Term Paper: Multiple Intelligence Approach to the Study of People of Colonial America

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Multiple Intelligence Approach to the Study of People of Colonial America

Many elementary schoolchildren in the United States lack a fundamental understanding of how this nation was created, and what forces were at play during its founding (Davies, 2001). Furthermore, the increasingly diverse nature of the sociocultural composition of the nation's schools, together with additional focus on other cultures, has largely been at the expense of classwork concerning the cultural origins of the United States. Complicating the picture even further is the need to identify effective classroom instruction styles that can meet the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act while also addressing these key challenges. The multiple intelligence theory provided by Gardner (1983) suggests that children employ a variety of intelligences in learning situations; he originally proposed that children learn through seven intelligences which are discussed further below. The following review of the relevant literature provides an overview of the issues involved, a description of the Multiple Intelligence Approach, and how this technique can be applied to curricula designed to improve students' understanding of the people of Colonial America in general, with an emphasis on using these techniques in a third-grade classroom in particular.

Review of the Relevant Literature

Background and Overview.

Despite the increasing need for a more educated citizenry concerning the roots of their history and what their responsibilities as citizens are in a modern society, many elementary school students are not receiving an adequate education in the social studies. In fact, there remains a lack of consensus about which teaching technique provides superior results in the elementary classroom today.

According to Haas and Laughlin (2001), teachers employ a wide range of instructional approaches that largely depend upon their goals and the topic being studied. "The teachers reported using a variety of strategies in their teaching," the authors note. "The majority of the sample (65%) still taught in self-contained classrooms, and 47% reported teaching social studies as a stand-alone subject" (p. 122). When teachers were asked how frequently they used textbooks, media, and computers, 81% reported using maps/globes/satellite images at least once each week with 67% indicating use of these geographic tools several times a week; fully 90% indicated using a textbook for instruction, 45% said they used the book no more than once per week and 8% used no textbook (Haas & Laughlin, 2001).

Media resources were used in 67% of the elementary classrooms surveyed; however, the teachers reported using film or video less than one time per week. In addition, less than 25% of the respondents used the available computers at least once a week, with many teachers reporting that the software programs available at the time of the survey did not correspond to the needs of their curriculum study units. Furthermore, a number of teachers listed several teaching resources that they use frequently, and a total of 50 different resources were identified (see the results of the survey in Table 1 below) (Haas & Laughlin, 2001).

A wide variety of written materials were the most frequently used of the teaching resources selected, while the use of pictures and other graphics was reported somewhat less frequently. The surveyed elementary school teachers also reported that the skills required to interpret various forms of visual information were regarded as being important when working with computer and Internet sources of information. "Geographic tools, specifically atlases and globes, likewise require additional skills for gathering and interpreting data and were among the more frequently used teaching resources. Resources involving human interactions - such as guest speakers, interviews, living experiences, role playing, and personal experience - were used much less frequently" (Haas & Laughlin, 2001, p. 122).

Table 1. Instructional Resources Typically Used in an Elementary School Social Studies Classroom.

Instructional Resource Responses

Atlas or maps 37

Trade books (literature) 34

Video, library/media center, news & film strips 33

Computers and internet 21

Textbooks 22

Magazines and newspapers 15

Simulations 11

Reference books 9

Teacher created materials 7

Cultural artifacts 5

Charts or posters 5

Primary documents 5

Globes 4

Hands on projects (varied) 3

Source: Haas & Laughlin, 2001, p. 122.

Taken together, these instructional resources represent an opportunity rather than a constraint if they are applied in a more effective manner; the studies to date suggest that the multiple intelligences approach to classroom instruction provides just such a method, and these concepts are discussed further below.

Multiple Intelligence Approach.

This alternative approach to the conception of intelligence was original proposed by Gardner (1983, 1991). By using the multiple intelligence approach to teaching (Gardner, 1991), classroom teachers can identify and facilitate their students' multiple talents in a variety of intellectual areas. "Instead of simply imparting knowledge," though, "it is important for teachers to teach children how to think, so that children can learn to make use of information" (Rodd, 1999, p. 351). Indeed, in the Age of Information, helping young learners sort through the deluge of information and make sense of what is important and relevant has assumed a high degree of importance today. According to Gardner (1999), "It is important for students to understand, the achievement of understanding is challenging, and there are a variety of means that might aid students. A generic approach would seem justifiable, since it is reasonable to approach a problem in terms of its fundamental constituents" (p. 166).

The multiple intelligence approach is a combination of a product- and process-oriented view (Bialystok, 2001). This author reports that the multiple intelligence approach divides intelligence into seven domains that are relatively independent; these domains are based on a distinct set of processing operations that is implicated in each. As a result, each module can be circumscribed and quantified, but at least some of the criteria for determining the modules are the mental processes that accompanying each; the seven domains are described as being "culturally meaningful activities," are:

1. Linguistic. This is the ability to use words correctly and comfortably, either orally or in writing, and to express meaning;

2. Logico-mathematical. This component is the ability to use numbers correctly and effectively; to think inductively or deductively; to categorize, classify, and to generalize;

3. Musical. This is the ability to understand and use musical concepts in a perceptive or technical sense, and to develop an appreciation for music;

4. Spatial. This is the ability to understand, interpret, and model the visual world; e.g., to represent spatial information effectively;

5. Bodily/kinesthetic. This component refers to the ability of students to use physical means to represent their ideas and feelings;

6. Interpersonal. This term refers to the ability of students to relate to and understand other people, and to possess good social and leadership skills;

7. Intrapersonal. Finally, this components is comprised of the ability of the student to use self-understanding and self-knowledge; to monitor the self; to be self-disciplined (Bialystok, 2001, p. 186; Adams, 2000, p. 86).

Providing a comprehensive curriculum that satisfies all of these dimensions may appear to be a daunting endeavor, but Adams emphasizes that students will frequently have strength in one or more intelligences, which will provide a springboards for additional learning and will result in improved cognitive ability. According to this author, "Each child may use a variety of these intelligences to learn mathematics concepts and skills, not just the logical-mathematical. The activity and lesson ideas presented in this article represent experiences from which all children can benefit, regardless of the intelligences they most favor" (p. 86). Consequently, elementary school teachers should not feel pressured to attempt to categorize students by intelligence, but only to provide for them a multitude of learning opportunities (Adams, 2000, p. 86). According to Rodd (1999), "By using the multiple intelligence approach to teaching, teachers can identify and foster pupils' multiple talents in a variety of intellectual areas. Instead of simply imparting knowledge, it is important for teachers to teach children how to think, so that children can learn to make use of information" (p. 351). An application of these components to the instruction of Colonial American history lessons is provided below.

Application of the Multiple Intelligence Approach.

1. Linguistic. While the manner in which people in the West think may not have changed in substantive ways in the past few hundred years, their speech certainly has, and in fundamental ways. According to Brooks, during the colonial period, "America as a geographical as well as a political construct began to represent itself in terms of an appropriate/appropriated language" (p. 233). The colonists even sought to encourage the development of an "American" version of English, quite distinct from that of the English themselves, in order to foster a sense of separation and independence. "Without a language difference," Brooks advises, "Americans would not have to force English to 'bear the burden' of lexically constructing a new political identity. Instead, they would force the English ideologists to bear the burden of their own vulnerable analogizing. Eventually various words that the English used to describe their control of their colonies would be semantically undermined or debunked of their utility completely" (p.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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