Teaching Languages with an Inclusive Approach – Applying Multiple Intelligence Theory
What were the main aims of the initiative?
This community project ‘Teaching English in Basic Education’ is the result of an agreement between the School of Language of the Baja California State University and General Valle de Puebla Secondary School.
Student teachers at the BA in Language Teaching are told of the benefits of applying multiple intelligence theory to create an awareness of inclusive practice. It became evident that the approach needed to become more formal. The project then focused on pre-graduation students: considering the diversity of intelligences found in a classroom, the plurality of gifts, and the need for teachers to keep in mind using body language to demonstrate instructions in order to reach all students (e.g. with dyspraxia and other minor problems).
From experience, the author realised that the project had to be addressed as a didactic venture requiring the design of specific instructions and materials following the National English Programme for Basic Education in Mexico, as well as the European Framework of Reference for Teaching Languages. The project presented here aims to support all learners, while teachers-to-be also benefit in their preparation along with the practice community.
The main aim is to achieve greater equity by addressing diversity in the English language classroom. This project shows how student teachers progress from direct instruction on the National English Programme for Basic Education in Mexico and the requirements it sets to designing lessons and materials to address multiple intelligences, considering the benefits found in research (Armstrong 2001; Gardner & Hatch, 1989; Wilson, 2005).
Originally, work focused on secondary students who are an ‘at risk’ population in Mexico because so many do not continue to junior college or further education. The project now aims to cover all levels of the National English Programme, from K-3 to third grade of secondary school.
Location, setting, Scope, key events etc.
The work takes place in the City of Mexicali, State of Baja California, Mexico, with an agreement between two university teacher educators at the BA in Language Teaching Program’s final level, and the director of a public secondary school located in a community complex with pre-school, elementary and secondary levels. The researcher is responsible for structuring the project, while the collaborating teacher informs students on the National English Programme for Basic Education in Mexico and the European Common Framework of Reference about the work. The researcher focuses on the curriculum stated by both documents and tutors design materials applying a multiple intelligence approach for each grade.
Latin-American countries were invited to embrace a new competences approach to education for the global era through the ‘Tuning’ project in Europe. Here, the focus is on learning to know, to do, to be and to relate to others, following Paulo Freire’s redesigned Principles of Education. This approach also includes a transversal axis that calls for multiculturalism, equity and environmental responsibility (Beneitone, 2007). Equity refers here to teachers’ inclusiveness of difference and diversity in their lessons, as opposed to a standard mean-based class plan that does not necessarily apply to both ends of the normal distribution curve.
One important way to address diversity in the teaching and learning process is to plan for multiple intelligences. Although teaching languages involves body language and imitation as cues to other language speakers (e.g. when presenting new vocabulary), it is now an effective and alternative way to give instructions to second language students that addresses difficulties such as dyspraxia and gives better opportunities to students who otherwise would be labelled as having learning difficulties or deficits (Armstrong, 2001). It also provides opportunities for teachers and learners to acknowledge personal preferences and differences, fostering better relations among students and also with teachers.
The National English Programme for Basic Education in Mexico is based on the European Common Framework of Reference for Language Learning and it guides language teachers on the competences to achieve with a communicative, literary and academic approach. It describes required topics and elements of grammar, develops four skills for learning languages (Reading comprehension, Listening Comprehension, Speaking and Writing), and considers attitudes and multi-modality approaches.
BA in Language Teaching students become acquainted with the programmes above and with multiple intelligence theory, and are informed of the need to use body language in the classroom. Therefore the instructions for the activities will consider imitation, modelling by the teacher or by students in pairs, and letting students know that they each have a personal profile of intelligences they use and can develop. Based on the National Programme, student teachers fill the lesson plans to be used and then work on the development of materials in pairs in ‘creativity shops’. During this time, the student teachers visit the school premises and gather in a space prepared for them to do their work in the university although they may also work at their own time and place.
What issues/challenges does the example address?
