25 October, 2008

What Makes Great Teachers Great?

“Create a natural critical learning environment. "Natural"
because what matters most is for students to tackle
questions and tasks that they naturally find of interest,
make decisions, defend their choices, sometimes
come up short, receive feedback on their efforts, and
try again. "Critical" because by thinking critically,
students learn to reason from evidence and to
examine the quality of their reasoning, to make
improvements while thinking, and to ask probing and
insightful questions. This is, by far, the most important
principle -- the one on which all others are based and
which commands the greatest explanation.”
Ken Bain
Chronicle of Higher Education

24 October, 2008

Effective listening skills

Most CEOs complain that people in the workplace just don’t ‘listen’. Most of us hear but don’t listen and instead we spend time thinking about what we are going to say next. Poor listening skills can create misunderstandings, make us miss deadlines and focus our attention on the wrong issues in the workplace.

Simple steps to improving your listening skills:


Recognising it as an area of improvement sets you on the path to becoming a better listener.

Convey Interest:

Set aside whatever you’re doing and give the speaker your 100% attention. This offers encouragement to the speaker and he/she doesn’t feel compelled to speak faster or abbreviate their message. Convey interest nonverbally by nodding, maintaining direct eye contact and leaning forward.

Speaker’s Non-Verbal Cues:

Watch out for the speaker’s gestures, facial expressions, tone and volume of voice, as being alert to these cues increases your ability to comprehend the full message.

No ‘Overtaking’:

‘Overtaking’ on the verbal highway or finishing off the speaker’s sentences makes him/her feel rushed and under pressure. Wait till the speaker has finished before interjecting with your comments. If you interrupt by mistake, apologise.


If you aren’t sure of the message, ask the speaker to repeat it. Then, you summarise it, evaluating your own understanding while doing so.

Ask Questions:

This shows genuine interest and offers encouragement to the speaker. Questions like “Do you mean to say...” or “Is this what you have in mind...?” paraphrase the speaker’s remarks.

Fight Impatience:

As we think several times faster than we speak, we become impatient and lose concentration. Instead, use your mind to analyse the speaker’s message and extract the essence.


A pause is an effective communication tool — it shows you are thinking before speaking and also creates a certain degree of suspense.

As Ernest Hemingway famously remarked “I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”

About the Author: Shital Kakkar Mehra is the founder of Soft Skills International.

16 October, 2008

what counts as good schooling?

The forces and factors increasingly permeating our schools show that in order to achieve their expressed purposes, it is critical to clarify what counts as ‘good’ schooling.The research literature said that these purposes included:
For individuals:
• developing identity and quality of life
• developing attitudes and skills for handling the speed of change, including change through
digital media which promotes multitasking and simultaneously controlling different
sources of information through ubiquitous and immediate connections
• making wise choices from and judgements about the amount of information available
• being better skilled, flexible and adaptable and to be able to continually learn.
For groups:
• developing identity and quality of interaction
• preventing the fragmentation of community, including through the building of social
capital, families and ensuring equity of access
• being better at understanding, living and working with differences and others
• understanding how to harness the popularity of socially oriented technologies and digitally
networked societies
• countering a move from evidence, the rule of law, justice, and intellectual detachment
• learning to be responsible citizens of the globe, including being sustainable.

Source: Australian Education Review

15 October, 2008

What Is Your Success Distance?

The ease and speed at which you get from point A to B depends on the distance between point A and B. So, what is the distance between you and success in whatever field you choose? What is the distance between you and success in your marketing, financial, relationship, happiness or health matters? It does not matter what you are looking to succeed at - the principle here is the same.

Success Distance is measured by three components: Body, Mind, and Soul or in other words physical distance, intellectual knowledge and emotional bearing. Let us examine each one.

Body, or physical distance, is simply the physical distance in miles between you and your marketplace, your target health point, or your relationship partner. Physical distance is the easiest distance component to understand, so we shall not spend too much time on it. It is all about location. Like they say in real estate, it is all about location, location, and location. Where are you physically in relation to your marketplace, target health point, or your relationship partner? Are you easy or hard to get in touch with? Do you network with people in similar situations so you can help each other out? Do you live near your most attractive marketplaces, target health point, or your relationship partner? If you do business online, can people find you easily through links from other web sites, search engines, articles and so on? Is it easy to order from you, help you, and be with you? Always keep improving and shortening your physical distance.

Mind or intellectual knowledge is next. It is even more powerful than physical distance. The only thing more powerful than it is Soul or emotional distance. To put it simply, you are paid for the knowledge that you posses and express. A doctor is paid for medical knowledge, but only when she uses it to heal, when she expresses it. So is a plumber, and so on. So it is very obvious that to get more success in any area of life, you must improve your knowledge of that area of life. In that way, you are shortening the distance between you and that area, by coming to know it for what it really is instead of what you think it is. It is the errors in your thinking that cause 'failure'. Failure is merely a gentle prodding telling you that you need to fix an error in thought. So read. Ask. In fact, learn to ask your Higher Self questions. Ask and you shall always receive. Just formulate your question and consciously ask your Higher Self this question. There is no particular way of doing it - your Self is always listening and knows when your attention is directed to it. It is only you who have been ignoring it because of too much worry and mental noise. Ask. Then drop your worries and be observant! In the very next moment, or day, or person, or movie, or magazine, or book you see on the bookshelf, your answer will have been brought to you. Trust me, ask your Higher Self a question and within minutes or hours or perhaps a day or so, if you are aware and observant, you will be led to exactly the right place to find your answer. The answer may not be the one you expect, but it will be the one that will lead you to success, even if at first you may not see how.

