Friday, April 07, 2006

Multiple intelligences: what teachers can do to help children find theirs

Multiple intelligences: 'lifelong garments woven on the loom of youth'


Robert L. Fielding

Intelligence is, they say, a matter of reaching sensible conclusions on the basis of incomplete evidence, but intelligence is surely also a matter of creating. This creating may take the form of drawing a picture, writing a poem or story, writing a song – anything in fact that involves at least one of the multiple intelligences posited by Dr. Gardner, and many others since.

These intelligences may well have been ‘woven on the loom of youth’ – encouraged by caring parents and insightful teachers, but they may equally well have been ‘woven in the womb’ that is to say that some may be more akin to innate characteristics than learned ones. I suppose it depends on whether you subscribe to the ‘nature’/’nurture’ view of the origins of personality traits and abilities.

Let us here adopt both positions and say that those talents that are God-given should be encouraged and added to, and those that a person has developed since childhood, possibly the products of such encouragement, should be further nurtured until they blossom and bear fruit.

Education is surely about both of these activities – encouraging what is innate and bringing on what can be learned. It is about something else too – it is about helping a learner to search and find new potential intelligences.

At school, I hated Art classes, mostly because of the teacher who sat at the front of the class and only seemed to actively encourage those pupils who showed some aptitude for art or willingness to improve. I mustn’t have shown either and so I was both ignored and ostracized, which shows a terrible failing in any teacher – only teaching those who he thinks he can teach.

However, who can truthfully say that they never concentrate on the better, more attentive students in class? Human nature militates against it being any other way, but most teachers are aware of their failings and try to be fair in their attention to everyone in their classrooms.

I think we must go farther than merely being fair with our time – we must create classrooms in which the young can explore in directions of their own choosing rather than only in directions that we teachers lay down paths to. It is in the laying down of directions, and discouraging others or at least not encouraging others to be followed that we do the most damage to the discovery of students’ potential multiple intelligences.


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