John Welham from the Camborn School and Community College History Department submitted this to the Initiative in June 1999.
Since becoming convinced of the importance of Howard Gardner’s concept of multiple intelligence, the History department at Camborne School has attempted to make use of the idea in its teaching of GCSE History. The result has been a considerable growth in student awareness of how to learn, greater involvement of parents in the learning process, a complete reappraisal of the department’s revision process and considerable interest within Cornwall and beyond in our work. This has resulted in the Department becoming involved in in-service training in other schools, in contributing to LEA INSET and in the publication of the results of pieces of related Action Research work. The purpose of this paper is to look at the application of our newly-acquired teaching and learning strategies to the issue of teaching GCSE History.
The basis of Gardner’s thesis is that each individual possesses a variety of intelligences to different degrees. It is the unique mixture of these forms of intelligence that determine our preferred learning (and teaching) styles (q.v. Gregorc), that explain our quirks, interests, abilities and talents. Simple tests can be done to determine which intelligence are predominant in each individual. Armed with this knowledge, it ought to be possible to differentiate in the teaching and learning process not by “ability” but by “predominant intelligence”.
The History department at Camborne School saw here an opportunity to sharpen up is already good practice by attempting to make the methodology of teaching more pertinent to the preference of our students. What resulted was a fascinating: far greater student enthusiasm for the process of examination revision; a different style of revision lessons in the run-up to the final examinations; the involvement of parents in this process by sharing ideas with them at the beginning of Year 11; “Learning about Learning” days for Year 11 students at the beginning of the academic year, to focus students on themselves and their learning preferences.
Gardner suggests that we possess eight distinct “styles” of intelligence. The nomenclature varies from disciple to disciple; at school, for pupils’ consumption, we have labelled them as follows:
- Mathematical-logical intelligence
- Linguistic intelligence
- Intrapersonal intelligence
- Interpersonal intelligence
- Kinaesthetic intelligence
- Visual and spatial
At the time of starting the project, Gardner’s ideas on the “eighth intelligence”, the “naturalist”, were unclear to us, so we focussed on the original seven.
Over a period of a week at the beginning of the school year, Year 11 students were taken off timetable and given an hour’s introduction to the concept of multiple intelligence at preferred leering styles, in much the way as would be delivered on a training day: lots of activities, lots of involvement, clear and well paced explanations, the whole presentation modelling what we consider to be good practice, employing the five stage learning cycle. During the session, students completed the questionnaire adapted from an adult questionnaire, through which they were able to determine their predominant 3 intelligences.
Having established where their preferences lay, students were then provided with a variety of possible strategies they may like top use to exploit these preferences during Year 11, especially during the revision process before GCSE. These were shown on OHPs, demonstrated to students and students had a copy of the suggestions to take home. The suggestions originally made were as follows:
The kind of advice offered was as follows
- work with a friend: both learn something, then spend time explaining it to someone else
- make revision a social thing, where you share the fun and the agony; build it into a weekend, a sleepover at a friend’s house
- have conversations inside your head about what you’re trying to learn
- set yourself memory tests: run through in your head what you have learned; be honest with yourself
- set yourself targets
- understand how your brain learns and work in the best ways to suit your style of learning
- do pictures and memory maps to help you remember things; put pictures and key words around your bedroom or house attach a picture to
- every key idea you need to remember
- use words: mnemonics, make up rhymes
- use flashcards: make them, with words on one side and explanations on the other
- make a tape of yourself reading the things you need to learn and listen to it on your Walkman
- use diagrams/lists
- use memory maps and spider diagrams
- write everything you need to know about a topic on one sheet of paper
- ask your teacher to summarise a topic in a single paragraph or list
- make things to help you learn like charts, pictures, games
- move around when you’re learning, reciting things to yourself like an actor!
- use flashcards to test yourself and be tested
- do things with the information you are trying to learn, rather than just sitting there!
- use music to help you concentrate/relax
- use rhymes with rhythms
- put the key ideas you need to remember to the tune of a favourite song make your own “Active Concert” tapes, with music in the background of your voice explaining a topic to yourself