Finally, but most importantly, is your Soul, or emotional distance. Simply put, you are an energy system. You are not a chunk of flesh, you are energy. If you were to magnify yourself, you would find that you are made of cells, which are in turn made up of molecules of various substances. These are in turn made up of atoms. And atoms are composed of electrons, protons, and neutrons. And these are energy packets. An electron is an energy packet. Yes, you are one big ball of energy. And so is everything else. And here is what you are here to do: to experience energy in motion, to experience e-motion, emotions. At every moment, even if you are not aware of it, you are feeling a certain emotion. And whatever emotion that is, it resonates and attracts similar energy systems around you. So when you are happy, you attract happy conditions. Your inner state creates your outside experience. Therefore, the most important thing is this: how do you FEEL Now? Always, all ways, it matters most how you feel now, because that is what creates your experiences. To succeed, you must bridge the emotional distance between you and the thing you wish to succeed in. to succeed in finances, you must heal all feelings of negativity towards money, low self-esteem, poor self worth, victim mentality, certain fears, and so on. These feelings push you away from money, no matter how hard you work. Effort begets the results of effort, nothing more or less. And the result of effort, if you haven't noticed, is much strain. Look, if hard work was all you needed to succeed, half this planet would be rich. How obvious is that. People work like dogs nowadays! Anyway, let us move on. To succeed in your relationships, you must be love itself, yourself. Unconditional love. All other feelings of fear and so on increase the distance between you and your success. And to succeed in health, again you shorten the distance by increasing your self-love, self-esteem, and dropping worry and fear. By the way, when I say 'drop fear' I do not mean that you resist it. No. in fat, what you resist persists and grows stronger. I mean that you face it, embrace it, look at it directly, find its original cause in your life, forgive all of it, and you will see that it was just a cloud of smoke, it was nothing really.

Well, there you go. You are now armed with some very easy to follow, logical processes that will get you where you wish to be. Well, it is a start, but you must follow through yourself - no one can do it for you. People can only guide and help you but you must choose and act yourself. Don't let your old fears imprison you for ever. The pain of life-long mediocrity is greater than the pain of changing. Just do it!

Author's Bio

Entrepreneur, author (A Happy Pocket Full of Money, etc), and Creative Consultant on The Secret. Born in Nakuru, Kenya. Living around the world now. Its great to meet new people and experience new places. See www.CreationPack.com for more information on deliberate lifestyle design and much more.

12 October, 2008

Ideal Principles for a Good Teacher

Here, I am sharing few principles that may help every teacher to make his/her class very effective and enjoyable one for all concerned. As a teacher, my long search for certain basic ideals finally helped me to develop these principles. Sometimes, you may be having your own ideals and views, slightly similar or different from mine. I will be very happy, if you are ready to share and discuss. Such discussions will surely help each one of us to become a better teacher.

Ideal Principles

In a healthy, nurturing community children will grow.
With developmentally appropriate guidance and firm expectations, students will learn.
When students are given choices and activities relevant and authentic to their lives, they will be motivated,
and scholars will take flight

10 Principles

These ten principles you can emphasize in your classroom, and it will help you in becoming an ideal teacher. Many of these goals align with accepted educational practice world over. I will sum up these as support for my beliefs as an educator.

1. Students will feel valued and welcomed
• Welcome students to the classroom before school starts and school day
• Build relationships with students and parents via telephone, notes, e-mail, newsletters, conferences, etc.
• Encourage students to get to know each other and make friends
• Students should see their work and personal/cultural stories within the classroom
2. Students will take responsibility for themselves and their community
• Students will help set classroom expectations
• Students encouraged to help their classmates succeed (peer tutoring, group projects, collaborative learning etc)
• Have high expectations for all students and give them the support they need
• Do not accept failure
3. Students will learn reading, writing, maths, science, social studies and the arts in an integrated and relevant way
• Give examples of how lessons apply to students lives
• Create lessons with good standards from multiple subjects
• Students should read, write, and journal in every class subject.
4. Students will observe the world around them – past, present and future
• Students will share current events with the class, or create their own news show
• Students will look at issues (current and historic) to address how they might affect their lives today and in the future
• Students will study how they fit into the natural world around them
5. Students will be able to apply and transfer the skills and knowledge they learn
• Lessons will require students to apply skills that they have already learned
• Assessments and practice work will encourage higher-level thinking (Blooms taxonomy)
• Lessons in one subject will call upon knowledge learned in other arenas
6. Students will be able to ask questions and research answers
• Give students the opportunity to research their own interests
• Encourage students to find answers to their questions before asking for help
• Teach students how to conduct research in the library and online
7. Students will be able to creatively solve problems and think critically
• Give students the opportunity and support they need to address real problems
• Encourage accountable talk and respect for differing opinions
• Teach strategies for critical thinking and creative problem solving
• Classroom or school service project that reflects student concerns
• Expose students to multiple media sources, for critical reading and discussions
8. Students will experience the rewards of learning and hard work
• Emphasise hard work over perfection
• Emphasise learning and progress over competition
• Celebrate learning
• Model enthusiasm and life-long learning
• Allow student choice
• Use multiple intelligences (MI) theory to celebrate individual talents and increase motivation
9. Students will learn about culture and community to better understand themselves and others
• Practice culturally responsive teaching
• Make sure students see themselves represented in the curriculum on a regular basis (religion, caste, culture, gender, socio-economic status)
• Invite community leaders and parents into the classroom
• Expose students to other religious and caste practices, cultures and communities to foster understanding and empathy
10. Students will experience the beauty and wonder of the arts
• Integrate the arts (writing, music, visual arts, dramatic arts) to motivate, enhance learning and expand on other subjects
• Encourage students to express themselves through the arts
• Share excellent pieces of literature, music, visual art and drama with students

04 October, 2008

Internet in Classroom

How can I best use the Internet in my classroom?

