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Teacher Education and Multiple Intelligences: A Case Study of Multiple Intelligences and Teacher Efficacy in Two Teacher Preparation Courses

by Jane Shore - 2004

This instrumental collective case study provides an in-depth description of the change that transpired in two multiple intelligence (MI)–based graduate-level teacher preparation courses. Qualitative and quantitative data were collected and analyzed. Implications for MI in teacher education are discussed.

The application of MI theory has been found to lead to increases in learning objectives and other holistic outcomes and has been lauded to be one of the most positive and influential theories in education today (Campbell & Campbell, 1999; Christison & Kennedy 1999; Kallenbach & Viens, 2002). As Darling-Hammond (1998) describes, ‘‘Teaching in ways that connect with students . . . requires an understanding of differences that may arise from culture, family experiences, developed intelligences, and approaches to learning’’ (p. 7). MI theory has united educators whose classroom reality demonstrates the need to craft an educational experience that addresses a variety of ways people learn. As this theory has been embraced by a wave of educators, the researcher believes that a logical extension is to include MI theory when training the teachers who are encouraged to use this theory in the classroom. Though there are differences of context and across populations in their acceptance of the application of MI theory to learning, this theory of the mind has great implications for teacher preparation. Positive experiences with learners on the K–12 level and the adult level support its use to inspire our present and future teachers as they embark on their journeys to inspire students.


To support the use of MI to train teachers, it is necessary to provide a brief background of the theory and its influence on educational service delivery, as the foundation for this study was built on the theory of MI. MI theory has been put forth as a theory to define human intellect. MI theory was developed by Dr. Howard Gardner and defines intelligence through a spectrum of content areas including verbal-linguistic, mathematical-logical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical- rhythmic and naturalistic (Gardner, 1983, 1993). MI theory has evolved through a complex series of investigations of human behavior and the brain that found distinct ways humans can be smart (Gardner, 1983, 1993).


On the pre-K–12 level, the application of MI theory has been found to lead to increases in learning objectives and other holistic outcomes and has been lauded to be one of the most positive and influential theories in education today (Campbell & Campbell, 1999; Christison & Kennedy 1999; Kallenbach & Viens, 2002). The application of MI theory leads to gains in state assessments and standardized tests at the K–12 level (Campbell & Campbell, 1999). In addition, in K–12 studies, the achievement gap between White and minority students has been reduced or eliminated in programs that employ MI-based instruction (Campbell & Campbell, 1999). In elementary and secondary school classrooms that have incorporated MI, children outperform their district, county, and national peers in basic skills (Campbell & Campbell, 1999). The application of MI theory in the pre-K–12 classroom has also been found to improve behavior, aid in the inclusion of students with special needs, encourage parent participation, and create a learning environment supportive of critical thinking and problem-solving skills (Kornhaber & Fierros, 2000). The majority of the studies on MI focus on the pre-K–12 level, primarily the pre-K-8, classroom application and present a rich bank of findings collected from both teachers and students (Campbell & Campbell, 1999; Chen et al., 1998; Kornhaber & Fierros, 2000; Kornhaber & Kreshevsky, 1995; Viens & Kallenbach, 2003). However, very little empirical research on MI has been done on the adult level (Kallenbach & Viens, 2002; Shore, 2001), and I did not identify any research on MI and teacher preparation in my review of professional journals.


MI’s application to teacher preparation can first be seen in the relationship between MI theory and adult learning theory, as teachers are adult learners.  And as Levine (1989) states, ‘‘To understand the potential for adult growth in schools, adults and schools must be examined’’ (p. 23). According to adult learning theories, effective adult learning involves (1) giving learning a purpose, (2) incorporating self-reflection, (3) facilitating self-directed learning, (4) including self-evaluation in assessment, and (5) valuing learners’ experiences in instruction. For all of these aspects, consideration must be given to an adult learner’s previous experiences, the nature of the learning task and domain involved, and the cultural context (Brookfield, 1995). These elements are easily incorporated to any program supporting MI, as they fit well with MI’s basic tenets.

Teachers, as adult learners, first require a clear purpose or real-world application for their learning (Knowles, 1998) and need to have time to reflect on that purpose (Mezirow, 1991). MI theory focuses on achievement of competencies directly applicable to life and the reaching of life goals. The application of MI theory suggests ‘‘a need for active, authentic, problem- based approaches and performance based real world assessments’’ (Kallenbach & Viens, 2002). Embedded in this task is the necessary component of critical reflection. This implies that in the preparation of teachers, it is important to demonstrate a clear and applicable purpose for each reading lesson or learning activity and incorporate elements of self-reflection whenever possible to afford time for effective learning and change to take place.

