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Adjusting Instruction For Student Intelligences

February 20, 2010

As a teacher you must adjust instruction to take into account the range of student personality and emotion.  Howard Gardner states, “The purpose of school should be to develop intelligences and to help people reach vocational and avocational goals that are appropriate to their particular spectrum of intelligences.” (Gardner, 1993)  That said, is it realistic for one teacher to accommodate all the different intelligences that are represented in a classroom population?  For one teacher alone, this is a challenging task.  However, adjusting instruction to accommodate student learning strengths, including parents and school administration, could be a real recipe for success.

Educating a classroom with multiple personalities is a challenge.  Teachers need to adjust any practices that only favor one intelligence or another.  Education is not a “one size fits all” approach.  Keeping in mind Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory, teachers should incorporate verbal, logical, spatial, bodily and musical teaching practices into classroom curriculum.  For example, language arts can be taught using verbal, spatial and bodily theories.  Students can speak, write, or illustrate their expression of ideas.  They can use their body to demonstrate emotion and physical descriptions or act out an idea in a dramatic exercise.  Social studies and math can incorporate these theories too.  Incorporating multiple learning styles into classroom instruction will better teach to students learning strengths.  The outcome will be a more engaged, active learner. 

Carl Rogers believes, “…all human beings have a natural propensity to learn; the role of the teacher is to facilitate such learning. This includes: (1) setting a positive climate for learning, (2) clarifying the purposes of the learner(s), (3) organizing and making available learning resources, (4) balancing intellectual and emotional components of learning, and (5) sharing feelings and thoughts with learners but not dominating.” (Kearsley, 2010)  Incorporating multiple intelligences into teaching practices allows a teacher to facilitate learning to students strengths.  It need not be a dozen different lessons, just incorporating within one lesson several avenues of exploration of the same idea.

This is where parents and administrators can be powerful allies.  Teachers can emphasize, to both groups, that not all students learn the same way.  Yes, we can ask them to stretch and maybe acquire new strength but the best learning occurs within a child’s “comfort zone.”  For example, teachers can invite parents and administrators to come to an evening presentation where they will review the multiple intelligences and how the teacher will incorporate the various learning strategies over the school year.  However, teachers can also ask parents to volunteer in the classroom to help support the multiple teaching strategies that they will be practicing on a regular basis.  Without parent and administrative support, the practice of teaching to each child’s personality strength will be an up-hill battle.

Works Cited

Gardner, H. (1993). Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice. New York: Basic Books.

Kearsley, G. (2010). Experiencial Learning (C.Rogers). Retrieved February 20, 2010, from TIP:Theories: http://tip.psychology.org/rogers/html

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