The broad range of resources, the dynamic nature of the content, and the lack of time and location dependency of the Net create a great deal of classroom potential, but how can these best be utilized?

To help simplify how you can use the Net in your classroom, this section will focus on three processes that commonly take place in classrooms: communication and collaboration, research, and publication. These are by no means the only events that take place in a class, but they exemplify typical events in a teacher's or student's day.

Communication and Collaboration

Communicating with peers is an integral part of the learning process. Typically this communication takes place in the classroom, and consists of interaction between the teacher and the students in that room.

The Net provides the ability to expand that conversation to other classes of students, additional teachers, and content experts. These conversations and resources are not always necessary in a class, but the ability to increase the range of interactions, the variety of perspectives, and the breadth of the approaches students can take to solve a problem can only enrich the learning environment.

There are some sites on the Web that are specifically created to help expand communication among teachers and students. Here are some examples.

Educational Mailing Lists for Teachers:

The Educational Mailing List for Teachers provides an index to many educational mailing lists for teachers. These discussion groups cover topics from discussions on educational software to American Literature.

Teachers Net

The Teachers Net provides a forum for teachers to discuss a broad range of topics that relate to classroom teaching. The discussions are supplemented by resources designed to support teachers.

The Net also provides a great opportunity for students to interact with each other, and to collaborate on projects. For instance, classes of students working on research papers can debate topics and exchange information through e-mail. This type of collaboration expands the range of opinions and ideas that students are challenged with as they complete projects.

Some examples of student collaboration can be seen at:

The Journey North Project
The Journey North Project coordinates over 4000 schools that share information and research on global wildlife migration. Students contribute their observations to form a global picture of migrations and the passing of seasons.


The GLOBE is an online environment where over 7000 schools worldwide work with researchers, teachers, and other students to develop an understanding of the global environment.

In addition to the wide range of experts and collaborations that are available online, the Net offers flexibility by reducing strict time dependence for interaction among students, teachers, and experts.


Research is by no means a new topic in schools, but again the Net offers students and teachers a new way to approach information and materials. One of the immediate benefits that the Net offers has been discussed earlier -- the proliferation of resources and materials that are now available to teachers and students through the Web.

Just a sample of research resources can be found at:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art offers a wide range of information online as well as an indexed collection of online museum and library links.

The Net also offers two very new approaches to research in the classroom; that is, the wide availability of real data and simulations. The use of real data has always been a part of education, but with the introduction of the Net, the amount of data that is available in the classroom has grown greatly. With the Internet, students have access to global data sets. This, in conjunction with the Net's communication capacity, creates potential for very interesting projects.

Some sample data sites can be seen at:

The U.S. Naval Observatory

The U.S. Naval Observatory produces accurate data on everything from sunrise and sunset times anywhere on the planet to the real-time orientation, position, and movement of celestial objects. (http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/RS_OneDay.html).

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

NOAA provides an incredible range of information about our planet, from research on climate to the latest commercial-fishing harvest statistics.

Another aspect of researching is the ability to conduct experiments and evaluate the results. Most schools are equipped with labs and give students the opportunity to experiment. The Web does not replace hands-on experimentation, but it provides access to simulations of activities and resources that may be too expensive or unsafe for use in a classroom.

Some samples of online simulations are:

The Virtual Frog

The Virtual Frog provides students with the ability to virtually dissect a frog (oddly named Fluffy). The frog dissection allows students to repeat experiments, to study the sample, and to make their own inquiries, without many of the problematic issues related to lab dissection.

The Visible Human Project

The Visible Human project provides teachers and students with resources previously only available to medical students. A digital-image data set of a complete human male and female cadaver in MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and anatomical modes are available online, as are many other resources.


images A student's final project should reflect his or her knowledge of the subjects and facts learned for a particular class. The Net allows teachers and students to think about the completed project differently than before -- as something that can be viewed by people around the world, and that can potentially add to the Net itself as a useful resource. Because of its visibility on the Net, the project can also generate feedback far beyond the grade given by the teacher.

By engaging students -- particularly those who find traditional teacher-centered learning difficult -- the Internet can help the students be more productive. The opportunity to create a Web site and make one's ideas public is very attractive for many students, and the tasks involved in Web design allow many talents (such as graphic-design, musical, and computing skills) to emerge. When students are excited about learning and expressing their ideas, their performance almost always improves. And since publication of student material online provides a much larger audience for it, it gives an additional reason for the students to take care and do their best, since potentially anyone could see the results.

As you consider the use of the Net in your classroom, the important thing to remember is the educational objective you want to achieve with your students. The Net can broaden students' access to information, increase their communication with others, and provide a powerful medium for publishing work. The objective of, say, a history lesson is not how to use the Net, it is to understand history, but the Net is a powerful tool that students and teachers can use to help that understanding.

What are the benefits of the Internet in the classroom?

The strength of the Net is in its ability to greatly increase the communication and collaboration among students and teacher, to increase the range of resources available to students, and to provide students with multiple ways of presenting their ideas and opinions.

It is up to the teacher to decide how these resources best fit their educational beliefs. The Net is a tool that when used intelligently is very powerful, but it us up to the teacher to decide when it is the best tool, and when it is best to use other resources.

What is constructivism? What are the benefits of constructivism?

What is constructivism?

