M ultiple intelligences and adult literacy 8 things you should know
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M ultiple Intelligences and Adult Literacy: 8 Things You Should Know. M Cecil Smith, Ph.D. Northern Illinois University. Let’s start with a quiz…. What do the following four things have in common?. The Loch Ness Monster. “Weapons of Mass Destruction”. Intelligent Design.

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M ultiple intelligences and adult literacy 8 things you should know

Multiple Intelligences and Adult Literacy: 8 Things You Should Know

M Cecil Smith, Ph.D.

Northern Illinois University

Let s start with a quiz
Let’s start with a quiz…

  • What do the following four things have in common?

Answer… Theory

There is

no evidence

to support any of


What are multiple intelligences
What are multiple intelligences? Theory

  • Howard Gardner (1984): Frames of Mind

  • 7 (now 8) intelligences

    • Linguistic (using language)

    • Logical-mathematical (calculate, quantify)

    • Kinesthetic (manipulate objects; physical skills)

    • Musical (sensitivity to pitch, melody, rhythm, & tone)

    • Spatial (think in 3-dimensional space)

    • Interpersonal (understand, interact effectively with others)

    • Intrapersonal (accurately perceive oneself)

    • Naturalistic (observe & classify patterns in nature)

Mi claims
MI Claims: Theory

  • Intelligence is “the biopsychological potential to solve problems or create products that are valued within one or more cultural settings”

  • Each intelligence has its own observable, measurable abilities

  • Every person has a unique profile of intelligences manifested as different areas of strength

  • A new way of thinking about intelligence

Mi and schooling
MI and schooling: Theory

  • According to proponents, MI-based instruction can have positive effects on K-12 students:

    • More self-directed and confident

    • Fewer disciplinary problems

    • Higher achievement

    • More parental involvement

    • Positive affective changes

Mi and adult education
MI and Adult Education Theory

  • Proclaimed benefits of MI:

    • Reduce teacher-directedness

    • Increase student choice, control, and participation

    • Expand type and range of instructional strategies

    • Personalize instruction

    • Make learning more authentic, relevant, meaningful

    • Students self-assess

The first thing you need to know
The intelligences?first thing you need to know…

  • MI is not a theory of education or of teaching

    • Multiple intelligences, as a psychological theory, is an account of individual differences in intellectual functioning

    • MI theory does not describe or prescribe how to organize curriculum, design instruction, or assess learners

The second thing you need to know
The intelligences?second thing you need to know…

  • Gardner and others claim that multiple intelligences are not learning styles!

    • the characteristic ways in which a person concentrates on, processes, internalizes, and remembers information

  • Other experts argue that multiple intelligences are, in fact, learning—or, more accurately, cognitive—styles

  • Most likely, these intelligences simply refer to a variety of talents that individuals may possess

The third thing you need to know
The intelligences?third thing you need to know…

  • MI needs better evidence to advance good instructional practice

    • Some evidence has been reported in regards to learning in K-6 classrooms (less so in secondary classrooms)

      • Few studies exist

      • Few or no comparison groups

      • Teacher reports rather than standardized measures

The fourth thing you need to know
The intelligences?fourth thing you need to know…

  • There are different types of evidence

    • Worst: Anecdotes, testimonials

    • Case studies (description)

      • What do MI classrooms look like? How do Ss respond to MI instruction?

    • Correlation studies

      • What is the statistical relationship between levels of MI curriculum implementation and students’ achievement?

    • Quasi-experiments

      • MI class vs. standard instruction class

    • Best: True randomized trials

      • Are there statistically significant differences between experimental (MI) group and control (standard instruction) group in regards to reading achievement?

The fifth thing you need to know
The intelligences?fifth thing you need to know…

  • What evidence exists to support MI in adult education classroom --

    • None available in the research literature!

    • Database search:

      • “MI”  PsycInfo: n = 87 (1984-2006)

      • “MI”  ERIC: n = 999 (1984-2006)

      • “MI” + “adult education”  ERIC : n = 30

        No studies in the education literature report

        outcome data for adult students after MI

        curriculum is introduced

And wishing doesn t make it so
…and wishing doesn’t make it so! intelligences?

  • “MI theory seemed to cause improvements…”

  • “I believe that MI skills will make it easier for my adult students to learn English…”

  • “My observations of my students suggested that…”

The sixth thing you need to know
The intelligences?sixth thing you need to know…

  • Teaching that emphasizes logical-mathematical, kinesthetic, musical, spatial, inter- or intrapersonal, or naturalistic intelligence is unlikely to help adults learn to read

  • Teaching that emphasizes linguisticintelligencemight help adults learn to read

The seventh thing you need to know
The intelligences?seventh thing you need to know…

  • MI theory is often used inappropriately in practice

    • This is not surprising, as there are few guidelines about how to appropriately implement an MI curriculum in the classroom

    • But there are many ideas for classroom activities (most are pretty dumb)

  • Teaching an MI curriculum in a valid manner requires teaching to students’ particular intellectual strengths, not teaching every intelligence for every student

The eighth thing you need to know
The intelligences?eighth thing you need to know…

  • It is possible to gather evidence on MI effectiveness in ABE classrooms!

    • How to do it:

      • Assess multiple intelligences or learning style preferences using reliable, valid measures

      • Match students if you cannot randomly assign to instructional groups

      • Observe and assess frequently

      • Maintain treatment fidelity

      • Measure learning outcomes, such as reading ability, using reliable and valid measures (e.g., standardized tests)

In sum
In sum… intelligences?

  • Be cautious about using instructional methods based on theories that have little or no empirical support

  • When implementing new methods in your classroom, structure the class and gather valid data so that you can determine if these methods “work”