Sunday, February 7, 2016

Constructivism and Multiple Intelligence Reflection

Howard Gardner’s work has been an integral part of numerous educational theories since Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences was published in 1983.  I remember my copy in college being full of annotations and highlights because the idea that human knowledge was more than rote memorization appealed to me.  The concept that we have varying levels of ability in each of Gardner’s intelligence classifications explains the need for differentiated instruction perfectly.  In a recent interview with the Huffington Post he stated that “two major educational implications” of Multiple Intelligences are Individuation and Pluralization.  The first suggests we need to address the needs of each specific learner and the second offers a method of accomplishing that goal by presenting the material in a variety of ways. (Lynch, 2012).


It is not surprising that a visionary like Sir Ken Robinson would address the importance of Multiple Intelligences and encourage educators to recognize the child as a whole instead of forcing  the student to conform to a system which typically values Verbal-Linguistic and Logical-Mathematical modalities that can be assessed through standardized testing.  As educators, it is imperative that we encourage, celebrate and accommodate a child’s strengths instead of labeling them as weaknesses when they do not fit the traditional model of learning.


While my current role as a district technology coordinator does not give me daily access to the classroom, the past decade has afforded me a number of opportunities to offer professional development to teachers throughout our district.  I always have music playing as participants arrive.  I have found this strategy can set the tone for a session, activate the senses and heighten linguistic acuity.  I have begun integrating essential questions and discussions into my presentations to provide opportunity for honing both interpersonal and intrapersonal skills.  During a recent half day workshop I used a Google extension called Move It to interrupt the presentation at set intervals with a prompt to perform a certain exercise.   This hopefully triggered a response from the bodily-kinesthetic learner who needed to get up occasionally during a 4 hour workshop!  All of this is done in a subtle way to model different techniques they can use in their classrooms.


When I have the opportunity to work directly with students, I provide a number of resources and let them decide on how to express their knowledge.  One of my favorite projects was co-teaching a 10-week digital storytelling unit with at-risk learners.  As we discussed the various stages of creating a digital story, I shared a number of tools from which to choose, which gave them a great deal of autonomy.  Additionally, the students had to take on roles (e.g., production manager, script supervisor, director of photography, etc) which in retrospect allowed them to utilize, explore and expand on pre-existing intelligences.


While these techniques seem to be effective in a traditional environment, I am uncertain they would work in an online or distance learning scenario.   As the article The Influence of Multiple Intelligence Theory on Web-Based Learning states, “little has been done to study MI in the online classroom.” (Riha, 2009)  It would be feasible to tap a number of Gardner’s intelligences in this scenario; however, even with the advent of media, I imagine it would be challenging to incorporate Spatial-Visual, Bodily-Kinesthetic and Musical intelligences within these environments.  My personal experience with this cohort has made me more aware of my intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligences.  I have become more adroit at self-reflection and collaboration thanks to the inspiring posts, discussions and projects.  


The concept of constructivism appears to be an extension of differentiated instruction.  I have always felt we need to return to the Socratic approach wherein the instructor asks questions aimed at inciting dialogue allowing “students to realize for themselves the weakness in their thinking” and construct new ideas based on this knowledge. ("Constructivism as a Paradigm for Teaching and Learning")  The 21st century educational design needs to focus more on sparking creative thought, rather than creating lock step curriculum designed for an Industrial Age.  As Socrates may have once said, “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel” (“Quote Investigator”)


With this in mind, I have found the blog posts from Ewan McIntosh regarding constructivism to be completely engrossing.  The underlying theme seems roughly based on the concept of design thinking which is structured in a way that provides “enough flexibility with enough specificity to ground its ideas in the lives of their intended beneficiaries.” (McIntosh, 2012)  Throughout the posts we see that dialogue, autonomy and facilitation lead to quality innovative work.  I particularly enjoyed the video Designing the Unknown which focuses on C-K theory and demonstrates how an open and Socrative process can allow for pre-existing knowledge to add attributes within a conceptual space and generate many new and innovative ideas.  It seems that constructivism achieves the desired outcome of differentiated instruction without requiring the instructor to provide  a number of approaches to achieve a specific outcome. Instead, wide scale essential and existential questions are asked that help students “know what they didn’t know”. (McIntosh, 2015) allowing for new ideas to develop and evolve.


I believe the concept of constructivism could have major impact on the future of education, provided the institution can get out of it’s own way.  These open and innovative  environments allow the teacher to remove themselves as the “sage on the stage” and instead take on the role of “guide on the side”.  This insures that “collaborative learning is a process of peer interaction that is mediated and structured by the teacher” and generates thinkers as opposed to workers. (“Open Educational Resources of UCD Teaching and Learning, University College Dublin”)  Many of these environments are also often student driven by design.  The challenge then becomes how to evaluate and assess the success of these programs in a standards driven world?  I am hoping to find some of the answers to that question in a session I will be hosting at EdCamp: After Dark  that will explore the idea of a “reThink Thinking and Learning Symposium”.  This is a thought I envisioned while reading Ewan McIntosh’s posts and would be designed and promoted as a day that would bring educators, students, parents and community leaders together for a day of candid discussion about what works and what could be improved upon when it comes to learning.  I cannot wait to see what my colleagues think of this concept!

Lynch, Ed.D. Matthew. "Living Legends: An Interview With Howard Gardner, Part I." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 09 Jan. 2012. Web. 06 Feb. 2016. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/matthew-lynch-edd/howard-gardner_b_1192229.html>.


Riha, Mark, and Rebecca A. Robles-Piña. "The Influence of Multiple Intelligence Theory on Web-Based Learning." Journal of Online Learning and Teaching 5.1 (2009). Web. 3 Feb. 2016. <http://jolt.merlot.org/vol5no1/robles-pina_0309.htm>.


"Constructivism as a Paradigm for Teaching and Learning." Constructivism as a Paradigm for Teaching and Learning. Web. 06 Feb. 2016. <http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/concept2class/constructivism/index_sub4.html>.


"Quote Investigator." Quote Investigator. Web. 07 Feb. 2016. <http://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/03/28/mind-fire/>.


McIntosh, Ewan. "Design Thinking 2: Immersion - Don't Give Students a Problem to Solve.." Ewan McIntosh | Design Thinking, Education & Learning. 16 Jan. 2012. Web. 04 Feb. 2016. <http://edu.blogs.com/edublogs/2012/01/design-thinking-2-immersion-dont-give-students-a-problem-to-solve.html>.


McIntosh, Ewan. "Unknown Unknowns. #ungoogleable Thinking for #28daysofwriting." Ewan McIntosh | Design Thinking, Education & Learning. 8 Feb. 2015. Web. 05 Feb. 2016. <http://edu.blogs.com/edublogs/2015/02/unknown-unknowns-ungoogleable-thinking-for-28daysofwriting.html>.


"Constructivism and Social Constructivism in the Classroom." Open Educational Resources of UCD Teaching and Learning, University College Dublin. Web. 06 Feb. 2016. <http://www.ucdoer.ie/index.php/Education_Theory/Constructivism_and_Social_Constructivism_in_the_Classroom>.

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