Constructivism is basically a theory -- based on observation and scientific study -- about how people learn. It says that people construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world, through experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences. When we encounter something new, we have to reconcile it with our previous ideas and experience, maybe changing what we believe, or maybe discarding the new information as irrelevant. In any case, we are active creators of our own knowledge. To do this, we must ask questions, explore, and assess what we know.

In the classroom, the constructivist view of learning can point towards a number of different teaching practices. In the most general sense, it usually means encouraging students to use active techniques (experiments, real-world problem solving) to create more knowledge and then to reflect on and talk about what they are doing and how their understanding is changing. The teacher makes sure she understands the students' preexisting conceptions, and guides the activity to address them and then build on them.

Constructivist teachers encourage students to constantly assess how the activity is helping them gain understanding. By questioning themselves and their strategies, students in the constructivist classroom ideally become "expert learners." This gives them ever-broadening tools to keep learning. With a well-planned classroom environment, the students learn HOW TO LEARN.

You might look at it as a spiral. When they continuously reflect on their experiences, students find their ideas gaining in complexity and power, and they develop increasingly strong abilities to integrate new information. One of the teacher's main roles becomes to encourage this learning and reflection process.

For example: Groups of students in a science class are discussing a problem in physics. Though the teacher knows the "answer" to the problem, she focuses on helping students restate their questions in useful ways. She prompts each student to reflect on and examine his or her current knowledge. When one of the students comes up with the relevant concept, the teacher seizes upon it, and indicates to the group that this might be a fruitful avenue for them to explore. They design and perform relevant experiments. Afterward, the students and teacher talk about what they have learned, and how their observations and experiments helped (or did not help) them to better understand the concept.

Contrary to criticisms by some (conservative/traditional) educators, constructivism does not dismiss the active role of the teacher or the value of expert knowledge. Constructivism modifies that role, so that teachers help students to construct knowledge rather than to reproduce a series of facts. The constructivist teacher provides tools such as problem-solving and inquiry-based learning activities with which students formulate and test their ideas, draw conclusions and inferences, and pool and convey their knowledge in a collaborative learning environment. Constructivism transforms the student from a passive recipient of information to an active participant in the learning process. Always guided by the teacher, students construct their knowledge actively rather than just mechanically ingesting knowledge from the teacher or the textbook.

Constructivism is also often misconstrued as a learning theory that compels students to "reinvent the wheel." In fact, constructivism taps into and triggers the student's innate curiosity about the world and how things work. Students do not reinvent the wheel but, rather, attempt to understand how it turns, how it functions. They become engaged by applying their existing knowledge and real-world experience, learning to hypothesize, testing their theories, and ultimately drawing conclusions from their findings.

What are the benefits of constructivism?

1 Benefit
Children learn more, and enjoy learning more when they are actively involved, rather than passive listeners.
2 Benefit
Education works best when it concentrates on thinking and understanding, rather than on rote memorization. Constructivism concentrates on learning how to think and understand.
3 Benefit
Constructivist learning is transferable. In constructivist classrooms, students create organizing principles that they can take with them to other learning settings.
4 Benefit
Constructivism gives students ownership of what they learn, since learning is based on students' questions and explorations, and often the students have a hand in designing the assessments as well. Constructivist assessment engages the students' initiatives and personal investments in their journals, research reports, physical models, and artistic representations. Engaging the creative instincts develops students' abilities to express knowledge through a variety of ways. The students are also more likely to retain and transfer the new knowledge to real life.
5 Benefit
By grounding learning activities in an authentic, real-world context, constructivism stimulates and engages students. Students in constructivist classrooms learn to question things and to apply their natural curiosity to the world.
6 Benefit
Constructivism promotes social and communication skills by creating a classroom environment that emphasizes collaboration and exchange of ideas. Students must learn how to articulate their ideas clearly as well as to collaborate on tasks effectively by sharing in group projects. Students must therefore exchange ideas and so must learn to "negotiate" with others and to evaluate their contributions in a socially acceptable manner. This is essential to success in the real world, since they will always be exposed to a variety of experiences in which they will have to cooperate and navigate among the ideas of others.
Source: www.thirteen.org

Multiple Intelligences Theory in My Classroom

Many teachers have lot of doubts regarding the application of MI in Classrooms. Hope, the following write up will help in solving some of their doubts and give them confidence to apply MI theory in their day to day lessons.

How do I apply multiple intelligences (M.I.) theory in my classroom?
There are many different ways to apply multiple intelligences theory in the classroom. You probably employ a variety of intelligences already.
At all levels of education, teachers are transforming subject-specific lessons and curriculum units into meaningful M.I. experiences.
• History courses study period music and art.
• Science units incorporate visual, musical and kinesthetic experiences.
• Language arts classes reading Civil War literature visit re-enactments and build a topographical map.
As educators explore more effective methods of assessment, they frequently encourage their students to demonstrate understanding through M.I. activities.
• Elementary school students compose and perform songs about math concepts which satisfy the rubrics they and their teachers have developed.
• Middle school students create multimedia presentations combining animations, MIDI compositions, and writing to satisfy interdisciplinary unit requirements.
• High school students demonstrate mastery of self-formulated research questions through art, writing portfolios, and giving speeches before panels of local citizens.
While you look at the following, think of
• Other events, artifacts, content and activities you might incorporate into the subject matter you teach.
• A variety of appropriate ways students in your classroom might demonstrate understanding.


