Friday, May 8, 2015

What does Howard Gardner have to say about learning engagement?

Recently I spoke to my education preservice students about Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences. The course focuses on assisting primary (elementary) school pupils with learning difficulties. Multiple Intelligences (MI) is a a very useful teaching tool when applied to differentiating the curriculum for children with diverse and additional needs. It is also a useful tool to foster motivation for those who appear to be unmotivated or hard to teach. The reason that I use the word appear is that in reality all people are motivated. The problem is that in some classrooms many children are motivated to avoid rather than engage with the content of the curriculum.

Howard Gardner
My students watched a short video clip of Howard Gardner sharing some of his ideas. They had heard about MI in other courses and were interested in seeing and hearing from the person behind this idea. What then does Howard Gardner have to say about some issues related to motivation and learning engagement?

Learners need to be actively engaged in different ways to explore important ideas and concepts. MI was developed to show how individual children learn in different ways. Gardner said that they should not be expected to merely memorise factual materials or to learn information in uniform ways. However, instruction that seeks to vary the form and mode of presentation and expression will be more likely to foster children's interests and motivation. Interested children are more likely to become active learners and apply what they are learning in meaningful ways.

We are living in an age in which we have instant access to enormous amounts of information on the internet. It has become more important to know how to connect with this information, create new understandings and develop meaningful ways of transferring ideas to novel situations. Teachers will facilitate a more enduring and deeper knowledge for the learner by enabling them to efficiently engage with this information.

Gardner suggested that assessment should be about setting learning goals and providing appropriate feedback to learners. He asserted that assessment should be something whereby learners themselves are the most active agents. For example, self-assessment should be an integral element of any assessment process.

The te@chthought blog gives four useful strategies to consider when teaching unresponsive students. One of the four strategies uses MI to provide an effective framework to diversify and differentiate instruction for all students including those that are hard to teach.

I suggest to my students that they use MI to do a self-assessment.  In my experience teachers are inclined to teach from the perspective of their own MI. It is important for the teacher to be aware of this so that instruction can be targeted across all MIs. Being mindful of the range of interests and orientations within the classroom will help develop a balanced approach to accessing, presenting and expressing content and learning experiences within the classroom.