This article demonstrates the use of the Theory of Multiple Intelligences by H. Gardner in a year 4 PYP classroom through ‘How the world works’ inquiry into energy.
The eight ways in which people can be intelligent are: logical, linguistic, visual, bodily, musical, interpersonal, naturalist and intrapersonal. Howard Gardner identified and nested these intelligences (and he is working on revealing more such as moral and existential) under his Theory of Multiple Intelligences in 1983. The theory of multiple intelligences segregates intelligence into precise ‘modalities’, rather than seeing intelligence as dominated by a single general capability.
Schools today integrate different teaching approaches to cater to the different ways students learn, but when it comes to the measuring and grading of students, some still revert to conventional systems, no matter how rich, differentiated and diverse classroom inquires may be. The concept-driven, transdisciplinary approach of the Primary Years Programme (PYP) focuses on authentic assessments which require a focus on the development of the whole child as an inquirer, both within and beyond the classroom.
Inquiries into the transdisciplinary theme How the world works with the central idea Energy exists in different forms and is changed, stored and used to support human progress saw our year 4 students make connections and establish relevance to the real world through discovery and explorations. The various inquiry-engagements and assessments mirrored practical tasks and were inclusive of diverse ability, intelligences and interests.
Musical – Music Smart
Students worked in small groups to develop their understanding of what sound energy is, where and how it exists around us in everyday life. Some students created games, and others, musical performances. They also watched how the Wintergatan – Marble Machine (music instrument using 2000 marbles) that uses multiple sources of energy to create sounds was created. Inspired by this creation, students then used different types of balls to invent new ways of playing instruments.
Visual/Spatial – Picture Smart
The year 4s were asked the question ‘Can we use art materials to show energy?’. They used different materials such as paint, loose parts, wire, recycled boxes, clay, water, oil etc to explore this concept and came up with exhibition-worthy models.
Kinaesthetic – Body Smart
Students had the opportunity to inquire into the relationship between energy, effort and distance using a variety of striking tools and different sized balls of varying styles. They narrowed it down to which striking tool and which ball is best used to hit for power and distance and which striking tool and ball is best used for accuracy. Differentiated assessment tasks allowed students to explain their understanding of how the body works together producing this transfer of energy. They could also explain the improvements that they made in either skills development or knowledge gained related to how energy is transferred.
Linguistic – Word Smart
Students attended a presentation followed by some Q&A interactions with a veteran in the field of sustainable energy. The talk covered sustainable organizations/cities and their initiatives. Students used the opportunity to recap/rephrase information and knowledge they gained from this talk and reported it to the class parents on the class online portal.
Logical – Number/ Problem-solving Smart
To understand the use and transformation of energy students engaged in hands-on electric circuitry, paper card circuits and solar car-making projects. They investigated electrical circuits to find out which materials make good insulators or conductors of electricity by using different materials to complete it. They used this knowledge to make LED light cards and solar-powered cars.
Interpersonal – People Smart
Students went into groups to research and present their understanding of the use and transformation of energy from renewable energy sources. They had the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of new words like ‘photovoltaic cells’ seen on solar panels, ‘turbines and generators’ in hydropower dams, ‘rotors, motors and shafts’ on wind farms through their presentations to the class.
Naturalistic – Experience & Exploration Smart
Using simple recycled materials students had the opportunity to put together their personal project that represented a renewable energy source. They researched, planned, produced, presented and reflected on how their model represents the form and change in energy.
Intrapersonal – Myself Smart
Right through their inquiries into the transdisciplinary theme How the world works, students wrote independent reflections in their online blogs which are shared with their teachers, friends and parents. They did so using knowledge gained from their ICT integrated inquiries for this unit. The blog turned out to be an excellent independent journal-evidence of their inquiry journey.
The above engagements highlight the fact that for some of us it is comparatively easy to understand the life cycle of a butterfly but it can be extremely difficult for us to understand and use a musical instrument! For others music might be easy but playing rugby is difficult. Given this diversity, it seems fair to accept that students and teachers will need a wide range of strategies, and flexibility of timing and approach if students are to achieve common goals during inquires. Encouraging students to create a diorama, contribute in a debate, interview an expert, write a song or design a poster not only demonstrates inclusion of diverse intelligences, ability levels and interests, but also resonates the IB mission statement to “encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right”.
Niru Raghuram is a PYP educator with teaching experience in international schools in Singapore. Her teaching is based on the inquiry approach pedagogy – the core philosophy of the Primary Years Programme. Niru is a classroom teacher and level coordinator for the year 4 team of teachers at EtonHouse International School, Singapore. As classroom teacher, her focus is on language, social studies and STEM. Her passion for science and technology extend her commitment for teaching and learning in the school’s science and makerspace arena. You can follow her on Twitter @NiruRaghuram.