This is a general education post on how students can use their “individual differences” in the classroom to understand subjects clearly. There are four proposals on how individual differences should be used in a classroom environment, and this post is dedicated to merging the theory of “multiple intelligences” into the four proposals. Disclaimer: this post was used for a general education course and was given a grade. However, it has since been
When it comes to the psychology and sociology behind individual differences, many education systems tend to ignore individuality in favor of statistics and systematic grading formulas. Individual differences, labeled by psychologists as differential psychology, address the empathetic differences between every individual or individuals residing within groups. An individual in the educational sense would be your “typical” student; and a group in the educational sense would be a “typical” classroom.
In summary, a student is an individual human being – possessing needs, skills, goals, and interests that separate them from other individuals. As I’ve talked about in previous units, students are oftentimes ignored by bureaucratic administrations in favor of repetitive statistics and asinine lesson plans, the status quo.
With that in mind, it is important to realize that not every teacher – or administrator, for that matter – recognizes the impact individual differences have on individuals residing within classrooms across the country. With every student residing on their own plane of intelligence and possessing their own concept for what an education is, it is horrifying to lay down a simplistic, “one-size-fits-all” education system for every child in America. From a previous course, I’ve been shown four major proposals for implementing student’s individual differences in the classroom:
A systemic approach to dealing with individual differences is diagnostic testing (the identification of an individual’s strengths and weaknesses in a subject) of learning styles. Teachers should match instruction to fit learning styles, and then choose assessments that fit measurable program goals. Match instruction to fit learning style, incorporate a student’s individuality with the overall goals of the administration.
Common sense (sound judgment of the practical matter at hand) dictates that all students have individual differences. Teachers should design activities that help the student better understand themselves, and therefore better understand what is relevant for them to study. Teach students how to understand themselves so teachers understand what’s best to incorporate into the system.
If we treat all students alike, their differences become exaggerated. Teachers should pay careful attention to the needs and interests of each student. Pay attention to the needs and interests of every student to avoid the exaggeration of differences within the classroom.
Individual differences are exaggerated today in education. At the root of all individual needs are common situations we all face. Teachers should point out these similarities, which are exposed in the social sciences and quality literature. Ignore the individual differences in favor of referencing commonplace similarities.
In reference to the movie The Marva Collins Story, we witness an abundance of individual differences clash together to form a rather interesting problem in the plot-line. In the “ghettos” of an urban city, students were not only unmotivated to learn – they were discouraged. With this in mind, it’s important to realize that the discouragement residing within the education system sunk into these children and their individual differences. Several students were deemed “slow”, one had incredible anger issues, at least one dealt with panicking and social problems, and overall these students came from families “below the poverty line” in a socioeconomic sense.
Mrs. Collins had to identify the individual differences throughout the film, and she did a fantastic job when it came to incorporating these differences into her teaching methods. Not only did her teaching method – described in the next section – work, it encouraged the individual learning styles and differences each one of her students had.
I will always reference Mrs. Collins’ fantastic method of teaching all the students a single topic while using the grade-leveled concept to teach students opposing subjects whenever applicable. If you recall from my previous post on the subject, the overall subject at hand was literature – the entire class was coming together to learn Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. She did a great job merging subjects together – not only as a way to keep the students interested, but also as a way to get them on the level of knowledge they should have according to their grade level. I’d have to theoretically classify this method as Proposal A, a systematic approach which matches instruction to fit different learning styles.
For Marva Collins, this concept of teaching was not only a genius idea, it was necessary. Proposal A seems to work for these sorts of situations, where not every student is on the same grade level, let alone subject level. However, it seems that if this proposal isn’t used properly, it can just turn into a systematic compromise with the statistical push by administrators.
As for the other proposals – B, C, and D – we have to discuss how each proposal could be used in a classroom environment. Proposal B, my personal number one when it comes to my current thinking, acknowledges the individual differences every student has and thus incorporates each student’s style into the lesson plan. Several “brain break” and brainstorming activities revolve around this. It allows teachers to get to know the students better and, in turn, incorporate their interests and learning abilities into what they can teach. Proposal B basically allows the teachers to create lesson plans around the students, making the classroom environment of the students, by the students, and for the students. Proposal C sounded decent, but it didn’t leave the impact that Proposals A and B did.
Proposal D is the opposite. The idea of bringing children together through their similarities may work in an anti-bullying seminar, but it has no real place when it comes to making lesson plans and making sure everyone is on the same page in a particular unit. Every student is not similar when it comes to how they take information, and some researchers have actually shown that students oftentimes find themselves separated by seven learning premises.
