“I hated school. I was never very good a book learning,” says about a dozen guys I know who can turn a pile of rust and spare parts into a seductively purring war machine.
“I barely graduated. I was just so glad to be done with the whole thing,” says several handfuls of women I’ve talked to who, with one glance at a bargain bin in a fabric store, can shame the runways of Paris.
I worked for a woman without a high school diploma who merely had to shake a notebook at the store safe to make the inventory match up with the deposit.
I watched a man without a GED fabricate an aluminum gizmo that solved centuries’ worth of fish processing needs in the time it took for me to eat a sandwich.
My own mother, who earned a GED months before I graduated from high school, is a brilliantly talented cook, seamstress, embroiderer, quilter, and creator of beaded jewelry. She could turn any of those talents into a lucrative enterprise but for a deeply entrenched lack of self-confidence caused by her troubles in school.
I think that most educators are aware that a high school or college diploma is no real indicator of a person’s intelligence and certainly no indicator of a person’s worth… Well, I hope so. What diplomas appear to indicate is a person’s ability to play the game. Which is not an un-useful talent in the working world but it isn’t an indicator of raw talent or ability.
My MAT program has turned me on to a particularly useful tool for empowering students and aiding teachers in pedagogical differentiation. In other words: It makes kids feel good about their abilities and helps teachers reinforce those good feelings by giving kids different ways to show that they know the material.
This tool is called Gardner’s Theory of MultipleIntelligences. It is somewhat controversial in that it is based on the rather “soft” science of behavioral psychology which has more to do with enculturation than how the brain operates. However, like astrology sometimes seems to… Okay, it’s a little more accurate than astrology… the Multiple Intelligences thing WORKS!!!
Gardner has put forth the idea that people express preferences for certain types of stimuli and expression. His original work included 7 categories:
· Verbal/linguistic- reading, writing, & speaking
· Logic/mathematical- numbers, patterns, & sequencing
· Visual/spatial- drawing, sculpting, building
· Kinesthetic- body, movement, athletics, dance
· Musical- listening, singing, playing music
· Interpersonal- engaging with people
· Intrapersonal- introspective, wise about one’s self, self-expression
Another category, Naturalism- orientation toward the natural world, has been added and another, Technological- orientation toward technology is sometimes included in the list.
This concept is a very handy way to make lessons more interesting and appealing to students who dread holding a pencil and despise reading.
In a study of about 50 7th-12th grade students I found that orientation toward Verbal/Linguistic types of learning and expression was, in general, the least often expressed as the dominant preference in individual students. And yet it is the dominant form of teaching and assessment in schools! Most interesting to me, when I averaged out all of the dominant forms of expression, they were almost equally distributed among all of the Intelligences, reinforcing the need to distribute teaching and activities among the different Intelligences.
As a teaching tool, Gardner’s theory is great, but the most important aspect to me is that it empowers students to believe inthemselves.
Imagine a student who struggles at reading and writing and, therefore, despises school. That student, perhaps a brilliant athlete, a talented artist, or a skilled outdoorsman, is simply biding her time before she can drop out and be rid of hated worksheets forever. She is suddenly handed the results to a quiz that shows her “Intelligence” for the things that she loves to be extremely high along with a list of activities that would play off her talents to allow her to succeed at the things at which she struggles.
Who is awesome now?
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that parents and teachers profile themselves and their students using the following websites. They are both designed for adults and older students but an upper elementary student may benefit from them with the help of a teacher or parent.