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Implementing the theory of multiple intelligences in the junior secondary school

First published in 1983, the theory of multiple intelligences (Gardner, 1983) struck a chord with thousands of educators across the world, providing a philosophical and structural framework that helped them make sense of and cater for the vast range of individual difference they encountered daily in their classrooms. However, while MI theory has found a ready audience amongst early childhood and primary school educators, and has been associated with a wide range of positive outcomes across a variety of educational settings, it continues to have little impact on secondary school practice. The aim of this qualitative action research project was to establish a collaborative research group of four junior secondary school teachers, who were interested in exploring MI theory and its implications for learning and teaching. In documenting their experiences, the project aimed to find out whether an MI-based programme was feasible in a junior secondary school context, and to identify the difficulties and barriers that impeded the participating teachers' endeavours to implement MI in their classrooms. The following research questions provided the focus for the project: 1. Can an MI-based approach to teaching and learning be successfully implemented in a junior secondary school programme? 2. What are the issues that secondary school teachers face when implementing MI into their classroom programmes? 3. What are the best ways to address these issues? iii A multiple case study approach provided an effective means of illustrating the individual complexity of teachers' situations, as they interacted with their students, the curriculum, their colleagues and their school environment, and was also flexible enough to accommodate the open-ended and evolving nature of the investigation. The following outcomes for teachers as a result of the MI project were noted: (a) Increased awareness and understanding of student diversity. (b) Extended teaching practice and enhanced teacher creativity. (c) Improved planning framework. (d) Teachers' beliefs about learning and intelligence were affirmed and extended. (e) Teachers experienced improved confidence in their abilities as teachers. (f) The emergence of a cohesive student-centred curriculum. (g) Improved collegiality. As a result of the project, many barriers to implementing MI theory into junior secondary school classrooms were identified, under the following categories: (a) Barriers relating to teacher culture (b) Barriers relating to management requirements (c) Barriers relating to time (d) Barriers relating to personnel (e) Barriers relating to external pressures on the school The outcomes of this project confirm findings in the research literature, which suggest that MI theory can provide a valuable philosophical and structural iv framework that helps teachers develop a greater awareness of student diversity and enhanced teaching practice, as well as the understanding that a uniform approach to teaching and learning meets the needs of too few. However, a number of entrenched structural and cultural barriers characteristic of the secondary school context were also identified, which suggest that the adoption of MI-based teaching practices on a wider scale is unlikely without an in-depth school-wide professional development initiative.
Type of thesis
Scapens, M. (Mary-A. (2007). Implementing the theory of multiple intelligences in the junior secondary school (Thesis, Master of Education (MEd)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2284
The University of Waikato
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