Next, MI theory supports a learner’s self-direction (Gardner, 1983), another quality element to effective learning in adults. Adult learning theory research supports the use of self-guided projects through which adults take personal responsibility for their work. This implies time for needs assessments and goal setting to provide a foundation for self-direction (Confessore & Kops, 1998).  MI’s application in the classroom gives students a major responsibility in the identification of their learning goals and affords greater choice in the demonstration of their knowledge. Studies of MI have found that self-direction leads to gains in achievement by secondary students (Erb, 1998; Naffsizer, Steele, & Varner, 1998). Self- direction can be seen in teacher preparation, for example, in choice-based activities and assignments that provide relevance and meaning to learning. Self-direction, supported by both MI theory and adult learning, could lead to more effective teacher preparation.

Third, self-evaluation is a necessary component of successful adult learning programs and also an element of MI theory. Research on adult learning has shown that in adult courses in which the learner holds a responsibility in their own assessment, motivation and achievement are enhanced (Confessore & Kops, 1998). Learners should frequently be given the opportunity to self-evaluate and evaluate their peers. Given personal responsibility for their work, students in MI classrooms have reported more enjoyment in the learning process, which leads to academic growth (Naffsizer, Steele, & Varner, 1998). In teacher preparation, this affords opportunity for feedback by both the teacher and peers, as well as a necessary component of self-reflection in all assignments to lead to possible growth as educators.

Finally, the value of a learner’s experience holds an esteemed position in adult learning theory and MI theory. In adult learning theory, Lindeman summarizes this element well by stating, ‘‘Experience is the adult learner’s living textbook’’ (1926, p. 7). Using MI in the classroom naturally presupposes an assessment of MI-learning profiles. Armstrong (Armstrong, in Kallenbach & Viens, 2002) states, ‘‘The single most important aspect of MI is passing the awareness of individual profiles on to your students’’ (p. 45). Well-informed learning profiles are descriptions of learners’ intelligences and are influenced by their background, their experiences, their culture and their learning preferences. In courses of teacher education, this might be collected as an assessment of needs and goals, an in-depth description of a student’s background and intelligences, or a problem- solving activity in which future teachers are made aware of their own intelligences.


Research on the use of MI with adults in a variety of contexts, from school to work, has just begun. A review of research published on MI’s application to adult populations reveals that research on MI and adults has been found to increase student engagement, reduce absenteeism, aid in the inclusion of students with learning disabilities, and provide a foundation for self- confidence in a highly rigorous in-depth qualitative study of 10 teachers and their adult literacy learners (Kallenbach & Viens, 2002). The support of MI in the workplace was found to increase creativity and productivity by enabling workers to use their strengths (Gardner, 1999). Finally, in a university context, certain MI profiles were found to correlate with high reading, writing, and listening self-efficacy in English language learners (Shore, 2001). This growing body of MI research with adults is gaining momentum, confirmed by the clear ties between MI and adult learning theory.


Of importance in this study is the effect a teacher training course might have on the promotion of change within an individual. Cranton (1996) states that educator change most often appears as change in methods and strategies employed in their own learning and in the classsroom. Cranton goes on to state that individual teacher development is often observed as the following:

An educator’s use of more participatory methods

Changes in the responsibility of decision making, such as more learner centered

Changes in the content and focus of the learning process, such as more critical thinking and problem solving (Cranton, 1996, p. 167)

These areas of change are often found as observable areas through which to investigate change that might result from an individual’s development as a professional educator.


Teacher efficacy has been suggested as a concept through which to describe teacher quality (Woolfok-Hoy & Tshannen-Moran, 2002) and a construct that can be observed to measure teacher change. Teacher efficacy is defined by Woolfok (2001) as teachers’ ‘‘confidence in their ability to promote students’ learning’’ (p. 2). This confidence extends to the engagement of students who might be difficult or unmotivated. Almost 30 years ago, a RAND study found teacher efficacy was significantly related to student achievement (Armor et al., 1976), which has sparked great interest in researchers and practitioners.

Teacher efficacy has been found to be associated with many powerful forces in teaching and learning, including, but not limited to, the following:

A sense of personal accomplishment, where teachers view their work as important

A willingness to try innovative practices

Personal responsibility for student learning in that area

Strategies for achieving objectives for their students

More persistence with students who struggle or have special needs

Greater job satisfaction, which correlates with greater retention

A sense of control in the classroom or a belief that the teacher can influence student learning

A sense of common teacher/student goals and democratic decision making

Bandura’s research has found that efficacy is more easily influenced in the early years of learning, and Woolfok (2000) goes on to say that this could imply that the ‘‘first years of teaching could be critical to the long term development of teacher efficacy’’ (p. 2). Examining a teacher’s efficacy as a result of a program or intervention is one way to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. For this study, teacher efficacy is used as one variable through which to view evidence of teacher change.


