What does a “traditional” classroom look like? To me it is a teachers who gives information via lectures, notes, handouts, etc, and the students receive that information by writing things downs, completing worksheets and trying to cram it all into their minds. Does this work for everybody? Probably not. Did it work for me? Well judging by my marks all through elementary and high school I guess you could say it did. But is this really the way that I learn best? A year or two ago I would likely have said yes, mainly because I was unaware that any other ways really existed.
Yet when helping co-workers solve problems, or coaching my gymnasts in rhythmic gymnastics I was quite aware that not everyone learned the same. In fact, I would frequently adjust how I was helping others learn. For some I would have to walk through steps with them one-on-one, for others I would write down the process, and still others would need a demonstration. I have always been very aware that there are multiple intelligences (though I have only mainly known about the auditory, visual and kinaesthetic learning styles) and that some learn differently than others. But do teachers in a classroom have the time to do this every day during every lesson? Not likely! So how do you make sure that everyone can learn in a way that suits them?
I know that I learn best through seeing visual representations of the information or concept that is to be learned, but I also like to have a set of logical steps to work through. I also know that I typically require music playing in the background (even if it’s just in my head!) to really let something sink in, and also to spark creativity when I am working on a project. I was very grateful that when I attended SIAST I actually had an instructor who really appreciated this and even allowed me to listen to music on headphones during exams! (He checked my play lists before hand of course to make sure that I couldn’t cheat, and this was before cell phones had music and internet on them.) So when we did some multiple intelligence tests in class this week I was not surprised to find out that my highest scores were in the categories of Music & Rhythm, Visual Spatial, and Mathematic Logical.
Often, people say that you will teach the way that you learn best, and while I can certainly understand and appreciate this “fact,” I would like to think that my past experiences have made me aware that this is not the only way. Sure, I will always find it easier to teach in visual and logical methods, and perhaps with some sort of rhythmic or musical component, but I am quite aware that I will be working with students who do not work in the same ways that I do. I think that the areas that I will have to be most aware of are the Interpersonal and Naturalist intelligences; the two areas that I am weakest in. These intelligences do not come naturally to me, but I am certainly working towards being better at them.
I think that balancing all of the multiple intelligences and planning for differentiated instruction in the classroom will be a challenge. While I realize that this is certainly in the best interests of the students, I wonder how to accomplish this in the “real world.” In fact, I even came across this article yesterday that goes against differentiated instruction, saying it doesn’t work, and after reading it I can see some of the stumbling blocks in differentiated instruction. How do you make students feel “equal” if some are doing less work than others? I also really like the idea of creating project based learning (found a great article to start with), and ideas like Genius Hour, where students choose their projects and methods for learning. I think a lot of the struggles come from the fact that most students are accustomed to that more traditional way of learning and expect their teacher to tell them what to do! I actually am really looking forward to doing a similar type of learning project in this class though our Inquiry Research Project (I’m sure I’ll post more about this later!).
Back to Genius Hour though, I have watched many videos and looked at many websites over the last few months about this learning medium, and I really appreciated what this teacher had to say…
I can see both sides of the argument on differentiated instruction through multiple intelligences, and I am curious to learn more about it. I was never taught this way, but rather than fearing something new I am looking forward to discovering new ideas and running with them in my own way. Sure, these “new” methods of instruction may be scary for students, and even for parents, but I am hopeful that I can work towards change. Some of my instructors last semester really encouraged me to step outside of my own box, and I think that learning more about the other intelligences and how to assist those students who have strengths where I do not will help me continue to do this. I want to find ways to truly engage all of my students, and will do whatever it takes to help them achieve their best.