Verbal-Linguistic - Books, stories, poetry, speeches, author visits - Writing stories, scripts, poems, storytelling

Mathematical-Logical - Exercises, drills, problem solving - Counting, calculating, theorizing, demonstrating, programming computers

Musical - Tapes, CD's, concert going - Performing, singing, playing, composing

Visual-Spatial - Posters, art work, slides, charts, graphs, video tapes, laser disks, CD-ROMs and DVDs, museum visits - Drawing, painting, illustrating, graphic design, collage making, poster making, photography

Bodily-Kinesthetic - Movies, animations, exercises, physicalizing concepts, rhythm exercises - Dance recital, athletic performance or competition

Interpersonal - Teams, group work, specialist roles - Plays, debates, panels, group work

Intrapersonal - Reflection time, meditation exercises - Journals, memoirs, diaries, changing behaviors, habits, personal growth

Naturalist - Terrariums, aquariums, class pets, farm, botanical garden and zoo visits, nature walks, museum visits - Collecting, classifying, caring for animals at nature centers

Existential - Working on causes, charity work, astrology charts - Community service

The ultimate goal of M.I. theory -- to increase student understanding -- is something for which good teachers have long striven. Excellent educators have always addressed the needs of their variously intelligent students. In this sense the real values of M.I. theory are:
• To legitimize the powerful and wide-reaching curricula many teachers have always delivered.
• To systematize and broadcast the theory and methodology of an enriched curriculum.

Classroom activities frequently activate and utilize more than one of the multiple intelligences. Now consider how you would add to and interpret the items on the following list:
• Group discussion - Verbal-Linguistic; Interpersonal
• Journal writing - Intrapersonal; Verbal/Linguistic
• Choreography - Musical-Rhythmic; Verbal-Linguistic; Interpersonal
• Constructing timelines - Logical-Mathematical; Visual-Spatial
• Putting on a play - Musical-Rhythmic; Verbal/Linguistic; Interpersonal; Visual-Spatial
• Making a video - Logical-Mathematical, Musical-Rhythmic; Verbal/Linguistic; Interpersonal; Visual-Spatial
• Writing a report or essay - Verbal-Linguistic
• Making graphs - Logical-Mathematical; Visual-Spatial
• Designing posters - Verbal-Linguistic, Visual-Spatial
• Communicating with peers or experts online - Verbal-Linguistic; Interpersonal
• Hands-on experimentation - Kinesthetic; Logical/Mathematical
• Composing a song - Musical/Rhythmic; Verbal-Linguistic
• Building a model or 3-D displays - Kinesthetic; Logical-Mathematical

In this section of the M.I. Workshop (Exploration), you will have many opportunities to both analyze what you're already doing well, and to explore some new techniques that you can add to your repertoire.


Read the transcript from the online chat with Howard Gardner.