I’d like to turn away from the proposals of implementing individual differences to focus on the “seven intelligences” that stem from the History Alive! constructivist strategies (Links to an external site.). I remember being forced to read this middle-school-esque mini-textbook when approached with how to handle students on a general education level of history, and I still have my marked-up copy. History Alive! claimed that there were seven premises when it came to human cognition and student learning – the verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, body-kinesthetic, musical-rhythmic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal.
Throughout the textbook, they gave examples on how to pair these types of students together and how to construct different lesson plans to incorporate after they conducted activities that could be summarized as Proposals B and D.
These different learning styles come from Howard Gardner’s concept of Multiple Intelligences. Here’s a link to a brief summarization of Howard Gardner’s psychological summary, and I’d like to quickly break down the seven concepts in terms of what said students excel in and how teachers can influence their learning abilities:
When you think of students that are verbal-linguistic, you oftentimes find yourself referring to students that love and excel in English literature, poetry, and foreign language classes. A sample activity for this assortment of students would be to have them engage in Socratic seminars to digest information.
When you think of students that are logical-mathematical, you oftentimes find yourself referring to students that love and excel in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics classes. A sample activity for this assortment of students would be to have them relate to a project through a puzzle project or through the creation of an outline.
When you think of students that are visual-spatial, you oftentimes find yourself referring to students that love and excel in arts and crafts classes. A sample activity for this assortment of students would be to have them visualize the topic at hand through art projects.
When you think of students that are bodily-kinesthetic, you oftentimes find yourself referring to students that are goal-oriented through sports, dancing, and theatre classes. A sample activity for this assortment of students would be to have them make a game out of the materials relating to the day’s lesson.
When you think of students that are musical-rhythmic, you oftentimes find yourself referring to students that excel in music, choir, and drama classes. A sample activity for this assortment of students would be to have them listen to music while studying to increase mood and memorization.
When you think of students that are interpersonal, you oftentimes find yourself referring to students that excel in psychology, education, and sociology classes. A sample activity for this assortment of students would be to have them talk out the problems at hand in order to work in large groups to divide tasks and understand all aspects of the project.
When you think of students that are intrapersonal, you oftentimes find yourself referring to students that excel in business management, general courses, and motivational classes. A sample activity for this assortment of students would be to have them study alone to reflect on the day’s assignment.
There is sometimes an eighth type of student in Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences within the educational world, and it is oftentimes referred to as the NATURALISTIC. This form of student excels in science classes, but it is oftentimes removed from courses like History Alive! due to the existence of the Body-Kinesthetic category.
With these seven major ways of learning by Howard Gardner identified, the question can be asked (and answered!): How can they can be related to the four proposals at hand?
As the History Alive! textbook attempts to say, teachers in social science classes should strive to “employ as many of these seven intelligences as possible” when teaching every class. The book went on to say, throughout different examples of activities, that students tend to work better in smaller groups composed of one student per learning style. That way, when each student is assigned a task, it can turn into a Marva Collins styled format of getting the overall unit across.
Personally, I still believe my current mindset sees that as PROPOSAL B. Any teacher that uses the seven intelligences understands the individual differences within their students. Thus, the activities designed would help students understand themselves, understand others, and helps the teacher understand how to get the subject across for all levels of learning ability.
If this proposal is implemented with PROPOSAL A, then it still proves itself to work. Teachers have matched instruction to fit all learning styles; and an assignment that fit the program goals was implemented in a way that worked for all students.
If this proposal is implemented with PROPOSAL C, we still witness success through lesson plans. The teacher had paid close attention to each student’s interests to split them apart into activities that worked specifically for them.
If this proposal is implemented with PROPOSAL D, we can still witness some version of success. Although the proposal specifically claims that teachers should point out similarities, this idea can still be accomplished through the creation of “similar groups” in a way that students can still learn the subject in a comfortable way.
Overall, the four proposals here were all, in a way, implemented in Marva Collins’ classroom environment through the Merchant of Venice scene seen towards the end of the film. Any teacher can be successful in individualizing their instructions if they work with students throughout any of the four concepts at hand. For students that have exaggerated differences, they just need to be placed in an educational environment that works best for them.
It’s up to the teacher to decide which proposal seems best, and how the seven intelligences may be incorporated into their lesson plans.