Theory of Multiple Intelligences and Student Evaluation

The Theory of Multiple Intelligences articulates eight criteria for intelligent behavior, rather than just a single, general ability. The founder of the theory, Howard Gardner, outlined eight intelligent abilities: musical-rhythmic, visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic. The idea is that people cannot be categorized into one type of these learning abilities, but a unique blend of them all, allowing for more “categorical” nuance. Gardner claimed the theory should “empower learners” as it suggests that everyone is intelligent in some, or multiple, ways.

The Theory of Multiple Intelligences opens up assessment to multiple modalities of learning. If intelligence is multi-fold, so too should be assessments. Assessments could incorporate several of the aforementioned intellectual abilities. One exam, for instance, instead of all being multiple-choice, could incorporate a multiple-choice section, a collaborative essay writing section, a visual/modeling section, an oral/auditive section, and so on. Now, this may be quite time-consuming, so it may be worth incorporating one or two of these abilities in each exam, and change the abilities for which we are assessing each time.

It is important to mention, however, that these multiple abilities speak directly to each other, and depend on one another. They can and should be combined to be assessed within just one type of evaluative section.

The idea is to begin thinking out of the box; to begin thinking of all types of intelligence when designing assessments. We can empower multiple types of learners by reinvigorating our evaluations. We can and should be inspired by the Theory of Multiple Intelligences to infuse creativity and innovation into our assessments from here on out.

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Roosevelt High School AP Testing

Roosevelt High School offers several AP courses. Students self-track by opting to enroll in AP courses, trademarks of the College Board. In the tenth and eleventh grades, however, all students must take at least one AP course. In the tenth grade, students are required to take AP Human Geography for their Social Studies course, and in the eleventh grade students must take either AP Language and Composition or a University of Washington at the High School level course for their Language Arts course. Several other AP courses are offered in the 11th and 12th grade, including AP U.S. History, AP Chemistry, and AP Calculus.

According to U.S. News Education Ranking, in 2013 66% of Roosevelt students were enrolled in AP courses. While students prepare for the AP tests in their courses, they may also opt out of taking the exam should they choose. Seventy five percent of students enrolled in the AP courses, however, received a passing score, meaning they received a 3,4, or 5 on their exam.

Roosevelt is a high ranking school, ranking nationally at 464th, and 8th at the state level (US News, 2013). In order to remain highly competitive, Roosevelt continues to advertise its AP course participation, and its success.

Teacher Evaluations: The Case for Some Subjectivity

Despite our best efforts, no evaluation is ever completely objective. This is the case for both student and teacher evaluations. Assessing student work, particularly student writing, is invariably subjective. We as teachers consider individual student growth, motivation, and even “grit.” There is no way to perfectly grade student work, and no perfect rubric could possibly exist to eradicate that problem. But then again, is it a problem? Honestly, genuine evaluations necessarily incorporate subjectivity.

The same goes for teacher evaluations. There is no full-proof way to objectively evaluate teacher performance. If teachers are grading in subjective ways, we can hardly use their grades as an objective determinant in deciding how well they are doing their work, right? Grades, I will also mention, can be easily manipulated and basing a teacher’s performance on classroom grades could actually lead down a dangerous road. Assessing teacher performance on students’ performance on standardized tests could be arguable too objective. As in, these scores do not incorporate student socio-economic obstacles or learning challenges. Again, subjectivity is a natural and integral part of evaluations.

Grades and standardized tests should be incorporated into teacher evaluations, but they themselves should be considered subjective components of that evaluation. Other subjective factors should also go into this — administrative observations, department reviews, student surveys. Adding up several subjective sources will never get us to our desired objective evaluation, but it gives us a great deal more evidence to work with. We should always be asking questions about our evidence, and openly admitting their subjective nature will bette equip us to ask the questions necessary to evaluate their validity. Let’s not, then, depend on any one objective measurement, because it just doesn’t exist. Let’s rely on a compilation of subjective evidence, and question it to piece together a more cohesive, though still complex, story about a teacher and their performance in the classroom.

The Drill Sergeants and Quiz Day Fridays: Classroom Management and the Learning Environment

The Learning Environment program standard stipulates that a teacher must be able to “foster and manage a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account physical, emotional and intellectual wellbeing” (SPU Program Standard 5). My Classroom Management course has helped me determine that such a safe space is created through clear classroom expectations, presented to students on the very first day of class. Such expectations create a structure that allows for intellectual liberty and genuine exchange. Within this structure students assume responsibility for their own learning. In my AP U.S History course, for instance, my mentor teacher detailed all of the expectations and procedures of her classroom in a detailed syllabus that she asked students to read on the very first day of school.

In particular, the classroom syllabus addresses Quiz Day Fridays. On Fridays, students are expected to arrive to class having read the textbook chapter for the week. They are also expected to have handed in their “Key Terms”– which ask students to identify and explain the significance of events, people, and concepts that appear in the chapter – at 8am that morning to be stamped in as in “on time.” These key terms  are returned to the students at the start of class.

