Intelligences - a brief introduction
In 1983, Howard Gardner, the creator
of the Multiple Intelligences (MI) Theory, suggested that all individuals
have personal intelligence profiles that consist of combinations of
seven different intelligence types (Gardner 1983). Such profiles differ
to various degrees from person to person, and it is probably rare for
anyone to have only one predominating intelligence type. To identify
one's own intelligence profile, or those of one's students, one can
use for example multiple intelligences checklists of the type presented
in Berman (1998) and Mckenzie (1999b).
Gardner's original list contained verbal-linguistic,
mathematical-logical, visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical-rhythmic,
interpersonal, and intrapersonal intelligence types, and in 1997 he
added an eighth intelligence type to the list, that of naturalist intelligence.
Two years later he introduced a ninth type, that of existentialist intelligence,
and at the same time discussed the possibilities of two or three additional
ones (Gardner 1999).
intelligences and ELT
Michael Berman was, to the best of my
knowledge, the first to apply Gardner's MI theory to ELT. In his book
A Multiple Intelligences Road to an ELT Classroom (1998), Berman provides
an outline of the theory and devotes one chapter to each intelligence
to illustrate the variety of exercises/activities/tasks that can be
used during EFL lessons to cater for that intelligence type in practice.
In a subsequent book entitled ELT through Multiple Intelligences (2001),
advertised in the introduction as a resource book to accompany the first
one, Berman elaborates the topic further, providing EFL teachers with
a new selection of stimulating and challenging exercises aimed at the
various intelligence types.
In both books, Berman emphasises the
importance for teachers of catering for the various student intelligence
profiles that exist in a particular learning environment. Yet the existence
of different intelligence profiles does not automatically mean that
teachers have to prepare individual lesson plans for every student in
the class. In fact, many language exercises can cater for several intelligence
types at the same time, as the following example from Redman and Ellis
(1990) illustrates. In a three-step activity on the topic "Man
and Nature", students are first required to identify the eight
animals in a picture, using dictionaries if necessary. They are then
required to work in pairs and decide (a) which of the sixteen adjectives
in a box they normally associate with each of the eight animals and
(b) whether there are words in the box that cannot be used when describing
an animal. Next, the students are required to work in groups and decide
which of the animals they would most like to preserve (and why), assuming
that the animals were all endangered species. The students thus use
their visual-spatial intelligence to identify the animals, their verbal-liinguistic
intelligence to describe the animals, their intrapersonal intelligence
to work in pairs and groups, and their naturalist intelligence to classify
Teachers who want to concentrate on
one or several specific intelligence types can therefore easily find
exercises that cater for the intelligence type(s) in focus. Not all
teachers, however, are eclectic in the sense that they select their
texts and exercises from various sources and make adaptations whenever
needed. Many teachers prefer to select one coursebook as the basis for
a language course and systematically take their students through the
book from beginning to end. The question is: can these teachers be certain
that the selected coursebook contains a sufficient number of exercises
for the wanted intelligence types?
analysis of an EFL coursebook
In the autumn of 2000, a group of student
teachers who participated in a EFL methodology course at the Department
of Teacher Education at Abo Akademi University in Vaasa, Finland, conducted
an analysis of a current coursebook in order to determine its intelligences
profile. Or, to put it differently, they wanted to find out the proportional
distribution of exercises that catered for each of the nine intelligence
types in that particular coursebook, and, at the same time, to identify
some of the problems involved in such an analysis.
The student teachers first agreed among
themselves on what constitute typical exercises for predominantly verbal-linguistic
learners (who enjoy expressing themselves orally and in writing and
who love wordplay, riddles and listening to stories), for mathematical-logical
learners (who display an aptitude for numbers, reasoning and problem
solving), for visual-spatial learners (who tend to think in pictures
and mental images and who enjoy charts, graphs, maps, tables and illustrations),
for bodily-kinesthetic learners (who experience learning best through
various kinds of movement), for musical-rhythmic learners, (who learn
best through songs, patterns, rhythms and musical expression), for intrapersonal
learners, (who like to interact with others and learn best in groups
or with a partner), for naturalist learners (who love the outdoors and
enjoy classifying and categorising activities), and, finally, for existentialist
learners (who are concerned with philosophical issues such as the status
of mankind in relation to universal existence) (Gardner 1983, 1993,
1999, Berman 1998, Mckenzie 1999a).
Next, the student teachers set out to
categorise the exercises in Bricks 1, which, for the time being, is
one of the most commonly used coursebooks at the lower level of the
Swedish-speaking comprehensive school in Finland. This coursebook comprises
a total of 31 texts interspersed with grammar sections and about 300
exercises. The first eight parts each end with 1-3 pages long "Have
Fun" sections (which, however, were excluded from the analysis
as they were not considered part of the coursework syllabus proper).
At the end of the coursebook there are two alphabetical wordlists (English-Swedish
and Swedish-English), a glossary comprising separate wordlists for each
text, a map of the British Isles, and an overview of grammar structures
(Lindroth et al. 1994).
The results of the categorisation of
exercises were as follows: 97% of the 300 exercises catered for verbal-linguistic
learners , 76% for intrapersonal learners, 25% for interpersonal learners,
5% for bodily-kinesthetic learners, 8% for mathematical-logical learners,
5% for bodily-kinesthetic learners, 3% for naturalist learners, and
2% for musical-rhythmic learners. No exercises were found that catered
for existentialist learners (in a language-learning context exercises
of this type would be for example those requiring students to solve
specific problems as a whole by working with specific parts).
