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Multiple Intelligences: Theory and Practice in Adult ESL


Mary Ann Christison, University of Utah Deborah Kennedy, Key Resources December 1999 The theory of multiple intelli ences !M"# broadens the traditional vie$ of intelli ence as solely composed of verbal%lin uistic and lo ical%mathematical abilities& M" theory maintains that all humans possess at least ei ht different intelli ences that represent a variety of $ays to learn and demonstrate understandin & This di est outlines the basic tenets of M" theory and describes ho$ it has been applied in teachin 'n lish as a second lan ua e !'()# to adults&

The Theory of Multiple Intelligences


Intelligence has traditionally been defined in terms of intelligence quotient (IQ) which measures a narrow range of !erbal/linguistic and logical/mathematical abilities. "oward #ardner ($%%&) argues that humans possess a number of distinct intelligences that manifest themsel!es in different s'ills and abilities. (ll human beings apply these intelligences to sol!e problems in!ent processes and create things. Intelligence according to MI theory is being able to apply one or more of the intelligences in ways that are !alued by a community or culture. )he current MI model outlines eight intelligences although #ardner ($%%%) continues to e*plore additional possibilities.

Linguistic Intelligence: )he ability to use language effecti!ely both orally and in writing. Logical/Mathematical Intelligence: )he ability to use numbers effecti!ely and reason well. Visual/Spatial Intelligence: )he ability to recogni+e form space color line and shape and to graphically represent !isual and spatial ideas. Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligence: )he ability to use the body to e*press ideas and feelings and to sol!e problems. Musical Intelligence: )he ability to recogni+e rhythm pitch and melody. Naturalist Intelligence: )he ability to recogni+e and classify plants minerals and animals. Interpersonal Intelligence: )he ability to understand another person,s feelings moti!ations and intentions and to respond effecti!ely. Intrapersonal Intelligence: )he ability to 'now about and understand oneself and recogni+e one,s similarities to and differences from others.

Application of MI Theory with Adult ESL Learners


-ather than functioning as a prescribed teaching method curriculum or technique MI theory pro!ides a way of understanding intelligence which teachers can use as a guide for de!eloping classroom acti!ities that address multiple ways of learning and 'nowing (.hristison $%%%b). )eaching strategies informed by MI theory can transfer some control from teacher to learners by gi!ing students choices in the ways they will learn and demonstrate their learning. /y focusing on problem0sol!ing acti!ities that draw on multiple intelligences these teaching strategies encourage learners to build on e*isting strengths and 'nowledge to learn new content and s'ills (1allenbach $%%%). It may also mean the adult learners who ha!e had little success in traditional classrooms where only linguistic and mathematics s'ills are !alued may e*perience more success when other intelligences are tapped. 2i'ewise adult 342 learners from cultures where other intelligences0such as interpersonal or musical0are highly !alued may find the MI classroom a producti!e learning en!ironment.

*roadly spea+in , teachers have developed four $ays of usin M" theory in the classroom& 1. As a tool to help students develop a etter understanding and appreciation of their own strengths and learning preferences. Christison !1999a# has developed an inventory to identify the preferred intelli ences of adult 'n lish lan ua e learners& )earners are as+ed to respond to si, statements about each of ei ht intelli ences& An e,cerpt follo$s&
Multiple Intelligences Inventory for ESL/E L !dults 5irections: -ate each statement 6 $ or 7. 6 means you strongly agree. $ means you are in the middle. 7 means you disagree. )otal the points for each intelligence. .ompare your scores on the different intelligences. Ver"al/Linguistic Intelligence $. ______ I li'e to read boo's maga+ines or newspapers. 6. ______ I often write notes and letters to my friends and family. &. ______ I li'e to tal' to people at parties. 8. ______ I li'e to tell 9o'es. :. ______ I li'e to tal' to my friends on the phone. ;. ______ I li'e to tal' about things I read. Logical/Mathematical Intelligence $. ______ I can do arithmetic easily in my head. 6. ______ I am good at doing a budget. &. ______ I am good at chess chec'ers or number games.

8. ______ I am good at sol!ing problems. :. ______ I li'e to analy+e things. ;. ______ I li'e to organi+e things. <. ______ I li'e crossword pu++les. Naturalist Intelligence $. ______ I li'e houseplants. 6. ______ I ha!e or would li'e to ha!e a pet. &. ______ I 'now the names of many different flowers. 8. ______ I 'now the names of many different wild animals. :. ______ I li'e to hi'e and to be outdoors. ;. ______ I notice the trees and plants in my neighborhood.