The TEMI case studies are the first step in the authors’ exploration of MI’s influence on teacher change as seen through features of teacher efficacy. The two cases were chosen to present diverse evidence of teacher change through MI. These case studies may be used as the foundation for future research. In addition, as Shulman (1992) suggests, teacher education cases may serve as exemplars for development; as opportunities to practice analysis, the assimilation of differing perspectives, and contemplation of action; and as stimulants to personal reflection. Through these case studies, the author attempts to capture the pedagogical wisdom of two teacher educators and their students as they explore the use of MI in teacher education.



The major thrust of this investigation was to explore the changes that transpired in two teacher preparation courses that supported the use of MI theory in their instruction. This study contained one central research question: How does MI-based instruction in teacher preparation prompt teacher change?


The focus of this instrumental collective case study was on the use of MI in two teacher education classrooms. The study was collective because there were two cases examined (Creswell, 1998) and instrumental because the focus is on the use of MI rather than on the case itself (Stake, 1995). The cases in this study became a vehicle to understand the use of MI in these two classes. Elements of MI were incorporated into instruction and teacher educators encouraged students to demonstrate their knowledge through MI. MI was not the focus of the content in the course, but was introduced to the students and served as the framework for their instruction.


Two teachers were selected by the researcher as teachers with the experience, resources, and flexibility to participate in the case study investigation. Students from these two different teacher education courses voluntarily participated in the study. One class contained 17 and the other

18 pre- and in-service teachers for a total of 35 teachers.


This instrumental collective case study was designed to collect qualitative data from teachers and from students on the use of MI theory in two teacher preparation courses, supported by quantitative survey and background information collected from participants. The researcher attempted to make the data collection as informative as possible for the teacher educators to guide their instructional practices.

First, before the start of the course, the researchers collected data from teachers about their backgrounds and use of MI through an interview based on a Teacher Educator Multiple Intelligences (TEMI) questionnaire, lesson plans, and course syllabi. Initial interviews, lesson plans, and syllabi were used primarily to build the description of the course.

During the first session of the course, teacher educators conducted a needs assessment with the students in the course to serve as a starting point for their instruction. In addition, students were asked to provide information about their teaching background and experience in education for the research study. This provided researchers with more description about the students, and the participating teacher educators also found it useful information for their instruction.

During the course, teacher and student interviews and observations were conducted based on a TEMI observation protocol. The interviews and observations were kept in field notebooks. In addition, artifacts such as student projects and written work were collected and reviewed throughout the semester.

At the end of the courses, student interviews were conducted with a random selection of 25 of the students in the courses and a guide to interviewing was followed to elicit information about teacher efficacy in the domains of instructional strategies and student engagement. Final teacher reflections were also submitted in writing to the researchers and supported by a reflective discussion in which field notes were taken.

Finally, since the data collection, many future teachers have contacted the researcher by phone, e-mail, and office visits to further describe the use of MI and its relationship with their preparation. Additional themes and questions emerged including the in-service teachers’ use of MI in their present teaching setting, which may be explored in future studies.


Prior to the courses, the researcher sought to investigate the teacher educators’ understanding of MI to gauge and assess its application. Based on findings by Kallenbach and Viens (2002), the teachers were initially asked to submit information about their teaching experience, their lesson plans for their courses, and syllabi as an indication of their pedagogical practices and values. Teachers were then asked to discuss their practices with the researchers and their willingness to incorporate MI theory into their practices.

An interview questionnaire for teachers, the TEMI questionnaire, was used as the basis for the interview discussion with the participating teacher educators. This questionnaire was developed by Shore (2001) and was created through an examination and analysis of a variety of questionnaires exploring learner profiles and teaching methods that integrate MI in instruction (Campbell, Campbell, & Dickerson, 1999; Shearer, 1999). The purpose of the questionnaire is to reveal instructional practices that support MI. The questions begin prompting detailed responses about teachers’ instructional practices. To further develop their responses and help gain qualitative data about the instructional practices, more open-ended prompts are included in the end. Teachers in the TEMI study received this questionnaire prior to their scheduled interview so that they could prepare their answers.

On the first evening of both courses, the teacher educators collected demographic information and information on the goals of their students. This data was collected as a needs assessment for the course.

Three observations of each class were conducted at the beginning, middle, and end of the semester using an adapted version of the Adult Multiple Intelligences (AMI) Teacher Interview and Observation Guide, October 1997 (Kallenbach & Viens, 2002). This TEMI observation protocol guided the researchers in conducting their three announced observations of the two courses, which were reviewed and coded. The protocol included the brief interviews with both the teacher educators and a selection of the students.

The qualitative postassessment of the future teachers’ views of the use of MI in the course was developed by the researcher. The protocol for the interview was developed through an analysis of studies and checklists on the use of MI in the classroom (Campbell & Campbell, 1999; Kallenbach & Viens, 2002).

