MA (TESOL) Neil Hammond How can Multiple Intelligence Theory be used to foster teacher development, support, and informed curriculum supplementation? March 2007
PREFACE The writing of this dissertation marks the end of an extremely fulfilling process of exploration, and hopefully the beginning of an equally fulfilling process of application. I am indebted to the inspiring teaching staff at EF Vancouver, especially to ELT veteran Victor Hill who provided an invaluable sounding board for conceptual, syntactical and, it must be admitted, orthographical issues. Sigrid Mundy also provided much appreciated editorial assistance. Thanks also to the TESOL faculty at Sheffield Hallam University, and the participants of TES 14 with whom I was lucky to share in such rich collaborative development. I would like to thank my wife, Keona, for her understanding and encouragement during all the moments I was lost in space; and finally my baby Jack for the continual, but delightful, distraction.
ABSTRACT 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. Consequently, 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 within the faculty 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. This was found to be, in itself, a somewhat groundless leap of faith and led to a reframing of the project and ultimately an attempt to suggest how Multiple Intelligences Theory 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 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 quicktest 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 tentatively established. The coursebook and teacher-supplement analysis highlighted the sheer weight of logicbased activities present in coursebooks and while linguistic, logical, interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligences are well catered for, the remaining five intelligences usually ii
comprise less than 25% of activities. 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 unconsciously 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 intrinsic, thematic, dynamic and activity applications of each intelligence. The research challenges the existing literature on Multiple Intelligences in ELT that exaggerates rather than balances the prevalent intelligence bias in published materials, 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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