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How do we apply the theory of Multiple Intelligences in Singapore? Pt 2

Updated on July 5, 2011

This is a continuation of the hub How do we apply the theory of Multiple Intelligences in Singapore? Pt 1

Intelligences are the domains we are born masters of and MI theory suggests identifying intelligences in students, and teaching subjects from those angles. For example, those strong in musical intelligence can be taught mathematical ratio through musical scale construction; wind and string instruments can be used to illustrate the concept of longitudinal or transverse waves, while this same knowledge can be taught to kinesthetically intelligent children through activities involving water ripples and skipping ropes. Here I wish to clarify that Gardner intended the assessment of different intelligences to be done in their natural setting (Gardner, 1995). Singaporeans have a knack for being efficient and objective in our approaches, and we should be wary of employing methods that may hinder children from expressing their natural intelligences. Classic paper-and-pencil questionnaires or interviews rely heavily on the child's linguistic capability and self-awareness, and most intelligences except linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligence require alternative assessment modes, such as how interpersonal intelligences can be observed in social situations when a child demonstrates empathy or a insight into another's motives. Another danger we need to avoid is compartmentalising each intelligence, or stereotyping a particular intelligence (Gardner, 1995). Take a child who is a budding pianist with amazing ability to sight-read music – this is a clear demonstration of musical intelligence combined with logical-mathematical intelligence (keeping perfect rhythm as notated on the music score). What about the child who walks around singing television jingles or Nokia ringtones in perfect pitch, and even sings a harmonising part when he hears familiar songs in the shopping centers? He clearly does not fit our prototype of a 'music student', but his musical intelligence is unmistakable.

MI definitely supports approaching subjects from the perspective of different intelligences, but taken to the extreme of devising 7 unique ways of tackling the same subject is in Gardner's (1995) words ''a waste of effort and time''. In Singapore's School of the Arts, classes are taught through combining the different disciplines, like teaching mathematics through geometric patterns. This integration of the different disciplines are largely non-existent in mainstream schools, where we nurture aesthetic and sports and other specialised talent outside classroom hours in co-curricular activities (CCAs).

CCAs provide a window to discuss this idea. For many students, CCAs are the highlight and redeeming quality of school life. Many students excel in their CCAs, clinching medals for their school and holding leadership positions while they struggle academically. Clearly, from a MI perspective, CCAs are an avenue for them to engage, hone and discover their natural intelligences. In fact many students study together with their CCA-mates, illustrating how 'birds of a flock flock together.' Taking a hint from this natural tendency, I believe that students would welcome the idea of attending classes together with their CCA mates (in the same cohort). Redesigning our classrooms around this natural tendency might prove more effective than our current arrangement - where students with similar test scores form a class.

Next: How do we apply the theory of Multiple Intelligences in Singapore? Pt 3


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