By Semadar Goldstein
“It’s not how smart you are, it’s how you are smart.” – Howard Gardner
In 1983, Howard Gardner presented a breakthrough educational theory that argued that intelligence is multi-faceted. Traditionally, a “smart” child was one with strong reading, writing and mathematical skills. Howard Gardner suggested otherwise. He outlined eight different intelligences and argued that everyone has these intelligences in different proportions. The intelligences are:
- Verbal-Linguistic— aptitude for words and language
- Logical-Mathematical—aptitude with numbers and patterns, along with a capacity for inductive and deductive reasoning, and, abstract thinking
- Visual-Spatial—ability to visualize objects and imagine shapes and pictures
- Bodily-Kinesthetic–Self-knowledge of the body and its abilities
- Musical –The ability to identify vocal and musical patterns and sounds, with a sensitivity to rhythms and beats
- Interpersonal –ability to relate and communicate on a person-to-person level
- Intrapersonal—capacity for self-reflection and awareness
- Natural – The ability to identify and categorize environmental elements
In recent years, there have been discussions about the existence of a ninth, and even a tenth, intelligence—the existential (spiritual) and digital intelligences. Howard Gardner maintains that the addition of further intelligences is not as critical as what we do with these various forms of intelligence. In other words, it is not important how many intelligences there are, rather, it is key to present content in ways that utilize a variety of skills and approaches that reflect different ways of learning.
This mini-site on MI introduces MI theory, and applies the theory to Judaic Studies education. It includes several Judaic Studies educational units based on MI theory.
Why Multiple Intelligences (MI)?
‘Tell me, I’ll forget. Show me, I’ll remember. Involve me, I’ll learn.’ – Anonymous
Lecturing (Linguistic Intelligence), and working with math problems (Logical-Mathematical) constitute the majority of classroom instruction. Yet, many students are uncomfortable with these instructional forms. In frontal lessons where the teacher lecture and the students take notes, the majority of students are either not listening, or if they are listening, they are not excited nor emotionally connected to the content presented. For the most part, students will not remember the content after their exams (if they remember it until the exam).
Think about a few of your students for a moment. Do they spend the majority of class:
- giggling with a friend
- shifting/rocking in a chair
- analyzing things you say
- humming or listening to an iPod
- all of the above
- listening and taking notes
Why is it so difficult for children to “sit and listen”? Because it is unnatural! Adults would also find that spending six to eight hours in the same building, sitting at an uncomfortable desk, listening and writing to be a tiresome and difficult task.
Within Judaic Studies, this challenge is even more pronounced. In the higher grades, Judaic Studies does not command the same attention as General Studies because of societal attitude, reduced impact on GPA, and college acceptance. Younger students, are often just bored and quickly lose interest. At best, students may memorize, and then forget. They may participate out of fear of bad grades or parental involvement.
For successful learning to occur, information presented during class has to be meaningful. We want our students to be passionate about what they are studying. We want them to invest their full mental and physical capacities into the subject, so that they internalize the content. Students need to be engaged, but how?
How can MI help?
MI Instruction provides motivation for students to do exactly what you want: learn. Let’s look back at the activities above and translate the ‘inappropriate’ behavior to the appropriate intelligence:
- Daydreaming? Intrapersonal.
- Doodling? Visual-Spatial.
- Giggling with a friend? Interpersonal.
- Chair shifting? Bodily-Kinesthetic.
- Analyzing/Argumentative? Logical-Mathematical.
- Humming/iPod? Musical.
- Actually listening and taking notes? Linguistic.
Students exhibit their intelligence/s through natural behavior in class. MI theory takes advantage of real classroom behavior—viewed as disruptive—by harnessing each student’s innate intelligences.
To implement MI, classroom instruction should be designed to tap into each student’s strength. According to Howard Gardner, the best way to do this is to have students solve problems and create products in a context-rich and naturalistic setting. Some examples that are used in general education include research labs, prop centers, and multimedia.
Challenges in the Classroom
Teaching with MI is not without its challenges. Below are some of main challenges that arise with teaching with MI and some possible solutions to the problems.
1) Time Constraints – Doesn’t teaching with MI take so much longer than teaching with standard methods? I have a curriculum to finish!
Teaching with MI can seemingly take much longer. But let’s take a closer look—and consider “cost benefit”: How long does it take to teach an instructional unit? And how familiar are the students with the material at the end? How quickly do they forget the material after the test?