While the Friday schedule is well detailed in the syllabus, students learned that very first Friday exactly how things were done. As Wong and Wong explain, in a well managed classroom, “Students know what is expected of them and are generally successful” (85) and that first Friday our students learned the ins-and-outs of Quiz Day Fridays.

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So here’s what it looks like. Students walk into the class and are given five review questions right off the bat regarding concepts from the week’s chapter (one such review sheet is pictured above). With their table partner, students begin right away about answering the questions, and are expected to write a paragraph response to the question they find the hardest to answer. Component 5.3 explains that the systems “for performing noninstructional duties are well established with students assuming considerable responsibility for efficient operation,” and students do just this as they set about investigation on their own. Fay and Funk explain that students “have a strong need for control,” and giving students the freedom to answer these tough questions by themselves and choose which question they would like to answer in more detail gives them a sense of ownership and choice within all of the structure of our classroom (28). Students really do cherish that sense of control and choice.

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After half an hour we review the question(s) students grappled with most as a class. Students then get into their “quiz formation” (we sound a little bit like drill sergeants when we call out for students to get in “quiz formation,” hence the photograph of my mentor and her mighty gavel pictured above). Students are old experts by now at their “quiz formation.” They separate their tables, sit on either side of them, place a backpack in the middle between them, and then await patiently for their scantrons and quizzes. As Component 5.2 stipulates, the transitions on these quiz days (and every day) “are seamless with students assum[ing] responsibility in ensuring their efficient operation” (SPU Program Standard 5).

Quiz Day Fridays have allowed me insight into just how important it is to practice these types of routines and procedures. The students like knowing exactly what to expect. The structure of these Fridays actually allow students a great deal of liberty as they go about exploring these review questions on their own and take ownership of each and every transition. I believe my ability to explain and model these expectations for students has developed significantly and I know that I will create clear and established routines such as those used on Quiz Day Fridays in my future classroom.

The effect of this type of structured safe space on student learning is considerable. I watch every week in amazement as these students approach their individual learning in genuine and self-motivated ways. In moving forward, I’m curious to see how I can bring the efficiency and effectiveness of Quiz Day Fridays to other days of the week when I myself am in front of the classroom. I want students to start each day by writing the day’s date and the topic at hand in their Table of Contents for their notebook, and immediately turn to a piece of blank paper — titling it with the date and day’s topic again — ready to take notes and participate in the day’s activities.

I am lucky to have a mentor teacher that has already made expectations for the class so clear. I get to ride on her coattails for now, but the real challenge will come in establishing this type of efficiency and structure on day one in my very own classroom next year.

 

Works Cited:

Fay, Jim & Funk, David. (1995). Teaching with love and logic: Taking control of the classroom. Golden, CO: The Love and Logic Press, Inc.

Wong, Harry K. & Wong, Rosemary T. (2009). The first days of school: How to be an effective teacher. Mountain View, CA: Harry K. Wong Publications, Inc.

KWL and Student Voice

The Know, Want to Know, Learned (KWL) chart is an incredibly important instrument for the Constructivist educator. In the classroom in which I student teach we have used this method a few times, particularly with topics to which students have before been exposed. The KWL chart worked particularly effectively during a lesson on slavery in colonial America in my AP US History class. With an issue as important and charged as slavery, my mentor teacher and I wanted to make sure we weren’t just covering what students already knew about the oppressive institution. We wanted to get them to start questioning deeper into the institution itself — question slavery in ways they had never thought to before.

We began that particular lesson on slavery, then, with students writing down what it was they felt they knew. We then had students write down remaining questions they had about it — what they still wanted to learn, gaps in their own knowledge and understanding. We then asked students to share these questions with the class, and wrote several of them on the board. As students began sharing, more thought up new and thought-provoking questions like how did this all begin? Why African slaves in particular? What about guilt? Morality? Does morality itself change with time? How do we reconcile anachronistic notions of “right and wrong” when studying slavery? Are we willing to forego morality for profit always? Do we do this now? How directly in front of us need oppression be to see it as wrong?

These types of questions got the whole class reeling. They were stimulated by their classmates’ questions, and kept coming up with more of their own. They were so genuinely curious, astonished, confused, and angered by the whole institution in a way I am certain many had not been before. The energy in the classroom was intense — I hadn’t seen anything quite like it before.

When my mentor teacher began showing images to the students of the Middle Passage ships, shackles, whips, the students shifted uncomfortably in their seats. They didn’t keep quiet though. Once the questions had begun, there was no stopping them. The students now knew what they wanted to know, and they wanted their questions answered right then and there. They realized some of their bigger questions would never be satisfactorily answered that day, and that was an important lesson to learn.

At the end of the lesson we asked that students write a third column after “What I know” and “What I want to know,” titled “What I learned.” The students took up the last five minutes of class writing fiercely away. We plan to collect these notes during our next notebook check to see what questions they felt we answered, and what new questions the lesson spurred in them. What we were most interested in, of course, is getting these students to think in a different way — a more investigative, anthropological, intense, critical way — about slavery than they ever had. I think we achieved what we had set out to do. Those KWL charts will certainly tell us more.