Teachers may adapt the lan ua e and accompanyin activities to suit the needs of the lan ua e learners in their classes& -ord finds, pair dictations, dictionary and spellin $or+, focused listenin , and rammar activities can help learners become comfortable $ith the inventory lan ua e even $hile they are en a ed in s+ills $or+& Teachers may choose to let the students decide $hether or not to score the inventory& .ther activities, such as dialo /ournals, murals or bulletin boards, and small roup conversations also offer adult '() learners opportunities to reflect on their o$n stren ths& The ideas and information that come from these activities can inform learner needs assessment and oal0settin processes& !. As a tool to develop a etter understanding of learners" intelligences. An understandin of M" theory broadens teachers1 a$areness of their students1 +no$led e and s+ills and enables them to loo+ at each student from the perspective of stren ths and potential& Teachers also become a$are of the different $ays in $hich students may demonstrate their understandin of material& M" theory provides a structured $ay of understandin and addressin the diversity that '() instructors often encounter in the classroom !Christison, 1992#& .n a iven topic or s+ill, teachers can brainstorm $ith learners a list of activities to practice& 3or instance, be inners can learn about consumerism by ma+in and labelin colla es of merchandise, readin ne$spaper ads, developin dialo ues, or oin on a scaven er hunt to the store& "n this $ay, each learner can ac4uire lan ua e s+ills by employin individual stren ths or preferences& #. As a guide to provide a greater variety of ways for students to learn and to de$onstrate their learning. "dentification of personal stren ths can ma+e students more receptive to nontraditional learnin activities and can ive students a successful e,perience that builds their confidence as learners& As learners and teachers $or+ to ether, intelli ences can emer e naturally throu h partner intervie$s, preference rids !" can5, " li+e to5#, and needs assessments& 6o$ever, some teachers have encountered at least initial resistance to this process of describin intelli ences amon students $hose cultural or educational bac+ rounds emphasi7e more traditional modes of teachin and learnin !Costan7o 8 9a,ton, 1999#& "n this case, teachers may choose to focus learners1 attention on the lan ua e they are practicin throu h these activities

rather than on the theory& !More challen es to usin M"0based activities in the adult '() classroom are described in the upcomin study on M" from the :ational Center for the (tudy of Adult )earnin and )iteracy ;<iens 8 Kallenbach, in press=&# Teachers have noted other positive effects of applyin M" theory& A curriculum informed by M" theory provides a $ay of handlin differin lan ua e s+ill levels $ithin one class0a very common situation in adult '() classes !Costan7o 8 9a,ton, 1999#& -hen multiple activities are available, more students can find $ays to participate and ta+e advanta e of lan ua e ac4uisition opportunities& -ith an M" curriculum, students become a$are that different people have different stren ths and that each person has a substantive contribution to ma+e !Kallenbach, 1999#& This fits in $ell $ith pro/ect0 based learnin $here students in a roup can divide tas+s based on individual stren ths& 3or e,ample, one learner mi ht feel confident about plannin , another mi ht prefer to do the $ritin , and a third mi ht feel able to present the pro/ect to the $hole class& %. As a guide to develop lesson plans that address the full range of learner needs. An M"0informed readin lesson may be in $ith typical prereadin activities !revie$in earlier material, predictin $hat $ill happen ne,t#, follo$ed by silent readin or readin aloud $ith discussion of vocabulary and te,t meanin & )earners can then complete a pro/ect, individually or in roups, to demonstrate their understandin of the te,t& The teacher offers a choice of pro/ects, such as descriptive $ritin , map dra$in , illustration, creation of a dialo ue or s+it, ma+in a timeline, son $ritin , and retellin & The ob/ective is not to teach to specific intelli ences or to correlate intelli ences $ith specific activities, but rather to allo$ learners to employ their preferred $ays of processin and communicatin ne$ information !Coustan 8 Roc+a, 1999#& Teachers usin this type of lesson report that students become more en a ed in and enthusiastic about readin > the students ain reater understandin of material $hen they e,press $hat they have read in $ays that are comfortable for them> and their readin strate ies improve as readin becomes a tool for completion of pro/ects they are interested in !Coustan 8 Roc+a, 1999#&

&onclusion
Teachers $ho use M" theory to inform their curriculum development find that they ain a deeper understandin of students1 learnin preferences and a reater appreciation of their stren ths& (tudents are li+ely to become more en a ed in learnin as they use learnin modes that match their intelli ence stren ths& "n addition, students1 re ular reflection on their learnin broadens their definitions of effective and acceptable teachin and learnin practices& (tudents1 increased en a ement and success in learnin stimulates teachers to raise their e,pectations, initiatin a po$erful e,pectation0response cycle that can lead to reater achievement levels for all&

'eferences
Christison, M&A& !1992#& Teachin and learnin lan ua es throu h multiple intelli ences& TESOL Journal, 6!1#, 1?01@& Christison, M&A& !1999a#& A guidebook for applying multiple intelligences theory in the ESL/E L classroom! *urlin ame, CAA Alta *oo+ Center&

Christison, M&A& !1999b#& Multiple intelli ences& ESL "aga#ine, $!B#, 1?01C& Costan7o, M&, 8 9a,ton, D& !1999#& Multiple assessments for multiple intelli ences& ocus on %asics, &!A#, D@0DE& Coustan, T&, 8 Roc+a, )& !1999#& 9uttin theory into practice& ocus on %asics, &!A#, D10D@& Fardner, 6& !199C#& rames of mind' The theory of multiple intelligences !1?th anniversary ed&#& :e$ Gor+A *asic *oo+s& Fardner, 6& !1999#& Are there additional intelli encesH The case for naturalist, spiritual, and e,istential intelli ences& "n I& Kane !'d&#, Education, information and transformation !pp& 11101C1#& 'n le$ood Cliffs, :IA 9rentice 6all& Kallenbach, (& !1999#& 'mer in themes in adult multiple intelli ences research& ocus on %asics, &!A#, 120D?& <iens, I&, 8 Kallenbach, (& !in press#& "( gro)s up' "ultiple intelligences in adult education sourcebook! *ostonA :ational Center for the (tudy of Adult )earnin and )iteracy&
)his document was produced at the .enter for (pplied 2inguistics (8;8; 87th 4treet => >ashington 5. 677$; 6760&;607<77) with funding from the ?.4. 5epartment of 3ducation (35) @ffice of Aocational and (dult 3ducation (@A(3) under .ontract =o. 350%%0.@0777B. )he opinions e*pressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of 35. )his document is in the public domain and may be reproduced without permission.