The Ohio State Teacher Efficacy Scale developed by Tshannen-Moran and Woolfok-Hoy (2002) was used as a quantitative measure of teacher efficacy at the end of the course. This instrument was chosen as an additional measure of teacher efficacy to add to the qualitative information collected on teacher efficacy throughout the courses.

Finally, written teacher educator reflections were collected after the course. These were responses to open ended questions offered to participants about their experiences over the semester. Teacher educator and student reflections were also collected after the course through phone calls, e-mails and conversations during office visits. When they fit the themes of the information collected throughout the course, they were coded and included as a part of the data.


To answer the central question of the study both qualitative and quantitative data were used. The quantitative data collected in this study in the demographic questionnaires and the teacher efficacy scale provided a snapshot of the classroom. Through the qualitative data, details and movement were provided to this snapshot to create a more in-depth story of the change that transpired.

For the qualitative data, interviews, field notes and artifacts from the courses were reviewed and coded to describe major concepts and themes. Themes were supported by the data collected from teachers and students (Miles & Huberman, 1994). Themes in common and themes unique to each case were explored and described.

To develop the themes, the researchers coded, categorized, and sorted the field notes, interview notes, and review of assignments to find themes and were supported by the data collected from teachers and students (Miles & Huberman, 1994). Initial categories for coding were established after 2.5 months of data collection, and additional categories were added as necessary. For example, initially the researchers found elements of student change and course evolution to be divided as two categories, but after review and reflection the boundaries of this category appeared difficult to delineate. Therefore, the category was collapsed to be included in one, MI-inspired teacher educator and course evolution, as the student responses and the teacher transformation were what informed the evolution, and all elements appeared to be part of the same process.


Creswell (1998) suggests that there are multiple perspectives regarding the verification of qualitative research, the definition of it, and procedures for confirming it. The author focused on two approaches to support the credibility of the findings, which were member checking and structural corroboration.

Member checking, suggested by Stake (1995), involves the review of the field notes reports written by participants in the cases. For this study, the field notes, interview notes, and artifacts were reviewed by teacher educators for confirmation, and the final reports were reviewed by the researchers, teacher educators, and two students, one from each class chosen by the teacher educators. In addition, two middle school teachers in MI-based programs reviewed the reports as MI experts. Finally, two research assistants were asked to review for accuracy of reporting, as they had access to all of the data collected and analyzed.

Structural corroboration, suggested by Eisner (1991), refers to the collection of multiple types of evidence that supports or contradicts interpretations. Yin (1989) recommends researchers in case studies use as many as six different types of information. The author attempted to support the studies credibility through a syllabi and lesson plan review, multiple observations, interviews of teacher educators and students, and an artifact review, which included a review of major assignments and observations of assignment presentations. In addition, a less structured collection of data was done through e-mail, phone conversations and office visits. The multiple sources of information provided a more in-depth look at the cases.

Finally, to further ensure trustworthiness of this qualitative data, authors used the checklist prepared by Stake (1995). Stake recommends going through this 20-point checklist, which includes everything from making sure the case study is presented as a story and provides vicarious experience, to ensuring that there are a sufficient number of raw data sources and supportive quotations included.


The previous sections of this article outline the basic theoretical framework, questions, and methodology set forth in this study. The following two classrooms serve as case studies through which to explore the use of MI in teacher preparation. Themes identified in the cases are discussed in each case analysis and contrasted and summarized in the discussion following the case presentations.


Background of the Teacher

Sarah is a devoted advocate for culturally and linguistically diverse learners with special needs. She is proficient in both the English and Spanish languages and began her career in teaching as an ESL teacher for immigrant and refugee programs in the Washington, DC area. She taught a variety of grade levels for a total of 8.5 years and reports she still volunteers as an ESL tutor once a week in the evenings. Sarah has been a teacher educator for almost 7 years and expresses her philosophy of learning in the following way,

My ESL teaching and volunteer work with refugee camps and immigrant groups enlightened me quite a bit about the variety of influences on human learning. To learn, we must know about ourselves. I feel all students can learn, and there is great variety in the patterns and structures of learning that are influenced by our backgrounds, our experience, our interests, and our culture, among other factors. If a teacher taps into a students experiences and highlights a student’s strengths to work on areas of improvement, the classroom learning community becomes more inclusive, creative, supportive and inspiring; more conducive to learning.

Sarah was interested in being part of this study to further explore the uses of MI in her language acquisition course. She also was interested in the researchers’ observations to provide another context for reflection of her instructional practices.

Description of the Classroom

Sarah’s class was a foundations course in theories of second language acquisition. The course met once a week on the main campus of a small, private, urban university. The primary purpose of the course was to familiarize students with the major theoretical issues and research findings on language development, with a focus on second language acquisition. The course reviewed major theories about first language acquisition and second language acquisition, the various factors that affect second language acquisition and included an introduction to the laws and policies related to teaching English language learners (ELLs). The course was required for teachers preparing for certification in ESL and attracted students of other fields as well.

