terms of teaching methodology, does not stray too far in terms of Binet and Simon’s intelligence assessment. The lectures are not the only method used in the classroom, and the new educators have been catering different types of learners, but the diversity of topics remains unvaried. Up to today, students are required to pass examinations that are mostly linguistic and mathematical to go ahead in their studies. During a series of neurobiological studies conducted in 1999, Howard Gardner was able to expand the concept of intelligence. In his Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Gardner divides intelligence into eight types: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic (2, Timmens). He explains that students should be given the means to develop all intelligences but ultimately focus on a selected few. Yes, the process is important, but the product even more so. For example, Tolkien was probably the greatest philologist of all time, at least to my knowledge. However, this is thanks to the fact that his talent was nourished by the scholastic system which he was exposed to. In fact, the British school system was still very much structured on the classics, and therefore gave priority to humanistic studies such as languages, history, literature and philosophy. Had it been different, had the system based itself solely on mathematics and science, we would have been missing out on a legend. Furthermore, Gardner also argues that culture has an important role in the development of these eight intelligences. What is valued in one cultural context may not have the same significance in others. If we take Mozart, Wagner, Puccini, or any other famous composer, we can probably say that they would not become famous had they grown up in Sweden, Finland, China, or Japan at that time in history. Because they were born at the right time in the right places, in countries that were emphasizing the importance of art and music, they were able to thrive and develop their intelligences to their highest potential. The learning styles have helped educators all over the world realize that individuals all have different forms of absorbing information, making huge steps in the educational systems across the globe. However, Gardner’s theory offers a theoretical basis to identify the diverse aptitudes and talents of each student, acknowledging that, while all students may not be verbally or mathematically gifted, their proficiency may lie in other areas such as music or nature (3, Timmens). So why is Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences important for teachers? By applying Gardner’s theory in the classroom, or with individual students, we can improve students’ English by addressing their intelligence. If we have a student that is musically gifted, we plan our lesson to include English music (listening, fill the gap exercises, articles regarding music, discussions regarding music genres and or musicians). Furthermore, Dunn’s and Gardner’s theories are compatible and complementary even though some scholars might argue otherwise. For example, if we have an artistically gifted learner, we know that he has a spatial intelligence and therefore he is a visual learner. Having assessed this, we can improve on the other intelligences (such as linguistics in this case) by using a variety of visual aid. And since everyone has a few intelligences, out of the established eight, that are more developed, then it is also recommended to use the other intelligences to improve the learner’s English. J., Stephen. “Multiple Intelligences and Learning Styles: Two Complementary Dimensions.” Teachers College Record, Journal Customer Services, Blackwell Publishing, 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148. Tel: 800-835-6770 (Toll Free); Fax: 781-388-8232; e-Mail: [email protected], 31 Dec. 2003, eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ687578. Brualdi Tmmins, Amy C. "Multiple Intelligences: Gardners Theory" by Amy C ... scholarworks.umass.edu/pare/vol5/iss1/10/.