Learning Styles Inservice - Contract Grade

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The inservice I attended this fall was on Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligence Theory. It was introduced by the principal of St. Thomas School, Tom Belanger, who is currently working on his Master's Degree in Education and Administration from the College of St. Scholastica. He has recently finished the course "Diversity in Student Learning" from which he compiled his information.

Our morning began with an introduction to the seven multiple intelligences, based on work by Dr. Howard Gardner, by means of a hands on activity. We were given a packet of small slips of paper in various colors, each identifying a particular activity we may enjoy. We were to sort the pile in order, to best demonstrate what described our interests and personality. With our piles finished, we were then asked to sort them into groups according to color. When this was completed, we began a lecture on the Seven Intelligences and what each of them encompassed. 1.Verbal/Linguistic shows strength in writing or speaking. 2. Logical/Mathematical tend toward problem solving and calculations. 3. Visual/Spatial may tend to paint, draw or read maps. 4. Bodily/Kinesthetic uses exercise or movement as much as possible. 5. Musical/Rhythmic tend to use music or song when learning. 6. Interpersonal (People Smart) - enjoys group work, demonstrations, and is in tune to other's feeling. 7. Interpersonal (Self Smart)- may be a deep thinker who enjoys being alone, or a daydreamer. After the discussion, a key was given out to show what each color paper stood for. With this information, we were able to categorize ourselves to see which intelligences we tended toward. The group of teachers themselves showed a wide variety of strengths and weaknesses in the areas that were presented.

At the close of the activity a discussion was held on the question "How do kids learn?" We were asked to reflect on our experiences as children and decide what we thought our strengths and weaknesses were. We then took another look at the intelligences in turn and reflected how each characteristic would be demonstrated in a school setting. I found it interesting to reflect on my students and how I was able to categorize, to some extent, their areas of strength and weakness. More importantly, I was able to look at my own educating style with constructive criticism, and see the areas I did well in, as well as where improvement was needed.

An area that I found particularly interesting was the area of strength children possesses at various ages. It was stated that students are mainly taught towards two of the domains of intelligence, linguistic and logical/mathematical. Also, instructional methods do not "align" with students at certain grade levels. The trend of younger children shows that they learn mainly by visual, verbal, kinesthetic, and mathematical. They do not show high levels of interpersonal or intrapersonal skills. This is a skill, that as educators, some of us take for granted in our students. We expect them to be conscious of other's feelings, when in fact they are just discovering their own.

Middle school students show a strong preference for bodily/kinesthetic, visual/spatial. musical/rhythmic and interpersonal intelligences. This is not the main method of instruction most middle school instructors use. We tend to expect more individualized work when in fact these students work best in groups versus one on one instruction.

Another exercise was done that appealed to all seven intelligences, it was entitled the "Potato Chip Activity." We were divided into groups with various strengths in each of the intelligences. Potato chips were examined for different characteristics, and then grouped in a variety of ways, including size and color. A display was created to demonstrate spatial intelligence. We also were to hypothesize the invention of the potato chip and act out a skit on this invention using music incorporated into the presentation. This was geared for people who tended towards interpersonal. Music intelligence was shown by composing a jingle for advertising. We measured chips and figured how many chips it would take to cover the table to incorporate logical/mathematical. Kinesthetic strength was achieved by moving to stations and taste-testing the chips. Finally, linguistic was demonstrated by using the nutritional information, to categorize, in graph form, the brand of potato chip preferred and the information was conveyed in a thirty second commercial that we created to convince our colleagues to buy our preferred chip.

For closure, strengths and weaknesses of each member of the group were discussed. This was enlightening to see my colleagues and I struggle at different aspects of the activity. For example, I found it particularly easy to do the activities that had definite directions and answers while the creative aspects of the project proved more difficult. While others showed a creative flair for the skits but lacked drive on the logical activities.

After experiencing the different techniques used in the activity, a question was then asked," How can we use these methods effectively in our classrooms right now?" We need to find a way to create an "intelligence fair" learning environment. We need to take into account the different backgrounds the students have come from and where their strengths lie. A variety of factors contribute to a child strengths including, genetics, environmental, and cultural. An account by Dr. Gardner was then shared that stated, "It is important to consider individuals as a collection of aptitudes rather than as having a singular problem-solving facultyThe total is greater than the sum of the parts. An individual may not be gifted in any intelligence; yet, because of a particular blend of skills, he may be able to fill a niche uniquely well." The quote was discussed and we documented a variety of ways to instruct a wide variety of learners at each grade level.

We then examined activities we could use in our own teaching environments. A way of helping students become better learners was to vary the way things are taught and to appeal to all domains of intelligence. Learning centers that appeal to each type of learner would further enhance our classrooms. At the closing of a unit of study a variety of measurements should be used such as projects, exhibits, and performances that demonstrate a true understanding for the material presented. Only in this way can we reach all the students to the best of our ability. Gone are the days of independent paper and pencil exercises. To be effective, we must continue to grow as educators by becoming teachers in all seven domains of intelligence.

Note: I am also writing a grant thatis a year-long project. Please advise when I should submit a copy.

-- Anonymous, January 28, 1999


Jill, The grading period for this year ends on May 30th, so you need to submit your grant in early May so it can be reviewed beforing receiving a grade. Will that work with the grant deadline? If the deadline is earlier, please send a copy to me at that time.

Thanks for the inquiry, Mary Ann

-- Anonymous, January 28, 1999

Jill, how did Tom Belanger do? Do you think it would be valuable for him spending some time talking to the cohort? The book is very valuable, like so many others on various learning styles. It's very easy to forget that we, and students learn best in different ways.

Thanks, Terry

-- Anonymous, January 29, 1999

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