There were 18 students in the class, including 8 students who were proficient in more than one language. The course participants came from all around the world and around the country. Most of the students had had 1–3 years of teaching experience, with those experiences varying from formal tutoring programs to full classroom instruction.

 MI-Inspired Teacher Educator and Course Evolution

Sarah had taught this course several times. For this case study, she attempted a new approach to further expand her use of MI. She identified, through a reflection of past evaluations and her own self-reflection in her personal teaching journal, that too much of the course was teacher centered. To make the course more student centered, Sarah decided to incorporate time for negotiation of activities and evaluation. At the start of this course she stated the following:

The syllabus for the course is provided this semester more as a template for students than a mandate. I will give it to the students in the first session and ask them to take it home and make comments. During the second session, students will be asked to make suggestions about the course format, assignment descriptions and other elements about the course on a ‘‘working syllabus.’’ I think this will give them less of a power structure, so that they know their experiences and opinions are important and essential.

Though not explicitly stated, Sarah’s comment supports the integration of adult learning theory in her attempt to ‘‘democratize’’ the course. The students and the teacher in this adult environment appear to have the freedom to negotiate roles, which affords less of a power structure. In research on adult learning theory, this has been found to lead to more effective learning environments (Knowles, 1998). After Session 1, Sarah commented on the use of MI theory integration:

In this past session [Session 1], I asked them about MI and their feelings about using it as the basis for the course. I told them they could submit suggestions on paper and well as in the discussion in class. In our discussion, most knew the theory of MI. I imagine some students will be more comfortable with this than others. I do like this structure of negotiating the course content, and using MI based activities, but sometimes I worry that I won’t really be able to address all of their comments and intelligences because ultimately I need to answer to the department and get all the content in.

Sarah’s comment supports continued integration of adult learning theory, an aspect of teacher education that she appears to have successfully integrated into her teaching repertoire. She is again affording the students opportunities to share their experiences and opinions on the format and content of the course, as Knowles (1998) found was elemental to effective adult teaching. Cranton (1996) also suggests that teacher change can often be seen through shared responsibility in decision making. However, Sarah’s comment also shows that perhaps she is not entirely comfortable using MI due to her time limitations; as she says, she needs to ‘‘cover the content.’’ This fear was shared by an adult literacy educator in the Adult Multiple Intelligences (AMI) Study (Kallenbach & Viens, 2002). As Paxton reflects (Paxton, in Kallenbach & Viens, 2001, p. 160) on her work in teaching through MI, classroom time spent on some MI tasks can be worrisome if it is not seen as essential to learning. Teachers of adults in a variety of contexts (adult and higher education) have a limited amount of meeting time with their students and are accountable for a large amount of content. At the end of the course, a transformed attitude about time is seen in an interview with Sarah:

I thought that MI would actually take more time. . . . I was thinking that lecturing would just be more efficient for topics like cross-linguistic influence and the cognitive, social, affective factors of SLA. . . Doing things like case studies, group work, and role plays actually made some of these very abstract and complex concepts very real for the students. I feel that the time was actually better used with MI than without.

When asked to expand, Sarah stated that she felt the students just got things more quickly this semester because they were engaged in MI activities to reinforce concepts. She felt this was one of the greatest of her discoveries during the semester and made her feel a lot more empowered in her implementation. This supports the findings of Kallenbach and Viens ( Jean, in Kallenbach & Viens, 2001, p. 124) in which the researchers noted that MI can be effectively incorporated into a teacher’s existing goals and approaches and this personalization might ‘‘more successfully address student learning goals, strengths and preferences’’ (Kallenbach & Viens, 2002, p. 43).

Sarah also had internal debates over the assessment practices in the course. For one assignment, the mid-term Knowledge Base Assessment Poster Session, or the ‘‘MI-Mid Term Exam’’, as some students called it, Sarah worried about her own review and feedback. This assignment was completed and presented about 10 weeks into the 15-week course. For the assignment, the students were asked to explore and present the knowledge they’d gained in the course. They were given the choice to produce a test or a paper on the information or create a product or resource that a teacher of language learners could use to learn about second language acquisition for the Praxis exam. It was here that she began contemplating her assessment:

A rubric? A checklist? A number grade? I was unsure how I could reliably and validly assess such an activity. But my goal was really to get the students to show me what they knew, and therefore I decided that they should be evaluated on their demonstration of key points in the course . . . . The use of MI to demonstrate their knowledge provided not only a format for them to better understand the fabric of the course through their intelligences, but to really get into the materials in a novel way, a way that affords more time to sit with materials and more time to soak them in. . . . I chose a rubric and discussed it with students. No one really made any suggestions for change until after the actual assignment, at which point one student suggested that they evaluate each other or give comments for each other’s work, which was a great idea! I think it worked well and provided a meaningful and memorable learning experience.

