Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Role of Multiple Intelligences in the Composition Process

Jamie Feltner

Aborn, Matt. “An Intelligent Use for Belief.” Education 127. 1(2006): 83-85

This article argues that since Multiple Intelligence Theory is based on a changeable perspective (as opposed to a fixed one), the theory fosters the concept that teachers should believe in the unique potential of each student. The understanding that there are no "hopeless students," (83) but rather that each child interprets the world and learns in a unique way, leads the reader to understand that one uniform method of assessing children “does nothing but to limit the potential of their growth”(84). By having a conscious awareness of his intellectual strengths and personal intelligences, each student might be able to implement behaviors and habits better suited to improving his composition process.

Armstrong, Thomas. Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom. 2nd ed. Alexandria,

VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2003

In his book, the most significant claims that Thomas Armstrong makes is that language activities such as writing need not only focus only on linguistic intelligences; they can, in fact, span all eight (now possibly nine) intelligences. He also offers many MI implantation ideas for writing, and presents information and resources throughout the text to help educators at all levels apply MI theory to curriculum development, lesson planning, assessment, special education, cognitive skills, educational technology, career development, educational policy, and more. The book includes dozens of practical tips, strategies, and examples from real schools and districts. Armstrong suggests that students who have trouble writing turn to other intelligences for inspiration.

Etim, James S., ed. Curriculum Integration K-12: Theory and Practice. Langam,

MD: University Press of American, Inc., 2005.

The only chapter in the book relevant to multiple intelligence theory and composition is Chapter 13 (“Multiple Intelligences Inserted into the Lesson Plan”), which provides insight into learning strategies that can accentuate learning opportunities. The chapter highlights the importance of appropriate lesson planning and assessments of students, both “regular” as well as At Risk, Exceptional Children, Academically Gifted, and ESL students. The chapter also gives statistics on why MIT works, using the findings of SUMIT (schools using multiples intelligences theory). The importance of this chapter is that it recognizes that students are multifaceted individuals and, when writing, they should be provided with assignments and activities that activate and develop all of their intelligences.

Gardner, Howard. Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. New

York: Basic Books, Inc., 1983

In Gardner’s ground-breaking book on his theory of multiple intelligences, he makes clear connections between all seven types of intelligences. He points out that language can be conveyed through multiple conventions (gesture, writing, singing, speaking), and that by focusing on reading and writing in a strictly traditional sense, “cognitive revolutions” (75) associated with the other learning intelligences may not occur. He claims that the “growing familiarity with ‘objective writing, reading, and testing’” (82) alienates people whose behaviors and intelligences don’t coincide with these standards. Also, in order to appropriately express oneself in writing, additional intelligences are required. In his chapter on Linguistic Intelligence, he emphasizes the struggle that some face when trying to achieve through writing what can be achieved only through other actions. In this chapter he also stresses that finding the right framework for expressing words and ideas is imperative. Though he doesn’t give much specific information about writing process, any theory connecting multiple intelligences and the composition process will reference this book.

---. Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century. New York:

Basic Books, Inc., 1999.

In this “progress report” on how the theory of multiple intelligences has changed and evolved since it was first set forth in his 1983 book Frames of Mind, Gardner assesses how MIT has been assimilated into the culture, dispels some of the myths surrounding the theory, examines its practical implications, and presents evidence to support the theory. Though he still says little about the writing process specifically, he does say a bit more than in Frames of Mind. He asserts that the student who is good in one area of writing will not necessarily transfer that intelligence to another area; thereby, requesting that instructors minimize their faulty expectations, assumptions, and categorizations. Though this book very vaguely addresses the role of MI in composition, it is also cited in nearly every article on the topic.

Grow, Gerald. “Writing and the Seven Intelligences.” Viewpoints. N/A (1995) 1-23


This article introduces Gardner’s theory with “the hope that it will stimulate new ways of thinking about writing and the teaching of writing” (1). It proposes writing as a blend of several distinct human intelligences, and the author continues on to present the ways in which all seven intelligences are related to writing. This article seemed to be the most informative and the most important to understand to someone writing a paper on MIT and composition.

Hearne, Dixon and Stone, Suki. “Multiple Intelligences and Underachievement: Lessons

from Individuals with Learning Disabilities.” Journal of Learning Disabilities. 28.7 (1995): 439-448

The authors assert that current research in the field of Learning Disabilities suggests that focusing on creativity in a more nontraditional sense (one that hasn’t been well understood or highly valued by the schools) can prompt better writing samples from LD students. Basically, the academies should not limit intelligence to merely rigidly defined linguistic intelligence. By acknowledging this theory, students have the freedom to identify their own “right” ways of learning and demonstrating their skills. They propose that “a good language arts program is one that expands the communication potential of all learners through the orchestration and use of multiple ways of knowing for purposes of ongoing interpretation and inquiry into the world” (447). To compensate for our overemphasis on assessing through the rigidly defined written standards, instructors need to teach integration of the disciplines, inviting the possibility for more flexible standards.

Smagorinsky, Peter. “Constructing Meaning in the Disciplines: Reconceptualizing

Writing across the Curriculum as Composing across the Curriculum.” American Journal of Education. 103.2 (1995) 160-184

This article asserts that since most school writing is either informational or analytic, there are inherently many limitations of what schools treat as legitimate ways of writing and thinking. And since most human activity (both in our daily, academic, and professional lives) involves some combination of intelligences, it should not be devalued in terms of school assignments and assessments. The author argues that by fostering different kinds of intelligences, the focus on logical-linguistic assessment will become a more openly disputed topic.

Sword, Helen. “Teaching in Color: Multiple Intelligences in the Literature

Classroom.” Pedagogy. 7.2 (2007): 223-250

This article is written as the personal reflection of a literature and composition teacher who decided to integrate MIT into her classroom. It follows her struggle to harness other intelligences to better serve literary interpretation, critical thinking, and academic writing. Her new theory forces students to abandon their habitual linguistic mode and write (and read) for different purposes. Throughout her journey, she recognizes that the act of writing requires other skills, and the article catalogues the growth of herself and her students once MI theory is implemented. Her students begin to show more promise for possibility as they individually interpret assignments, respond in their own intelligent way, and write explanations. She argues that students have never rebelled against, but continue to flourish with the MIT emphasis in the classroom. And also that “MI-inspired teaching can facilitate the kind of critical-creative thinking that will allow our students to flourish in an increasingly multidisciplinary social and intellectual environment” (248).

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