Research on Multiple Intelligences…Look Out it’s a Dissertation…

How can Multiple Intelligence Theory be used to foster teacher development, support, and informed curriculum supplementation?


The application of Multiple Intelligences Theory in English Language Teaching frequently relies, it would seem, more on a leap of faith than on grounded research. This research seeks to examine the use of Multiple Intelligence Theory within a six-month teacher development project in a faculty of twenty teachers at a private language school in Vancouver, Canada.

Initially the development project sought to initiate, foster and track knowledge transfer between teachers by grouping teachers with contrasting Multiple Intelligence profiles and encouraging peer planning, observation and feedback. Ironically, this intention was based on the common assumption that teachers teach to their own intelligences which was in turn found to be, in itself, a groundless leap of faith. This led to a reframing of the project and ultimately an attempt to suggest how Multiple Intelligence can be more successfully applied to English Language teaching.

While the teacher development project was being assessed qualitatively through open questionnaires, quantitative research was conducted into the reliability of Multiple Intelligence quick-tests. This was attempted via inter-observer and alternate-form testing.

The final, and most revealing, strand of the study was to analyze, the intelligence bias inherent both in coursebook and teacher supplementary material.

A strong degree of correlation was found between the chosen Multiple Intelligence quick-test and the alternate form instruments. The inter-observer process revealed an 83.2% correlation, and while such tests should be used cautiously, a basic indication of reliability was established.

The coursebook and teacher supplement analysis highlighted the sheer weight of logic based activities in the coursebook and while linguistic, logical, interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligences as well catered for, the remaining five intelligences usually comprise less than 25% of activities, and it is argued that in most ESL contexts this balance is unsatisfactory.  More surprisingly, supplementary activities chosen or created by the teachers follow precisely the pattern found in coursebooks indicating that teachers teach to an unspoken yet pervasive common standard that outweighs personal proclivities. This tendency may be counter-balanced by an understanding of how Multiple Intelligence Theory may be activated in the ESL classroom by an attention to the integral, thematic, dynamic and activityapplications of each intelligence.

The research challenges existing literature on Multiple Intelligences in ELT that  exaggerates rather than balance the existing intelligence bias in published materials and teacher training; and also challenges the assumption that ‘teachers teach to their intelligences’. The research attempts to provide a clear model for immediate classroom application and looks towards a synthesis of Multiple Intelligence Theory with Task-Based Learning.

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