In 1983 Howard Gardner published his landmark book, Frames of Mind, introducing the theory of multiple intelligences (MI). Much has happened over the course of 40 years as MI theory has traveled around the world at light speed. This month’s author is Mahnaz Saeidi, Professor of Applied Linguistics, IAU, Tabriz, Iran. Her work highlights two goals for the use of MI theory advocated by Gardner: personalization and teaching with a variety of intelligences. When students’ strengths are affirmed and they use MI to enhance learning, their understanding will be deep and crystallized.
A Brief Note: Reflections on MI in Iran
by Mahnaz Saeidi
In reflecting on MI, my first question is how the Multiple Intelligence (MI) theory affected my career as a teacher during 24 years of teaching English as a foreign language after being familiar with this theory in 1998 as a Ph.D. student. The first thing ringing in my mind refers to more understanding of my students and building learning based on their capability rather than incapability. As Guignon (1998) rightly mentions, “We would look at what they [students] do well, instead of what they could not do” (p.1).
My second reflection during this period of teaching refers back to my students’ enthusiastic looking at me while I was lecturing about MI. I could see the main effect of MI in educational settings practically which implies intelligence can be developed with appropriate encouragement, enrichment, and instruction (Christison, 1998).
Thus, the appeal of MI theory to educators is justified when both partners of education (i.e., teachers and learners) believe in it. This belief on the part of the teachers will encourage them to create varieties of language teaching methodologies to reach all the students in the class and involve them by focusing on their interests and strengths. The magic is on the part of the students who have been encouraged to go on with learning with high spirits believing in their capabilities although they might differ from other students or so-called “top students in the class”. They are more hopeful as the teacher, using the insights derived from the MI, created such positive thinking in students! This is great, isn’t it?
You can feel good about what you do in your classes as a teacher and your students also may enjoy it; however, the educational system, in general, and the curriculum, in particular, need to be in line with insights provided by MI to see the big change in learning and learners. This might bring about some arguments about the theory of MI, which is the main concern of psychologists, generally speaking. I believe the educational dimension needs to feed the theoreticians so that MI can readily provide insights in educational settings, as one of the main implementors of this theory, to create a world different from what we have created now by relying on few numbers of intelligence such as linguistic and mathematical; as a result, being unfair to human beings.
I want to finalize my brief note by highlighting the most precious thing about MI to me; what Gardner (2006) calls the humanization of intelligence and conceptualizes it as follows:
I content that the challenge for society in the future is not simply to produce individuals who are intelligent, or more intelligent, however, defined. Rather, to yoke out intellectual capacities to a sense of ethical responsibility—in short, to humanize intelligence. (p. 240)
Mahnaz Saeidi, Professor of Applied Linguistics, IAU, Tabriz Branch, Tabriz, Iran
Author of the Book: Multiple Intelligence-based Focus on Form: From Theory to Practice (2nd Edition) (2016), Tabriz: IAU, Tabriz Branch.
Representative of Dr. Branton Shearer in Iran: MIDAS (2008 to present)
Christison, M. A. (1998). Applying multiple intelligences theory in preservice and inservice
TEFL education programs. English Teaching Forum, 36, 3-13.
Gardner, H. (2006). Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons, NY: Basic Books.
Guignon, A. (1998). Multiple intelligences: A theory for everyone. Education
World. Retrieved July 23, 2003 from http://www.education-word.com/a-curr/curr 054.shtml