Moderator: Hi there, everyone. Welcome to our chat with Dr. Howard Gardner, co-Director of Harvard Project Zero and the creator of the theory of multiple intelligences.
Moderator: Professor Gardner's latest book is INTELLIGENCE REFRAMED: MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES FOR THE 21st CENTURY. He is here tonight to answer your questions about his research and insights into education.
Moderator: Welcome, Dr. Gardner.
Professor Gardner: Thank you, I am happy to be in this chat.
Moderator: Professor Gardner, I'm sure most of the people here are familiar with some of your work, but could you please explain your theory for those who aren't?
Professor Gardner: Well I am a psychologist and my theory arose as a critique of the standard view of intelligence. That view holds that there is a single view of intelligence. We are born with it and psychologists can assess our intelligence with tests. This is wrong, and I have done tests through brain studies and anthropology to come up with an alternative approach called Multiple Intelligence Theory (MI Theory). The theory holds that all human beings possess eight different intelligences, including not only the familiar Language intelligences, but also Spatial intelligences, Musical, Interpersonal, etc. While we all possess these eight or more intelligences, no two people-not even identical twins-exhibit exactly the same profile of strength and weakness. As educators, we face a stark choice; either ignore these differences in MI profiles, or take them seriously in instruction and assessment.
Moderator: What is your most recent research?
Professor Gardner: Most recently I've been studying how the fact of our multiple intelligences can be used to help students understand the way in of different disciplines, specifically science, history, mathematics and the arts. That research is detailed in DISCIPLINED MIND, published in 1999 by Simon and Schuster.
1767students: How did you get involved in researching these "intelligences"?
Professor Gardner: In truth I did not begin as a researcher on intelligence. My first decade of research probed the development of cognition in children and the breakdown of cognizance in adults.
Professor Gardner: These two groups of subjects convinced me that human beings have a wide range of intellectual strengths and weaknesses, and that strength in one area does not predict strength or weakness in other areas.
Professor Gardner: In 1979, my colleagues and I received a large grant and my assignment was to write a monograph on what had been discovered about the human mind in the biological and cognitive sciences. After four years of research and synthesis I published a book titled FRAMES OF MIND in which I unveiled MI Theory. Since then, I have been refining the theory and investigating its educational application. The most recent update, published this month, is INTELLIGENCE REFRAMED.
122teach: Many states and communities are currently implementing academic standards, which designate skills and competencies that all the students in a given age or grade-range are supposed to meet. How can the multiple-intelligence approach be used, when standards require everyone to meet the same benchmarks?
Professor Gardner: The question entails a number of presuppositions which need to be examined.
Professor Gardner: Intelligences are not skills, they are biological potentials which are realized to a greater or lesser extent depending upon opportunities and motivation. There is no point in developing Linguistic or Spatial intelligence per se; what may be important is to develop skills (like writing or geometry) which presuppose strengths in certain of the intelligences.
Professor Gardner: Therefore, if you have a state mandated test, you need to look at the performances which are mandated and to determine which intelligences can help students succeed in those performances.
Professor Gardner: For example, a test may assess the understanding of the scientific principles. It is up to the instructor, and ultimately the students, to mobilize whichever intelligences can help the students understand this principle. One student may use primarily intelligence A, one may use intelligence B, a third may use a combination of C and D.
Professor Gardner: I have not so far indicated what I think of standardized tests. That's a separate question. I can say that I do not have any interest in a test that claimed it was assessing one intelligence or another. I am interested in those abilities which we need to be good workers and good citizens. To use an analogy, if I were interested in athletics I would not devise a test for bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. Instead, I would examine how well students throw a football or play hockey or master a dive. And I would not care which intelligences they were using, so long as they were able to perform the athletic test.
222flowers: Do you think students can improve in an area where they may be weak? Or do you consider these new intelligences to be innate? In other words, can they be learned?
Professor Gardner: Any intelligence can be improved. Differences in potential simply mean how much effort the individual and the community must exert to enhance a particular intelligence. The better the teaching and the more powerful the prosthetic (technological or otherwise), the more readily the intelligence can be enhanced.
Professor Gardner: As we get older it probably makes more sense to build on our strength than to shore up weaknesses; nonetheless, at any age an intelligence can be enhanced if enough effort is exerted.
Laura985: Can you explain a little about your two new intelligences, Naturalist and Existentialist?
Professor Gardner: The Naturalist intelligence describes the human ability to detect significant patterns in nature. To survive, animals (including humans) must be able to distinguish among plants, animals, and other natural objects. I speculate that our consumer society exploits this ability - for example, allowing us to distinguish one sneaker or automobile from another.
Professor Gardner: In addition there may be a 9th, or Existential, intelligence. That intelligence reflects the human proclivity for pondering big questions, like who are we, where do we come from, what's going to happen to us? From childhood humans ask these questions, and across cultures we create art, science, philosophy and religion to help us answer these questions. The reason for my uncertainty about this 9th intelligence is the absence, thus far, of evidence about brain regions dedicated to existential thinking.
Professor Gardner: By the way, many people have speculated that there may be a spiritual intelligence. In INTELLIGENCE REFRAMED, I explain why there is no spiritual intelligence and no moral intelligence, but why there might be an existential intelligence.
education33356: Do you feel classrooms focus too much on the Linguistic and Logical-Mathematical intelligences, and not enough on children's individual talents? If so, what is the best approach for teachers to begin incorporating these new intelligences in their classroom?
Professor Gardner: That's such a complicated question that I have written three books about it.
Professor Gardner: The first point I make is to distrust generalizations about classes. The second point is that language and logic become increasingly dominant, as the specter of college admissions looms large. A third point is that one can espouse a highly traditional curriculum and yet reserve much room for several intelligences; as I have already mentioned, one can approach subjects like science and history by drawing on a whole range of intelligences.
Professor Gardner: Conversely, one could teach music in a highly linguistic or logical way. So there is no one to one mapping between a subject and an intelligence, unless the teacher decides to mandate that link. With that said, I personally prefer a school in which a range of discipline and skill areas are a regular part of the curriculum and I dislike a school with a narrow focus on any intelligence, be it a traditional academic school or an arts centered school.
Professor Gardner: For me the biggest enemy of good education in America today is the pressure to cover vast amount of material. Anybody who succumbs to this pressure converts school to a verbal memory routine. Conversely, if you are willing to probe deeply, to uncover rather than to cover then there is plenty of latitude for incorporating MI approaches. To see how this is done, read chapter 7-9 of The DISCIPLINED MIND.
Laura985: I find the lack of evidence about the brain regions dedicated to existential thinking interesting. Is not the evidence of mythology, the question of existence, proof?
Professor Gardner: The answer is no, because the issue is not whether any kind of thinking reflects the brain. Every kind of thinking reflects the brain. The issue, rather, is whether there are parts of the brain that are exclusively or primarily dedicated to these big questions. And so, to put it concretely, does existential thinking rely on the same part of the brain that tells stories or do philosophical analyses, or is a separate set of brain regions involved?
Professor Gardner: Even in giving this response, I'm speaking about brain studies very loosely. But when I evaluate the evidence for a new intelligence, I try my best to do so in a manner of a neuroscientist.
Whit1216: You have suggested that there is no "artistic intelligence" but that each intelligence can be used in an aesthetic or non-aesthetic way. Please elaborate.
Professor Gardner: First of all, I appreciate the question. In answering your question, I am using Language intelligence but not, alas, in an aesthetic way. If, however, I were to answer in elegant sentences or in verse or with metaphor and imagery, I would be using "the same intelligence" in an artistic way. To use a different example, if I play a bugle to wake up recruits in boot camp or put on music in a dentist office to soothe the pain, I'm using Musical intelligence in a non-artistic way.
Professor Gardner: Your question raises an important point. I certainly don't question the value of arts education. I've devoted much of my life to it. However, as a scholar I need to have formal definitions as well as criteria for determining what is and what is not an intelligence. And so while I might love to have an artistic intelligence or a spiritual intelligence or a humor intelligence, my decisions on these candidates have to be based on the best scientific evidence I can accumulate and not on what you or I might prefer.
Laura985: Do you think there could be a technological, or computer-use intelligence?
Professor Gardner: Certainly. In coming up with my original list of intelligences, I spent a lot of the time thinking about mechanical or tool use. In fact, there is an anthropologist named Steven Mithen who believes that there is a tool intelligence. Personally, I concluded that skill with traditional tools can be adequately explained by invoking a number of intelligences, among them Spatial, Bodily, and Logical.
Professor Gardner: As for intelligence for computers, that's a new ball of wax. There are many computer skills, ranging from programming, to inventing new languages, to surfing the web, to typing as quickly as I can speak, etc. We'd have to study each of these skills to determine which intelligence or intelligences are used by most people. Finally, it's possible that as computer use continues to evolve, new intelligences may emerge. Twenty years ago nobody, not even Bill Gates, could have envisioned the routine use of computers today.
Moderator: Do you ever feel that your theories are misinterpreted?
Professor Gardner: Every day. But unless the misinterpretation is willful, I consider it a natural fate of any theory. People always draw on old knowledge to make sense of something that is initially unfamiliar, and I am no exception. Therefore, it is inevitable that the more challenging aspects of MI Theory will initially be misunderstood. In fact, it's no exaggeration to say that my own understanding deepens regularly.
Professor Gardner: In INTELLIGENCE REFRAMED I devote two entire chapters to dealing with misunderstandings, a few of which I helped to propagate myself. I can only add that I have no patience for people who claim to understand or to apply the theory without taking the trouble to read some of my writings. Alas, I have to include a lot of journalists in the ranks of those who rely on second hand reports, rather than on their own reading of the primary literature.
Moderator: For those of us who agree with your theories, any hints for talking to administrators or parents who may not understand?
Professor Gardner: It's very important to be alert to questions and potential misinterpretations. Much of INTELLIGENCE REFRAMED is explicitly designed to help educators answer sympathetic and hostile questions from parents, administrators, and politicians. The most important thing to understand is that multiple intelligence is not an educational recipe. It is how the mind works. Moreover, you can never go directly from any theory to educational practice. That's because educational practice always depends on a value system; what's important, what kind of adults we want to have, what disciplines we value, which ones are we willing to demote, etc. No scientific theory can answer these questions.
Professor Gardner: So, when someone says to me, "We want to use MI Theory," I always reply, "For what?" If you can't answer that question you are not ready for the theory. But if you can tell me what kind of adults you want to produce and if you can tell me what kind of disciplinary understandings you want those adults to have, then I can help you to design Multiple Intelligence curricula and teaching methods, and assessment techniques that reach more students and help those students become the adults that you value.
Whit1216: Going back to the concept that each intelligence can be used in an aesthetic or non-aesthetic way, it seems that if the schools focused more on the aesthetic side of the intelligences the students might connect more with what they are learning.
Professor Gardner: The most recent research at Project Zero suggests that the arts may not directly improve performance in traditional academic subjects, but that the arts can help nurture an educational context in which students are more serious, more disciplined, more likely to take on new challenges, and more likely to value learning across the board. I think that this impression, for which we have some data, is very compatible with your useful question and comment.
Moderator: Thank you so much for taking time to come chat with us today, Dr. Gardner.
Professor Gardner: You're welcome!
Moderator: We hope that all our guests will take time to explore the entire "Tapping into Multiple Intelligences" workshop.

