When Harvard professor Howard Gardner introduced his “Theory of Multiple Intelligences” in 1983, many teachers found his ideas intriguing. In this theory, the traditional notion of intelligence, or I.Q., was expanded to embrace eight different ways in which human intelligence could be expressed.
According to Gardner’s theory, each person had their own unique combination of strengths in each of these intelligences: Linguistic (reading, writing, speaking), Logical-Mathematical (reasoning, calculating), Spatial (drawing, 3-D modeling, visioning), Bodily-kinesthetic (moving, acting, hands-on learning), Musical (sound, rhythm), Interpersonal (interacting with others), Intrapersonal (introspective, independent), and Naturalist (interacting with the outdoors/nature).
With Common Core State Standards emphasizing “rigorous thinking skills” rather than simple content and memorization skills, Oxford Preparatory Academy in Chino has embraced Gardner’s theory. Multiple Intelligences is a school-wide philosophy and all of the school’s teachers have had intense training in using M.I. strategies.
As teachers began utilizing this theory, several benefits became evident. Students were more engaged and motivated when lessons were geared to their strengths. Retention of the subject matter and student confidence increased. Moreover, students were learning to apply a variety of thinking skills when problem solving.
It is easy to see how the use of multiple intelligences can increase student engagement and retention of subject matter when looking at a list of a few lessons used at Oxford Preparatory Academy during the past school year:
Designing, testing, and revising marshmallow catapults to understand how levers offer a mechanical advantage (7th grade);
Creating a product for “sale” at a marketplace and making correct change for customers (2nd grade);
Learning social studies and geometry skills by creating a “mini-city” using recyclable items (Kindergarten);
Running relay races to understand or practice many concepts, including sight words, energy transfer in a food web, and to review for a test (multiple grade levels); and
Using sidewalk chalk on the playground to play “Integer Battleship,” practice long division, create a periodic table, or draw a habitat (multiple grade levels).
It doesn’t just stop with the children; OPA utilizes M.I. in order to reach out to parents through their “Parent Collegiate Nights”. These workshops share key information and up-to-date research with the parent community. Oxford’s M.I. curriculum is uniquely effective because it broadens the range of available strategies beyond the conventional Linguistic and Logical/Mathematical methods and provides diverse strategies to support the entire spectrum of learning styles.
Nancy Taylor, Retired Classroom Teacher