Arts-Based Learning With Multiple Intelligences Term Paper

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Students are complex creatures, volatile, complicated and paradoxical. No two students learn alike, and no two students are the product of the same biological and cognitive processing mechanisms. In modern society, educators have taken the standpoint that students should be taught utilizing one method, a verbal learning approach. In the traditional sense, this warrants one teacher standing in front of a large classroom of students, lecturing about a particular subject matter.

This method of teaching defies reason. Students are not simply verbal learning mechanisms. Many students learn visually. In fact, in a society as visually programmed as that in which we live today, the most logical method of instruction should revolve around visual learning methods, not simply verbal. In a traditional classroom setting, students are not provided an arena to experience a democratic way of learning. The use of arts and visually oriented learning methodologies to pass on knowledge has begun to disappear. The use of visual learning mechanisms, such as dance, movement, drama and music are extraordinarily important. Such methods require students to actively engage all of their senses, not simply their verbal skills.

Dance, drama and music are but a few examples of teaching tools that engage a student's sense of sound, touch, feeling and emotion. Intelligence can't simply be measured by assessing the ability of students to produce written material. Many students are in fact, spatially oriented. An engineer for example, is much more likely to create a "picture" in his/her mind of a project to be completed, rather than write a book about the structure. Education is not a product to swallow without reflection and struggle, nor is it information to pour into an awaiting but empty brain.

For this project, I have chosen to use a narrative/qualitative assessment of student's learning capabilities and the potential for arts-based education in teaching. This conforms to my proposed argument that students learn in many different ways, and thus in turn should be assessed in many different manners. A traditional research proposal would require that quantifiable results be obtained.

Quantitative results conform to society's standards and requirements that skills be measured "scientifically" with reproducible results. However, my goal in performing this project is to prove that by actively engaging the arts in the learning process, students are learning more comprehensively and efficiently. It only makes sense to measure the effectiveness of arts-based training methodology by using a non-traditional measuring tool.

Also essential to the success of this project will be the use of videotaping to measure results. One justification for using video monitoring equipment is as follows: Arts-based education requires visual assessment of a student's successful completion of a task. For example, to measure "dance, movement, and music" ability, it is necessarily essential to engage the visual senses. One can certainly quantify the successful completion of project or course objective for a dance student by measuring foot placement, angles, timing etc. However, a more effective method to measure a dancer is to visually assess the fluidity and composition of a performance.

In music, the same idea is true. To successfully measure a successful composition, it is not enough to measure meter and tone with scientific instruments. A teacher must actively engage the sense of sound in order to judge the effectiveness of composition. By videotaping students, I will be able to replay over and over a student's performance, and adequately address the visual and qualitative impact of the performance.

When children engage in dancing, they address the physical, emotional, social and aesthetic developmental stages. Movement provides a hands-on learning approach critical to the development of children's intellect. Learners will be able to successfully address many different learning styles and intelligence factors by incorporating the arts, not simply verbal and written methods.

Videotaping students will also allow them to critically evaluate their performances. They effectively can chart their own development and self-evaluate their performances, making corrections as time progresses. Diane Halpern, PhD, psychology department chair of California State University, supports the idea that arts education can and should be measured qualitatively, by incorporating among other tools, videotaping mechanisms. It is impossible to measure some "intangibles" prevalent in arts education, and the only effective means to evaluate performances are in fact, qualitative (Murray, 1999). Marion College professor Drew Appleby, PhD, asserts "What's needed in higher education, says Appleby, are better tools for assessing soft skills. Standardized tests and simplistic rating scales can't do the job, most educators agree" (Murray, 1999).

Also supportive, Elliot Eisner, PhD, former president of the American Educational Research Association concludes that "This is about assessing the quality of, say, a student's ability to deliberate and reason, not about measuring its magnitude," (Murray, 1999). Videotaping students engaged in a musical performance or dance program is one such way to measure "soft skills." By reviewing their performance and accepting critiques of peers, student's will more effectively learn to problem solve, critically analyze their routines and make adjustments accordingly. It also teaches them the real life skills of accepting critique and constructive criticism, a soft skill that is essential to their future success as a candidate in the job market.


Traditional teaching methods that do not incorporate use of the arts in learning are ineffective. In modern society, intelligence is measured primarily on the ability of a student to successfully pass a series of standardized tests, which measure simply their ability to take tests successfully. In ancient times, educational philosophy was much more well rounded, taking into consideration the fact that all of the senses must be actively engaged and tested for adequate learning and assessment of intelligence. Many philosophers throughout history have in fact, argued that intelligence is a combination of mental, physical and spiritual components. In the modern classroom environment, teachers do not take into consideration this fact. Rather, they lecture at students, expecting students to have the capacity to merely absorb material through a sponge.

Thomas Aquinas, taking after ancient educators and philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle, affirms this notion. Thomas Aquinas asserted that the process of acquiring knowledge was very complex, not at all as easily accomplished as "pouring water into a vessel" (Indiana-edu). He asserts that in fact, "All the teachers in the world can do him no good unless they adopt methods which will stimulate the activity of his mind" (Indiana-edu). Students are empowered to learn effectively only when all of their senses are engaged. This requires visual and verbal learning, traditional classroom settings and arts-based education. Quantitative analysis of student's performance, such as standardized testing mechanisms, must be combined with qualitative analysis, as my videotaped segments in this project will provide.

Educators continue to tinker with a 19th century school system. The challenges of the future will require citizens with open minds and moral courage. As Cookson (2001) pointed out, students are not machines, as the standards movement suggests. Education is never linear; it is always creative and continual. It is personal, passionate, and difficult -- the opposite of training, regimentation, and standardization.


New technologies and insights now allow for accurate genetic and neurological examination that indicates that intelligence should be studied from an environmental, biological and psychological perspective (Indiana-edu). Educators are moving back to the idea that learning is a complex process involving not simply mental acuity, but also physical attributes such as biology. Raymond Cattell, a British American psychologist, pioneered the idea of using multi-factor analysis to measure multiple intelligence.

According to the researcher, factor analysis was a "a tool that could be applied to the study of behavior and... might yield results with an objectivity and reliability rivaling those of the physical sciences (Stills, p. 114)." Such insight and understanding of the idea that personality and intelligence are at least in part, organic in nature, led me to the belief that multiple intelligence as a means of learning should be investigated further in the classroom.

My desire has and will continue to be to develop a core curriculum that takes into account the potential "multiple intelligences" of my students. By targeting the arts, I will be able to incorporate the science of sensory perception, and engage student's abilities to visually, verbally and physically learn in a scholastic environment. The idea to videotape came about as a result of the difficulty inherent in measuring "soft skills." In considering the most appropriate method to teach students by engaging all of their senses, I have postulated the following questions, listed below.

The research questions to be addressed in this project are as follows:

What kind of curriculum can I provide my students that will enable them to experience a democratic way of learning?

How can my students show others how the arts have helped them gain knowledge?

The first question addresses the need for a more complex and well-rounded curriculum. A curriculum that incorporates verbal written techniques in conjunction with more visual and sensory fulfilling techniques is essential in addressing the needs of multi-faceted learners. By incorporating the arts in the curriculum…[continue]

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