01 October, 2008


Dyslexia is considered a reading disorder affecting 1 in 5 school children -- and presumably still affecting any adults who did not overcome it during their adolescence. Importantly, dyslexia is a condition that supposedly persists despite normal or above-average intelligence and quality schooling. There is, moreover, a body of so-called scientific evidence that suggests that there is "a glitch in the neurological wiring of dyslexics that makes reading extremely difficult for them." [1]

Highly significantly, brain scans show that the cerebrums of people with dyslexia are perfectly normal -- and thereby rules out brain damage as a possible cause of what is perceived as a problem. The truth is that dyslexics may and often do have brains which are considered extraordinary -- that is, extra-ordinary, with a capital "E". "Dyslexics, in fact, seem to have a distinct advantage when it comes to thinking outside the box." [1]

Even while referring to dyslexia as a disability, one reporter notes that "dyslexics are overrepresented in the top ranks of artists, scientists and business executives. Perhaps because their brains are wired differently, dyslexics are often skilled problem solvers, coming at solutions from novel or surprising angles and making conceptual leaps that leave tunnel-visioned, step-by-step sequential thinkers in the dust. They talk about being able to see things in 3-D Technicolor or as a multidimensional chess game." [1]

And they call this skill a disability? Are they crazy?

Consider the arrival in your school of a newly arrived immigrant from Russia -- someone who is fluent in Russian, Greek, and Mandarin Chinese. Unfortunately, there is no one at the school that speaks any of those three languages, and thus the immigrant must contend with remedial English, starting in many respects from scratch in conversation, reading and writing. Keep in mind that the new arrival is not suffering from a disability -- and in fact is probably more conversant in language skills than anyone else in the school. But there is a different methodology used to communicate -- distinct alphabets as well as different vocabularies, sentence structure, and diverse cultural backgrounds. This causes a lack of "fitting in" -- a skill not necessarily a good thing, and certainly a disadvantage for anyone aspiring to become a cog in the Corporate machine.

It is entirely possible that dyslexia is not a disability, but only a different thinking methodology. Furthermore, it just might be a better methodology!

It is noteworthy that the left side of the brain is particularly adept at processing language and logic, while the right side is more attuned to mathematics and analyzing spatial cues. Tests which indicate good spatial relations and mathematical skills are thus right brain functions -- but the latter skills are not as culturally acceptable as the left brain ability to manipulate, control, and make excuses via the wonders of language.

