A forum for discussing what's working -- and what isn't -- in standards and assessments.

Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligence

ElemMusicTeach Elementary Music Teacher, PEI, Canada

Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligence supports the common sense notion that all people are different. Therefore all students are different with different strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately Gardner’s theory suggests that we are almost ‘wired’ differently and are predetermined to be stronger in certain areas over others. This is not to say we are destined to all be musicians if we are more apt with respect to musical intelligence, or that we are destined to be mathematicians if our logical-mathematical intelligence is stronger. It simply states that some people with operate easier in these different areas.
How does this affect our assessment practices in education? Traditional standardised testing seems to favour those students who have strong verbal-linguistic and logical-mathematical tendencies, with perhaps some visual-spatial tendencies as well. However, those students who have strong musical intelligence, or bodily-kinesthetic may not perform well on these tests. Are they not as intelligent as those who are able to score higher?

Informal assessment methods serve to counter balance the weight of standardised tests. Informal assessment is just that – informal. The teacher has complete control and is able to shape the assessment to cover wide ranges of skills. The teacher is able to consciously assess students in the different intelligences.
Informal assessment allows the teacher the flexibility to see and observe students excelling in their own way. Not only does this have benefit from a student focused perspective, but also from a teacher focused perspective. Teachers may learn to see students in a different light – perhaps that student that is struggling so much in math class is excelling on the football field. Or perhaps the student struggling in English class is very advanced in music. Suddenly the teacher sees the student as a competent, intelligent, human being.

Almeida et al. (2010) sum up this idea: “Gardner considers the assessment of intelligence as a procedure which should be understood as a part of the teaching and learning process. Cognitive competency is assessed in a natural way at the appropriate moment. Thus abilities are assessed in the classroom as students learn the curriculum. Thus, the materials used in the assessment are intrinsically interesting, in contrast with traditional intelligence tests which usually include abstract items that few children are enthusiastic about. According to Gardner, cognitive assessment should happen in enthusiastic contexts where children solve problems and accomplish projects to obtain the best performance.”

References:
Almeida, L. S., Prieto, M. D., Ferreira, A.I., Bermejo, M. R., Ferrando, M., Ferrándiz, C. (2010). Intelligence assessment: Gardner multiple intelligence theory as an alternative. Learning and individual differences. 20(3). 225 – 230.

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