Friday, June 22, 2007

Encouraging the talents of all our students

To thrive in the future NZ needs an education system that develops the talents of all its students.

It would be great if all schools were able to create an environment where all students felt that their ideas,interests and talents were recognized, amplified and valued.

Unfortunately our current system seems to value literacy and numeracy above 'learnacy' and an academic curriculum above one based on developing students' 'genius',interests and talents.

It was Howard Gardner ( "Frames of Mind') who added an 's' intelligence breaking away from the traditional of a single IQ theory. Gardner defines intelligences as: the ability to solve problems that one encounters in real life; the ability to generate new problems to solve; and the ability to make something or offers a service that is valued within one's culture.

Gardner has developed eight distinct intelligences: verbal linguistic; logical mathematical; spatial- artistic; musical; bodily kinesthetic; interpersonal; intra-personal; and naturalistic.

It is essential, according to Gardner, to not see these as fixed categories and that we all have elements of each intelligence within us to different degrees. He believes they all are 'teachable' and can be further developed given the right environment.

If students do not get the right experiences their potential will be limited. According to Sir Ken Robinson ( a creativity expert - search Google) school stamps each of us with deep impression of what we not are capable of and in the process leads to an incalculable waste of human talents. Until humans find their 'medium', he writes, they will never realize who they might become.

The challenge for an education system is to ensure all students receive the education to students inclinations, or dispositions, into fully fledged abilities or talents.

There are several ways schools can develop their students talents. Lots of programmes focus on specific talent areas like sports, drama, school performances, or music. In most cases the best way is to introduce students is through 'rich' integrated topics that lead naturally into whatever intelligences are appropriate.

An important message is to to do fewer studies well, in more depth, to allow for in-depth thinking and understanding.

All studies the class undertakes will provide students with choices to process, communicate, or express ideas that will relate to their particular talents. Interesting topics will provide the means to activate students latent talents.

Gardner argues that such topics should be studied in depth through broad, robust, 'rich' studies . Gardner believes that it is not always required to try to include every intelligence in every topic - ths would diminish the power of the idea . Some topics will themselves focus on a particular intelligence but all topics can be developed through other intelligences.

Well before the idea of multiple intelligences creative teachers utilized such understanding through integrated studies so the ideas are hardly new.

The key, as always, is to do what is selected well. It is important that students be challenged to to push their understanding to the limit and for students to be given plenty of time to practice the skills they are developing in meaningful contexts.

When school studies are based on students interests and develop students talents all students will be able to leave school feeling successful.

We want students to discover, and develop to the fullest, their talents,abilities, and interests, and to learn how to apply those talents in the world beyond the classroom.

The challenge for teachers is to find, and amplify, hidden talents and to build on those the students bring with them.

Such talents have the potential to develop into future careers.

Multiple intelligences provide an opportunity to give all students the feeling and joy of success and the ability to make a full contribution to class studies. The teachers role is to inspire and empower students - to be talent scouts - providing whatever help they can.

With an appreciation of multiple intelligences ( and learning styles) no student need leave school feeling a failure; all too often the present experience for far too many students.


Anonymous said...

What you are writing about makes common sense -why is it that secondary schools are so resistant to change? Could it be because they are talent free zones -except for music,art and PE departments? Just a lot of second class academics!

Bruce Hammonds said...

The more structured any organisation is the more difficult it is to give up what seems to be working ( any problems are aways down to issues beyond the school). As well secondary teachers are more alike than different and so see things in a similar way - blinded by their 'default' 'mindsets'. Add to this the natural conservatism of both parents nad teachers and - well - change is difficult. Any change is incremental at best.