This demonstration of teacher educator change and course evolution demonstrates that Sarah was allowing students to make suggestions about the evaluation of the products, another supporting element of MI (Campbell & Campbell, 1999). A participatory context, fitting with Cranton’s (1996) research is observed in this example as emerging from the changes in the course. This example also demonstrates an important lesson: Students unfamiliar with this participatory context could not be expected to embrace it from the start. Brookfield (1987) notes that group activities and group discussion were necessary for critical reflection among adult students. A male student, who was student teaching in ESL, stated with a bit of hesitation that he didn’t feel in a position to make suggestions until interacting with his peers in the poster sessions. It was then that he realized it would have been a good idea for the students to evaluate each other. He also found this enlightening as an approach that he would bring with him to his own teaching context.

Another great discovery was found in examining the philosophy of MI implementation. The assignments in the course employed a variety of intelligences that afforded opportunities to demonstrate content knowledge through different media. Sarah’s own lesson plans incorporated music and rhythmic exercises occasionally, modeled student presentations, and used acting and role playing to get students into classroom situations, and Sarah frequently brought colorful visual representations of lessons showing the ways theory fit together or demonstrated an idea’s central focus. When asked about her use of MI, she responded as follows:

Reflecting now after teaching for more than half a semester, I realize it was almost more effective for me to use MI than to teach students how to use it. I had always tried to teach MI directly as a subject. This time, I introduced the use of MI in the course in the beginning and tried to be explicit about incorporating it. Otherwise, I just tried to use MI to spark my instructional choices. I am surprised at how I don’t really teach it as a subject, but they seem to be including it in their language and reflecting on MI use in their own student teaching.

This finding was corroborated in the adult multiple intelligences study (Kallenbach & Viens, 2002). One teacher researcher in this study reflected on the fact that the adults in her class responded better to the use of MI than their actual education about the theory. In Sarah’s classroom, this information enlightened her teaching. She was able to allot more time to content through MI instead of MI as content to achieve the same goals.

Student Engagement Through MI

From the start, students appeared to be highly engaged in the MI- supported activities and instruction. Many of the students made unsolicited comments about the use of MI and its effectiveness in delivering the content and assessing the knowledge gained in the course.

The observation of one activity demonstrates this engagement. In the activity, students were asked in groups of three to create a graphic organizer of the linguistic theories they had reviewed on the cognitive factors affecting SLA, an activity that supported interpersonal and visual-spatial intelligences. They were then asked to include real world examples they had observed in their own experiences of each, drawing on their own backgrounds as adult learners. A teacher who was tutoring special needs students stated the following:

This was a great activity today! I got to really organize things in my head a little and apply it to some of my own experiences. I was kind of fuzzy on some of the readings from the Readings on Second Language Acquisition book . . . when I read about them for today’s class. And it was eye opening to see how everyone had a different angle, and that was encouraged, really supported, as long as we were thinking and connecting in appropriate ways. We even had to come up with arguments if some people didn’t see connections. . . . It was hard at first, but I like it. It’s like there’s not one right answer. It just appeals to what I want to be as a teacher.

The risk taking expressed by this student, when she stated no one’s answers were incorrect, demonstrates a high level of engagement. She also indicated that she felt more able to comprehend and a willingness to accept alternative ways of thinking about theories through this MI-inspired activity. Finally, she reflected on her own practice as a future teacher, a comment that Sarah found encouraging.

Though the students appeared engaged and interested in the content, which the researchers observed in their animated discussions in collaborative work, energy in creating visual representations of theories and continued discussions after the class, one student expressed concern over the limited time they had. Samuel, a science teacher getting ESL certification, expressed the following after Session 14 of a 15-week course:

The professor has all of these cool activities, but sometimes we don’t get to them because we are going over research and theory. We did read about this, and I understand we should go over it more, but the activities just make things more real. Like today, after hearing about all the social cognitive theories [Sarah] told us that we didn’t really have time for our group theory activity, to come up with our own theory based on all those that we read about and discussed. I almost feel like the lectures don’t keep our attention as much anymore! I was just waiting for the activity to get into it.

While, of course, no teacher can reach all students all of the time, this comment reflects some of the challenge of MI. In this situation, the student stated that he would rather be held personally responsible for his reading, an aspect demonstrating possible high efficacy in reading in this course. His choice would be to engage in activities to further his understanding of the reading. This demonstrates that he felt very engaged in meaningful content through the use of MI-inspired activities.