According to the student teachers there
was minor disagreement between group members regarding the categorisation
of some of the exercises, and the above figures should therefore be
seen as tentative rather than conclusive. The student teachers reported
that the two main problems involved decisions as to what intelligence
type (s) certain exercises catered for predominantly and interpretations
as to what the instructions of certain exercises actually required students
to do and what was left for the teacher to decide. They therefore decided
to restrict the number of intelligence types for each exercise to the
most obvious ones (i.e. the intelligence types that a majority of group
members could agree on) and to be as strict as possible when interpreting
the instructions of each. However, a somewhat differing procedure was
adopted for interpersonal and intrapersonal exercises. An exercise that
explicitly stated that it was intended for pair or group work was categorised
as catering for interpersonal intelligence, whereas an exercise such
as "Make a list of what you like and don't like. Then work in pairs."
Was categorised as catering for both intralingual and interlingual intelligence.
The remaining exercises were all categorised as catering for intrapersonal
intelligence by default.
The intelligence profile for Bricks
would thus stand out as predominantly verbal-linguistic and intrapersonal,
with fairly low percentages for the remaining intelligence types. The
fact that the coursebookis predominantly verbal-linguistic and intrapersonal
should come as no surprise bearing in mind the fact that Bricks is a
language coursebook (one might perhaps have expected 100% for this intelligence
type). What is more surprising is the large number of exercises aimed
at intrapersonal learners considering for example the general objectives
of foreign language teaching set for the Finnish comprehensive school
(it must be remembered, however, that the high proportion on intrapersonal
exercises can be explained at least partially by the categorisation
procedure adopted for the analysis). The first objective listed by the
National Board of Education in the Framework Curriculum for the lower
level of the comprehensive school requires the student to "get
along in everyday life using the language orally", which can be
difficult to fulfil through extensive work.
There is, of course, nothing to prevent
teachers from asking their students to work orally in pairs even if
the instructions require students to fill in blanks individually. Nor
is there any way of knowing to what extent coursebook writers deliberately
want to give teachers an opportunity to interpret and use (at least
part of the) coursebook exercises in whatever way they find appropriate
for their particular teaching situation. In fact it is most likely that
teachers who use a particular coursebook will be affected by exercises
that appeal to them personally and their judgement of what they find
useful for their students. Therefore, in order to better fulfil the
general teaching objectives set for the proficiency level in question
but also to cater both for their own and their students' preferred learning
styles, teachers will from time to time, whether intuitively or not,
omit some exercises and change or supplement others, for example by
asking their students to do translation tasks orally instead of in writing
or to do individual tasks in pairs. Unfortunately this kind of adaptation
of coursebook exercises in order to obtain optimum learning benefit
is a point on which many coursebooks fail to provide guidance (Ur 1996).
It seems plausible to assume that the
intelligence profiles of individual coursebooks reflect to a fairly
large extent the personal intelligence profile (s) of the writer (s)
of the coursebook, whether intentional or not. Similarly, it seems equally
plausible to assume that teachers too have a tendency to identify and
recognise more easily those exercises that appeal to them the most,
in the same way as they tend to teach in accordance with their own preferred
Therefore, whether or not teachers elect
to base their courses on specific coursebooks or reserve the right to
interpret, select and use the types of exercises that can cater for
(or be designed to cater for) the intelligence profiles of their particular
learner group, they must be able to assess how well the intelligence
profile of the selected coursebook coincides with the majority of intelligence
profiles found for that learner group. This means that in order to be
able to recognise good coursebooks that can fulfil the general teaching
objectives of a particular teaching unit, they must know what the main
criteria for coursebook assessment are. Such criteria may be general,
i.e. applicable to the appropriateness of the book for a specific language
course or learner population (Cunningsworth 1984, Ur 1996). Only by
recognising the fact that students are different and learn differently
can teachers fully encourage them to try harder and at the same time
make the learning environment as meaningful and enjoyable as possible
for all parties.
This is a revised version of a paper
published by M Gill, A.W. Johnson, M.L. Koski, R.D. Sell, B Warvik (eds)
: Language, Learning, Literature Studies, presented to Hakan Ringbom.Turku
2001 English Dept Publications 4, Abo Akademi University.
Berman, Michael. 1998. A Multiple Intelligences
Road to an ELT Classroom, Carmarthen: Crown House Publishing
Berman, Michael. 2001. ELT Through Multiple
Intelligences. London: NetLearn Publications.
Cunningsworth, Alan. 1984. Evaluating
and Selecting EFL Teaching Materials. London: Heinemann Educational
Framework Curriculum for the Comprehensive
School 1994. Helsinki: National Board of Education.
Gardner, Howard. 1983. Frames of mind.
The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: Basic Books.
Gardner, Howard. 1999. Intelligence
Reframed. Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century. New York: Basic
Lindroth, Harriet, Glasgow, Carita,
Langstrom, Christa and Olin, Niklas. 1994. Bricks 1. Text- och ovningsbok.
Engelska for lagstadiet. Borga: Soderstroms.
McKenzie, Walter. 1999b. Multiple Intelligences
Survey. Retrieved November 15, 2000, from the World Wide Web: http://surfaquarium.com/Miinvent.htm.
Redman, Stuart and Ellis, Robert. 1990.
A Way with Words. Vocabulary Development Activies for Learners of English.
Book 2. Cambridge: CUP.
Ur, Penny. 1996. A Course in Language
Teaching. Practice and Theory. Cambridge: CUP.