The project intends to increase equity by supporting teachers to plan for diverse learners in the English language classroom. In particular it addresses the needs of learners who are ‘at risk’ of dropping out of school and not continuing their education by giving them more possibilities of learning. The application of a multiple-intelligence approach has been motivating to both students and teachers.
How was the Initiative implemented?
Following an agreement with the director of the secondary school about the project, the seventh semester student teachers are invited to participate. They receive an explanation about what they should integrate from the two courses: Research Seminar (ending with a thesis-like report) and Plans and Programme Design (based on the National English Programme). They are also told how this study will benefit their professional performance upon graduation. It is a win-win situation for the institutions, for future teachers, teachers in practice and their students. Student teachers choose a specific grade to work with.
Students then become acquainted with the programme, framework, theory and research on multiple intelligences about planning an inclusive class. They design class plans and materials ready to apply in the classroom, following the requirements and principles learned.
What where the key Outcomes? What impact/added value did they prove? What were the biggest challenges?
The most important outcome is that by using a multiple intelligences approach, students – and teachers – are encouraged to think about each other as unique, as a person with their own preferences. By giving instructions for nine types of intelligence, students in class have opportunities to develop those, which they generally use less. This occurs through targeted stimulation, the learning environment, daily activities, etc. and helps students to become more motivated.
Has the initiative been evaluated or are there plans for this in the future?
Student teachers receive two credits for participating in the project.
The university teachers working with the student teachers evaluate their work on an individual basis for the corresponding subject of the BA Programme.
Evaluation of the community project conducted by the School of Language and the Secondary School will be done collaboratively between the two university teachers involved: one who acts as the researcher responsible for the project and the other who is the school supervisor. These teachers will assess the extent to which the goals have been met and identify any changes needed in the project.
Have any plans been made for future direction of the initiative?
This is a long-term project. Students in the seventh semester will continue to create materials to cover all basic education levels (from Kinder 3, six elementary grades and three secondary grades with students from 3 to 15 years of age). While being in the same integral community complex, each level of education has its own board of directors. Each prior level is a source of information for student teachers progressing to the following level, giving more possibilities of success. Sustainability is achieved by the signature of the long-term agreement and teachers’ collaborative evaluation upon the end of each semester.
What are the main learning points?
The procedure can be implemented with practicing teachers as well. However, when working with pre-service or practicing teachers or teacher-educators, time must be carefully planned to comply with the length of the course.
Are there further information about supporting materials?
Armstrong, T. 2001. Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom. Thomas Armstrong.
Beneitone, P. & González, J. 2007. Informe Final Proyecto Tuning América Latina 2004-7. España. Deusto
Freire, P. 2004. Pedagogía de la Autonomía. Saberes necesarios para la práctica educativa. Brazil. Paz e Leira, S.A.
Gardner, H. 2006. Five Minds for the Future. US. Harvard Business School Publishing
Gardner, H. 1994. Diario Principal, Sept. 1988, reprinted in Intelligence Connections
Gardner, H. 1984. Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. NY: Basic Books
Gardner, H., & Hatch, T. 1989. Multiple intelligences go to school: Educational implications of the theory of multiple intelligences. Educational Researcher, 18(8), 4-9
Gardner, H. 1998. Inteligencias Múltiples. La teoría en la práctica. Es. Paidos
Wilson, L. 2005. What’s the Big Attraction? Why Teachers are drawn to using Multiple Intelligence Theory in their Classrooms. New Horizons for Learning, Digital Journal http://education.jhu.edu/PD/newhorizons/strategies/topics/mi/wilson1.htm
Resources for English Language teaching http://www.usembassy-mexico.gov/bbf/bfingles.htm
Mexico’s National English Programme for Basic Education (PNIEB) in both languages may be found at:http://pnieb.net/documentos/2012/Programas%20de%20Estudio/PNIEB%20C4%20para%20web.pdf
Figure 1: A group of 6 student teachers at work