Gardner's Seven Intelligences - Implications for Differentiated Language Instructions in the Classroom
Multiple intelligence theory, found by Howard Gardner, had created a challenge, as well as a hole to fix in classroom practical approaches. Previously, public only related and judged intelligence from one's ability to perform mathematic aspect, ability to memorize. Even schools commonly assess students' intelligence and put grades based on these types. In fact, human brain is more complex and each person develops unique approach in learning.
Gardner's Multiple-Intelligence Theory
Gardner had developed different conception against intelligence, which he believed to be integration of all elements of human thinking skills or one's capability to "solve problems or to fashion products that are valued in one or more cultural setting" (Gardner & Hatch, 1989 as cited in Brualdi, 1996). Within this definition, human should see intelligence as an active effort of human brain to contribute various aspects while thinking and analyzing a problem. The definition brought Gardner to enlist the different facets of intelligence (Brualdi, 1996):
Logical-Mathematical Intelligence: This type of intelligence allows human to understand numbers, computing, logical reasoning, deduction, and detecting pattern or repeated step in process. It is common that schools emphasize on this intelligence on mathematics learning. This is also where students often get assessment on the intelligence.
Linguistic Intelligence: With this intelligence, human has the capability to recognize verbal expression, as revealed through words in one or more languages, and produce and use language in control to deliver and recall information, which sometimes involves certain style and artistic manipulation.
Spatial Intelligence: Human has the ability to perform "mental image" to see a situation, make picture of it and use it to analyze, relate it with the existing knowledge and find solution to respond or solve the problem. Mental picture has wide range of variation depending on the person's experience and knowledge.
Musical Intelligence: Human has used his/her auditory sense to recognize sound, voice, music, rhythm, tones, song, and read the meanings or relate it to the existing knowledge. Human is also capable to produce such features. Even people whose auditory function does not work properly can still recognize rhythm.
Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence: Human brain has full control to body movement and muscle control of some parts of the body and manipulate them to accomplish tasks of a purpose. Somehow mind and body are connected and human can show the integration of both factors in the daily behavior.
The Personal Intelligences: Human is born to bear the individual function and to become a part of society. In this case, human has the capability to use the feeling, recognize others' feelings, and in relation with that, human is capable in performing intra-personal and interpersonal relationship.
From the definitions above, human brain turns to be a complicated feature. One type of intelligence most likely interacts with the others. It is not common that a single type of intelligence operates alone when human receives the stimulation from the environment and from other human. The multiple intelligences generally work together and contribute different aspects to recognize the responds and analyze things. As the result of the process, human can develop the pattern of the stimulation, find out how the stimulation is going to affect him/her, and what best respond he/she can build towards it.
In terms of learning, human brain develops physically and functionally. The multiple intelligences present and grow as the person undergoes the learning process through experiences and interactions. It is possible that each aspect of intelligence does not follow the same pattern and the same speed to develop, but they certainly develop significantly as appropriate stimulants are given to each aspect. For example, one may have been able to speak and use language well as he/she was exposed to the language circumstances in one part of his/her life, but he/she doesn't recognize music/sound pattern as there was no exposure before and no previous experience related to this subject.
However, when those different intelligences grow, they grow to complete each other. In one advanced step, human may be able to seek his/her own type of learning to accommodate his/herself through one or more types of intelligence.
B. Multiple-Intelligence Theory and Language Instruction in Classroom
Gardner's theory also reveals that with those different aspects to cover, each person has the different learning style. Learning style relates to methods/approaches an individual take to learn a subject and to digest the information. People may use different "competencies" and "interpretation" to study the information (Florez, 1998).
In order to understand a subject, two learners may choose to accomplish it the different ways. In the process of mastering the skills, an individual may show the different preferences. Students come from numerous backgrounds and they also have different purposes and motivations in learning, therefore they may also develop different attitudes and competency when solving a problem or acquiring a knowledge.
An example here will be taken from language class, especially when no previous groupings or language-proficiency-level placement has been taken, teachers may face an astonishing assortment of motivations, capabilities in four skills (listening-speaking and reading-writing), and attitude towards the lesson or language practice. It is often hard to achieve a single classroom goal when students do not have the same capability. Even when the students need to accomplish the same task with the exact instruction given, they may come up with different result, misunderstanding of the instruction, incorrectly answering the aim of sentences, and sometimes they fail to perform optimally although they may have the potentials.
Language class is a dynamic environment, where people do not only learn vocabulary and structures, but also context and medium where the language is used and the cultural background that give meaning and origin of the language. In classical terms, people often associate language learning with the process and accomplishment on how someone speaks and write (use the language) well and grammatically accurate. However, in the reality, language covers the broader aspects more than just speaking and writing. People need to go through gradual process to master language, from understanding words and gestures, creating words and related products of vocabularies, and capable to recognize the situation where the language is used as well as choosing the proper use of language in different situations in daily life.
Referring to Gardner's theory, when someone learns a language, he/she may start with using linguistic intelligence to master words and phrases. However, in the process, one may continue with different journeys. he/she may learn that people have different words to express sadness in songs (personal, musical intelligence) or advertisers make an ice cream look more delicious on television (spatial intelligence). For students who learn foreign language, learning will be more important as it may involve understanding cultural backgrounds behind the language to understand expressions. This concept also applies in different subjects in class.
The important thing teachers should remember to include multiple-intelligence in designing a lesson and giving instructions:
Every person has potentials as individuals, which may require different methods to reveal them up and different time to reach full optimization.
Every person has different learning styles to learning preference.
The more input teachers give, addressing each intelligence aspect every time, the easier students will learn. Students will improve steadily; get more exposures, which results in broader knowledge. Students can integrate them together or choose the inputs that accommodate his/her learning preference best.
Variety of instructions and assignments may reveal students' hidden potentials.
Students can use the multiple aspects to integrate each other to help the learning process. Teachers should teachers facilitate students' learning process by creating supportive environment with low anxiety barriers. In this atmosphere, students will learn thoroughly.
C. Designing Instructions
Instructional variation is encouraged in class that students can get different options to receive and understand the content of teacher's presentation. For instance, for a single subject, teacher can present information using lecture, visual aids, demonstration, workshop, or outdoor lessons. Teacher should also allow students to have options on the way they will express the understanding in their task, such as delivering presentation, writing paper, taking pictures, interviewing people, making movies, and so on (Florez, 1998).
Differentiated instruction is one way to incorporate multiple-intelligence learning in for classroom use. Teacher should design the materials so that students can use available source from their environment to get deeper, more creative ways of learning.
Theisen in Differentiated Instruction in the Foreign Language Classroom: Meeting the Diverse Needs of All Learners explained, differentiation instruction regards each learner as a unique person with exclusive capability that no one else had. Teacher can use different phrases and different examples when explaining instruction to the students. A student may grasp verbal instruction once the teacher reads it out, but others may require deeper explanation with charts, diagrams, and sample pictures. Variety of complication, options on how they can approach their lessons give students chance to learn more about the subject as they see the problem several times from different angles. In this way, each student can reach maximum result the way they prefer to take.…