- Look at the Big Picture: By teaching with MI, you may cover a lot of ground with each project. Instead of thinking in terms of content covered per class, think big! In some examples on this site, students will study and analyze two full chapters in Bible in four 50 minute sessions.
- Involved Participants: Each student will personally engage himself in a way he never has before, causing all the students to a) enjoy class b) connect emotionally to the material c) listen to their classmates present with greater attention than before.
2) Preparation Time – This seems like so much work! I don’t have time to incorporate MI in everything I teach, or even write an MI project every two weeks!
Writing any new curriculum takes time. If we agree that MI teaching is worthwhile, then prep time is a factor. Let’s make it easier:
- First time Commitment: Commit to one MI project a semester.
- Easier with time: After working with MI for a while, both teacher and student adjust to preparing and working efficiently. Because MI learning adapts students’ needs to the subject, I find that it actually takes less time to prepare!
- Mild MI: You don’t have to project teach all year. Teach with ‘Mild MI.’ Include one MI activity in your normally scheduled class. End the class by asking students to draw the subject they learned, play a game of charades or Pictionary. You’ll grab their attention and give the chair shifters and doodlers a time to shine in the classroom.
- Student resources: Once your students adjust to MI learning, they will come up with their own good ideas. The older they are, the more you can enlist their help. Be their group leader, and guide them to find resources and topics.
- Lesson sharing: Let’s upload our material to share with one another. There are loads of General Studies subject lesson plans available online. If every participating school contributed one Judaic Studies MI lesson to the site, we would have a lot covered in no time!
3) Student Effort – I’m afraid my students (or certain ones) won’t complete the project. Then they won’t have learned anything!
- Delineate responsibilities. Use rubrics, guidelines, responsibility graphs, or any other aids that help your students state their responsibilities and a timeline in which the work is expected to be completed. The ‘links’ page has outstanding rubric resources.
- Group Work: Students are reluctant to let down their friends. Set up groups to complete work.,
- Working Alone: If a student works alone, then you have more time to sit with him/her and find out exactly what this student likes to do. Ask him/her how they spend their free time. Think of a way to incorporate that hobby into a Judaic Studies MI project.
- Allow for Personal Responsibility. Ultimately, as in any classroom experience, the student must take responsibility for his own actions. Once you’ve taken the MI plunge, allow the student to wade until he discovers his stroke. Some kids take longer than others to adapt. But I have been more than pleasantly surprised by my students.
4) Being the Boss – I’m afraid of giving my students that much control over their curriculum. Aren’t I supposed to be the one deciding what they learn and how they learn it?
- Evaluate: As teachers, we are constantly evaluating what is good for our students. Do the old methods work? Do students relate to Judaic Studies lessons? Are the lessons meaningful to the students? MI learning answers these questions affirmatively.
- Learn the most: Are your students learning with the method you provide now? Are they thinking, analyzing, responding, feeling, solving? MI learning provides for interactive experiences. The only way to internalize subject matter is to care about it. That means letting go of total classroom control. Instead of acting like a ship captain, act like a group leader. Sharing classroom goals empowers your students, and encourages them to take control of their own learning and learning style.
- Respecting you and the subject matter: If you provide them with an opportunity to engage their minds in ways they enjoy, they will respect you more, not less. Taking control away causes rebellion and a feeling of loss of power and emotion. Granting control does the opposite: enhances cooperation, empowerment and emotion, which all lead to higher forms of learning.
In conclusion, the student in the MI classroom:
- Has fun learning Judaic Studies
- Discovers and develops own talents
- Displays increased independence and responsibility to learning
- Enjoys working with peers
- Is excited to learn Judaic subjects at home
- Improves cooperation skills with team work
- Applies Torah values to life outside the classroom
The teacher in the MI classroom:
- Discovers talent in students who previously rarely participated
- Sheps nachat from student MI presentations
- Learns from their creativity – “From all my teachers I have grown wise” – Ethics of the Fathers, 4:1
- Shares planning and responsibility with students
- Enjoys an improved relationship with students
This mini-site has many MI lesson plans to choose from. Look at them and choose one that is appropriate for your school and your students. Be flexible and allow students to express their own creativity while learning. Once students are allowed to flourish under MI learning, they will display remarkable qualities.
Armstrong, T. (1994). Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development,
Campbell, B. (1990). “The Research Results of a Multiple Intelligences Classroom” from the New Horizons for Learning website: http://www.newhorizons.org/strategies/mi/campbell2.htm. Accessed December 20, 2007.
Gardner, H. (1993). Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice. New York, New York: Basic Books.