Engagement through MI was also varied in student interaction with assessment and evaluation. Though not entirely opposed to MI, a newer teacher who was originally from Korea expressed a bit of discomfort in the method of presenting knowledge through MI:

I didn’t feel comfortable at first, you know, because it’s not really my style. Graduate school classes don’t all do this. But I think it’s good. It’s just I don’t like it (using intelligences other than verbal-linguistic, mathematical-logical and interpersonal) to express myself. I do like to see others and what they do. I like to write the papers, but I do like to see others.

A rich discussion ensued after the presentations, as Sarah explains:

The KBA [Knowledge Base Assessment] seemed to work really well with this group of teachers. I think in part it engaged them in the materials because they found the products useful. By affording an opportunity to choose their own method to demonstrate their knowledge, this MI-informed assignment really inspired their thought, reflection and insight as well. They are talking about MI without my even starting the conversation! Everyone seemed to take genuine interest in playing, reading, listening and interacting with the products. I think they see it as more valuable than perhaps a paper or a test. I did notice that some were more comfortable with a traditional format, more like a paper, which is fine and encouraged. However, many of the media through which they are expressing themselves seem sort of novel for them in graduate school. I found that this activity, more than any other, has caused them to express ideas to the class about how the activities fit with their own students. One student even invited me to her class next week to see what she is doing with a final assignment!

The entire class responded positively to the use of inventive and resourceful means to deliver the course content. They seemed to feel empowered by their abilities to share in the decisions about how to demonstrate their knowledge. Quinones (Quinones, in Kallenbach & Viens, 2001, p. 190) found changes in the teacher-student relationship through the use of MI and an increased feeling of power sharing when students were able to choose their assignment formats.

In Sarah’s class, however, not all students were entirely comfortable with this power sharing and learner centeredness. At the end of the class, Terry, an art teacher getting certification in ESL stated, ‘‘I enjoyed the use of MI and understand why we did it. But I have to say, I crave a good lecture!’’ This reflection was particularly interesting because Terry had created some of the most involved and visual representations of her knowledge throughout the course. By reviewing Terry’s work, one might conclude that she fully embraced MI and its use. Her comment showed that perhaps she might have liked a bit more structured course environment or a slightly more frequent teacher-centered session. Her comment emphasizes that instructional delivery and student engagement through MI can exist on different planes. Beder (2001) explains that many adult students have been socialized to expect teacher centeredness. Though Sarah’s goal was to become less teacher centered, she recognized from the variety of responses gathered, that she needs to consider differences among individuals, that she might face a tentativeness when presenting some MI learning activities, and that she needs to take into account adult learners’ expectations about teaching and learning environments.

MI Self-Reflected Learning

Sarah incorporated a variety of intelligences into lessons from the beginning of the course. For one class observed by the researchers, students were engaging in an activity in which they visited various stations to learn about the timeline of language development. Each station had recordings students could listen to of various stages of first language development. The students worked in groups to determine characteristics of the stages based on the tapes and then together built a timeline on a large sheet of butcher paper that was pasted on the board. One group was engaged in what seemed like an intense debate during the class. One student from that group, Lana, a teacher of dance and acting who was getting certified as an ESL teacher, stated the following afterwards:

It’s helpful that these activities reflect our range of knowledge and tap into different elements of learning, or different intelligences of learning. I feel like I am learning things more wholly (laughs) . . . I mean, as a whole. We work together a lot already, and it’s helped us ask questions. And today, we have real data to listen to, and we are creating something visual. This aids in our reflections, and our understanding outside the theoretical. We see all the things and how they come together.

Here, the student reflected on her own learning and the learning of others in the class. She found that she, as a learner and student in the course, was really responding to MI and the use of multiple formats. Confessore and Kops (1998) found that self-reflection as a part of learning is essential in adult learning. Sarah remarked that she saw a change in her students’ own learning habits. In week eight of the course, a student remarked that developing graphic organizers for key concepts has really helped her in another course, Introduction to Research Methods, as she was able to visually represent key ideas.

Throughout the course students appeared to realize that many of the activities tapped into their own intelligences as learners. As one student summarized, ‘‘I even feel I can learn better now, I feel the way I want my students to feel.’’ A brief but powerful statement about the self-reflected learning that took place through the use of MI.

Additional Aspects of Teacher Efficacy

Teacher efficacy was seen in this group in a variety of observable ways. In addition, the researcher sought to examine additional aspects of efficacy. Both the findings from the observations and from the survey were aimed at explaining both the surface demonstration of teacher efficacy and what might be beneath it.

To measure teacher efficacy quantitatively, the OTES (Woolfok-Hoy & Tshannen-Moran, 2002) examined teachers’ ability to positively affect students and generate successful performance outcomes regardless of their students’ backgrounds and experiences. At the end of the course, Sarah’s students were found to be very efficacious in areas related to student engagement and instructional practices. Some specific examples include the finding that teachers in this class felt very confident in their ability to gauge student’s understanding of what they have been taught. The responses on their teacher efficacy questionnaires showed a range from 7.5 to 9 on a 9-point scale of teacher efficacy in this area. The students also felt very sure that they could provide appropriate challenges to very capable students. The teacher efficacy scale showed a range of 7 to 9 on the 9-point scale, which is indicative that most felt efficacious in this area. Numerous comments from students demonstrated that they attributed some of this confidence to the variety of ways that they were able to demonstrate their own knowledge.