In addition, logic -- even when not taken to the extremes of the average Vulcan -- is a left brain attribute, but is always limited by the input data. Incomplete data can and will logically lead to an incomplete conclusion. Intentionally misguided information will likewise lead to intentionally misguided results. This accounts for the ability of lawyers and politicians to survive and prosper in the world -- all the while avoiding like the plague the label of dysfunctional, brain-skewed dyshumans, a label which is more accurately leveled at these language-prolific scoundrels.

Intuition, however, while often illogical (the good news) and seemingly irrational, is often the preferred route. Intuition, for example, includes the possibility of divine inspiration, and has no preconceived limit in the input data. There is also the connectedness of intuitive thinking, which is more in tune with universal reality, and part of the massive universal input potential.

The right side of the brain is also considered the feminine, receptive side -- thus the greater likelihood of externally generated inspiration. This receptive nature, the ability to allow all manner of input from a variety of sources, seemingly simultaneous, is extraordinary. It is what allows mathematicians to more easily solve their (mathematical) problems -- but not necessarily allow them to communicate their success to the non-mathematical world. The fact that participation in marching bands improve mathematical skills is simply that the student in a marching band is practicing different skills at the same time, both music and marching.

Mathematics may be thought of as logic, but in reality, the creation of mathematics (as opposed to the simple repetition of learned techniques, such as in accounting*) is often highly illogical -- at least in the inspiration to strike off into some logically inexplicable direction. Logic may be applied to justify or prove the intuitive conclusion, but that's only to meet the weird requirements of the left-brain-biased culture.

[*A notable exception is “creative accounting” in which Independent Accounting Firms display an unlimited amount of unlawful, unreasonable, and unaccountable skills in meeting the demands of CEOs in misstating corporate financials.]

This does not eliminate the possibility that in order to function effectively in the current status of the modern world, it might be necessary for the dyslexic to be able to learn the communication technique used by the majority of others -- particularly those in control by means of language skills (politicians, corporate executives, commentators, and religious leaders). Learning to be in harmony with such a world, of course, can be done by among other things, strengthening the brain's ability to link letters to the sounds they represent. In effect, this constitutes a rewiring of the brain sufficiently thorough that any so-called neurological glitch disappears.

Is this a good idea? Are we really certain that a brain "rewiring" – which might also be construed as a brain washing -- is in the best interests of anyone” How horrendously problematic will it be if someone is not able to master the skills that the majority claim to have mastered, and thus meet the skills demanded by corporations and employers? It might make better sense to offer the dyslexic a chance to be fluent in the mainstream language medium -- but not at the cost of eliminating the "out of the box" thinking that dyslexics innately possess. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.

With the advent of Indigo Children, complete with their unique skills, perhaps the crowd that is dysfunctional is the one committed exclusively to language skills.

As previously mentioned, language is considered the curse of the Kali Yuga. "Linguists believe that the spoken word is 50,000 to 100,000 years old. But the written word -- and therefore the possibility of reading -- has probably been around for no more than 5,000 years. 'That's not long enough for our brains to evolve certain regions for just that purpose,' says Guinevere Eden, a professor of pediatrics at Georgetown University in Washington, who also uses brain scans to study reading. 'We're probably using a whole network of areas in the brain that were originally designed to do something slightly different.' As Eden puts it, the brain is moonlighting -- and some of the resulting glitches have yet to be ironed out." [1]

Apparently, the word from Eden (pardon the pun) is that reading is a makeshift device designed to get along with a society that reveres writers and philosophers and at the same time shuns plumbers and ditch diggers. Reality is such, however, that in such a society, inevitably, neither one's theories nor their pipes will hold water.

Reading may serve a purpose, but experience may far exceed it in terms of information or data gathering. If we are truly capable of telepathy and other aspects of ESP, why aren't those people not reading minds considered to be the dysfunctionals with a "glitch" in their brains? If we are only using 10 to 15 percent of our brains and DNA, why isn't there a massive research program to bring everyone into a far greater percentage of brain power?

Meanwhile -- while we wait for all those language-gifted personalities to wake up and smell the roses (literally!) -- what do you do if you're a parent with a dyslexic child? There is an understandable urge to do everything possible to enable your child to operate in the current state of the world at their greatest effectiveness.

The difficulty is that the Inter Net is flooded with commercially available methods and techniques for dealing with dyslexia. One of them is http://www.dyslexia.com, which at least notes the fact that dyslexia is a gift. That's encouraging. They go on to state that, "Dyslexic people are visual, multi-dimensional thinkers. We are intuitive and highly creative, and excel at hands-on learning. Because we think in pictures, it is sometimes hard for us to understand letters, numbers, symbols, and written words. We can learn to read, write and study efficiently when we use methods geared to our unique learning style." But then they go on to the discussion of how much their techniques will cost. That may be a necessity, but it’s singularly unfortunate.

The key seems to be that working with mainstream methods to improve your child's ability to pursue happiness in this strange world is a laudatory effort, but you might want to temper it with the idea that nothing should reduce or eliminate the "neurological glitch" which gifts your child with such wonderful visual, multi-dimensional, intuitive, and creative skills. Adding yet another skill, such as language -- which may not survive in the long run -- is not all bad. Consider it a temporary fix or band aid. Just don't forget to nurture and encourage the far more marvelous skills of the dyslexic!

As a final word (or paragraph), it should be noted that perhaps the more encouraging aspect is that families with a dyslexic child in their midst often rally around the child in their quest to help. Bonding between the members of the family becomes a very real result, and thus Dyslexia has a curious tendency in many cases to create a deep sharing of love, care and affection among family members and friends.

Not bad, for a "glitch" in the neurological brain cage!

[1] Christine Gorman, "The Science of Dyslexia", Time Magazine, July 28, 2003.

Source: http://www.halexandria.org