Thomas Armstrong Uses Multiple Intelligences In The Classroom

Jul 21, 2004
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:A very simple explanation of MI and the peripheral issues involved.

Cons:Some of his illustrations seem simplistic and silly.

The Bottom Line: What is the best methodology for teaching students in the classroom? According to Armstrong, it is using each child's brain!

Readers by now think that I have become completely obsessed with the concepts of Multiple Intelligences. Perhaps that is what a summer intensive course will do for you. But any educator would be excited with the thought of being able to reach and help students in the arena where their brain works.

Multiple Intelligences In The Classroom written by Harvard professor Thomas Armstrong and published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development was one of the two textbooks we used. (See for the other.)

Armstrong is a colleague of the pioneering Dr. Howard Gardner who brought MI to the forefront of education and psychology with his 1983 work Frames of Mind. And much of the first part of Armstrong’s book is spent telling the Gardner story and retelling the concepts of Gardner’s MI theory often in Gardner’s own words. At first one wonders why Armstrong wrote the book. But as Armstrong begins to expound upon the particular intelligences, he begins to feature his own thinking giving particular illustrations to use in specific situations. Some of his recommendations seem, well, ridiculous, but further observation causes one to realize that Armstrong is only trying to plant some simple seeds.

The 154-page book is not an easy read, but it is packed with great information. Armstrong begins in chapter one by explaining the foundations of MI and continues in chapter 2 by talking about the personal development and usage of MI. In this chapter you can even take an MI Inventory to explore your own intelligences. I found that I was strong in Linguistic Intelligence (who would’ve thought?), extremely strong in Musical Intelligence, fairly strong in Interpersonal and Intrapersonal Intelligence and fairly weak in Naturalistic Intelligence, Spatial Intelligence, Kinesthetic Intelligence, and Mathematical Intelligence. Hum. Interesting stuff here. And the Inventory nailed me completely.

Chapter 3 begins the exploration of discovering the strength areas in students. There is a student inventory. Chapter 4 discusses how to teach the intelligences to students. Then beginning with Chapter 5, Armstrong begins looking at the key points of instruction. In order of chapters he looks at Curriculum Development, Teaching Strategies, Classroom Environment and Management in Chapter 8. In Chapter 9, Armstrong looks at the MI school. How does it look? What is involved in the planning? Has it been successful?

In Chapter 10, Armstrong takes a look at Assessment, a specifically interesting point for me. Since I am ardently opposed to the current usage of norm referenced testing in education to determine AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress), I was eager to see the alternative assessment espoused by Armstrong. I was pleased to see so much emphasis given to portfolio assessment and in gauging student progress against past performance not in comparing student against student.

Chapter 11 addresses the needs of Special Education students, an area where MI has proven especially helpful. Chapter 12 is entitled MI and Cognitive Skills, and Chapter 13 looks at peripheral issues of application. In Chapter 14, Dr. Armstrong engages the reader in looking at what might become the ninth intelligence, Existential Intelligence. These are those students who learned by looking at the larger questions of life and existence. Some refer to this as the Spiritual Intelligence.

The Appendixes of the book includes resources, related readings and examples of Lesson plans and programs. Naturally, he closes with a reference list, index and a brief biography of the author.

If one is looking for a simple summary of MI, Armstrong’s book is perhaps a good alternative to reading the longer, somewhat more difficult books by Gardner himself. However, Armstrong quotes Gardner so often that you almost feel as if Gardner wrote the book himself. And since Armstrong is a colleague, they are actually getting first hand study on the topic.

In all, I was amazed by the course and by this book. Teachers need to be thinking out of the box. Delivering instruction by Linguistic means (paper, pencil, and lecture) is boring and fails to maximize the intelligence potential of most of the students in the classroom. By reading and implementing the ideas of this book, students will be encouraged to learn and will engage in the process as active learners. MI is fun, pedagogically sound, and gets tremendous results!

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