Are multiple intelligences artificial?

I completely understand that Gardner’s work is important: I have always liked the idea that people are “smart” in different ways. However, I’m not sure I buy his exact taxonomy, and I’ve always wondered why someone didn’t map the more practical VARK to Gardner (or maybe someone has, or maybe VARK was derived from Gardner). That said, what I appreciated about this article was the clarity provided by the extended examples on the 3 uses: multiple entry points, multiple analogies, and multiple representations. I guess that shows why we read original sources.

I had always thought that an accurate application of Gardner would require a representation for each intelligence, and I was glad to see him dispel that misperception. And while I agree about narrative, numerical, logical, aesthetic, and hands-on intelligences, the two I have trouble with are:

  • existential – to classify this as an intelligence of people who want to tackle the deep questions is to demean the other intelligences. We want to engage all learners in deep questions, and we should we able to pose those questions in a narrative or numerical or … way to accomplish this engagement.
  • interpersonal- similarly, to say that some people like to learn in the company of others denies the heart of constructivist communities. All learning occurs (albeit sometimes indirectly through the culture of the learner) through interpersonal interactions.

The entry points, analogies, and representations made perfect sense, and I appreciated his warning that there is no single best representation for any core idea.¬† What gave me trouble was the concept of a model language. At first he seemed to be arguing for a specific model; later, he seemed to be arguing for multiple models which added nothing to the multiple representations concept. The multiplicity of presentations was echoed in the assessment section: “students must be given many opportunities to perform their understandings,” which in turn echoes the underlying theme of Wiggins.

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Planning (actually activity evaluation)

The first thing that struck me about the Wiggins chapter was that the opening Chinese proverb was wrong: if I’m an auditory learner, then I remember what I hear and forget what I see. This called to mind the statistic, “We remember 10% of what we hear, 20% of what we read…” which I’d always taken as gospel until a blog post dispelled for me this learning myth. It makes me wonder how many other myths we need to exorcise.

This chapter gives us yet another acronym, although in this case, I sort of like it with the exception noted below:

  • W – Where from and Where to ties in past knowledge and states objectives
  • H – Hooks their attention (Gagne step one)
  • E – Equips them with tools
  • R – Reflect and Revise (and thus self-evaluate) opportunities
  • E – (same as above)
  • T – Tailor (to individual contexts and learning styles)
  • O – Organize (by providing schema–networks and systems–and patterns/images)

Even better than the WHERTO analytical tool, I liked the characteristics:

  • Performance goals
  • Hands-on (real-world immersion)
  • Feedback (trial and error)
  • Personalized
  • Models and modeling (narrative)
  • Reflection
  • Variety

The discussion amplified these ideas with examples, although many of the practical suggestions were offered in previous original source readings. I did get a great idea: make lectures available in the library but require students to check them out in pairs and discuss them together. I do agree with Wiggins that direct instruction is only one of many learning activities.

Motivation in Alien Rescue

Although written to describe an educational simulation (Alien Rescue), the article provides specific information about PBL design:

  • understanding is created through interaction with environment;
  • cognitive conflict (misperception?) is a stimulus for learning¬† and determines the organization and nature of what is learned (determines how instructors create the organization for learners, or determines how learners themselves organize learning in their internal schema?);
  • knowledge evolves through social negotiation

Intrinsic motivation sources:

  • Problem-solving
  • Information processing
  • Play
  • Voluntary acting
  • Socializing (ignored in previous research)

are mapped to the game-like qualities of Alien Rescue:

  • Authentic situations (personally meaningful role-plays, ideally adapted to individual ability)
  • Challenges (intermediate levels of surprise and incongruence)
  • Control (autonomy, as well as Maslow’s security need)
  • Fun
  • Confidence
  • Fantasy (fictional narrative)
  • Identity
  • Interactivity
  • Novelty
  • Sensory engagement
  • Socialization (the group, as well as the individual’s identity development within that group)

Students did not like ceding control to the expert mentor;  an interesting question is whether they would equally dislike ceding control to another student player. If not, the idea that peer collaboration can scaffold learning through the zone of proximal development might resolve control disaffection.

Do you understand the way I understand?

I didn’t find this chapter as useful as Gagne’s, not because I didn’t agree that there are different types of understanding but because it wasn’t as specific (but that might be good for me). So, I thought I’d translate what I understood Wiggins to say (in terms of the six facets) into how I might apply them:

  1. Explanation – accomplished via generalizations; not just telling because “why” and “how” are inferred; might be used as PBL to require students to explain not just recall answers; related to Bloom’s analysis and synthesis levels
  2. Interpretation – accomplished via telling stories; varies with context but students must defend positions; present students with inherently ambiguous issues
  3. Application- accomplished by requiring students to use in new situations; context-dependent; performance-based; seems identical to Bloom’s level
  4. Perspectives – accomplished by presenting the big picture; require students to take an alternate point of view
  5. Empathy – accomplished when students can identify value in other perspectives; seems to require an attitudinal assessment
  6. Self-knowledge – accomplished when students can perceive their own limits; achieved by using reflection; make certain students are not using binary answers; also seems to require an attitudinal assessment

All six facets are manifestations of transfer according to Wiggins, but I need to think how to prove that.