Through observations, the researcher attempted to make connections between these survey responses and the activities and products created in the classroom. One student in Sarah’s class continually made references to the use of MI to include students with special needs in the course. This individual characteristic has been found to be an aspect of teacher efficacy, persistence with students with learning difficulties (Stanovich, 1994). Students in Sarah’s course developed lessons based on research in second language acquisition. A few explicitly included MI theory as a part of their lessons to teach their own students the importance of their strengths. Incorporating strategies for aiding their students’ achievement has been found to be an important element of teacher efficacy (Woolfok-Hoy & Tshannen-Moran, 1998). During the poster sessions for the Knowledge Base Assessment, it was evident that students were engaged and felt willing to try a variety of intelligences through which to demonstrate their knowledge. Students developed CDs of songs they’d written about the course material, board games to teach second language acquisition, how-to manuals for teachers, and Web sites for interactive learning. These demonstrated the teachers’ willingness to try innovative methods, another key aspect of teacher efficacy (Tshannen-Moran & Woolfok-Hoy, 1998).

Sarah stated that through the use of MI, the students felt confident that they could motivate and challenge their students in ways that didn’t require traditional direct instruction or standardized assessments. According to Sarah, one piece of evidence in support of their efficacy in challenging diverse students was the discussion that ensued after their stations activity. One teacher reflected during class on how students could be encouraged to exceed their knowledge boundaries by engaging in extra activities that were supplied at each station. Another teacher in the class began to discuss math activities she wanted to use to challenge students, and a newer teacher in a bilingual program suggested the use of a puzzle activity that had been presented during the KBA. These areas show that Sarah’s students were attributing some of their efficacy to the use of MI in the course.

MI-Inspired Transfer

A theme that emerged in Sarah’s class was the transfer of MI to many of the student teaching contexts of some of Sarah’s future teachers. Many of the students in Sarah’s class seemed to make constant connections relatively early in the semester between their work in class and their student teaching. The students in the course seemed to take this upon themselves even as early as Session 2. As Julie, a resource teacher stated in class, ‘‘I want to use this class format with my own students.’’

During the second session, Sarah had the future teachers engage in a problem-solving activity in which they were presented with a description of a troubled student and asked to solve the situation. This activity was meant to spark discussion and reveal some of the students’ intelligences. Sarah reflects that some called on other teachers, using their interpersonal intelligence, some went right to their books on teaching. Sarah expressed that she wanted students to be aware of the ways they learned, and offered opportunities throughout the course to further that exploration.

Another teacher expressed this MI-inspired transfer with special needs students. At the end of an interview with Francine, a student teacher in bilingual elementary program, one of the researchers asked about how MI might be affecting her as a teacher. In her student teaching experience for the semester, she stated she began encouraging students with special needs to join the bilingual course in meaningful ways. Francine’s own self- reflection demonstrated elements of teacher efficacy, as she employed MI to bring students with special needs into the mainstream bilingual class (Gibson & Dembo, 1984).

In a final assignment, a unit of lessons based on SLA theory, students favored the use of MI as the basis for their own instruction. The review of the assignments showed students supporting interdisciplinary units, many visual-spatial, musical-rhythmic, and bodily-kinesthetic activities, and a variety of assessments and self-reflection as a means for evaluation. One student, Jun Lin, who was teaching Chinese to adults, stayed a bit more within the lines of a traditional classroom, presenting words and figures at the start and then teaching them through a geography lesson. However, in her own writing about her lesson planning, she stated that she would like to bring the students out of the classroom to use their Chinese and was inspired by some of the presentations to do a mapping activity and a multisensory writing assignment along with the field trip. Her reflections demonstrate the need to look not only at the present product but also at the essential reflection that underlies it.


Teacher Background

Wendy is an active teacher who knows her content area well. She is highly motivated and involved in many activities in and out of the teacher preparation context. Her teaching background included 6 years of middle and high school math and 4 years of university and community college mathematics instruction. At the time of this case study, she had been a teacher educator for 5 years.

Her cognitivist based theory of learning is expressed in the following quote:

Students learn best when they construct their own learning and engage in it from personal entry points. In a classroom, students create their own knowledge with their own frames of reference and schema. I support a lot of Piaget and Von Glasserfield’s work.

Wendy states that her own contructivist stance fits well with MI, which brought her in at first to this case study. She has read, and by her own account feels very affected by, Frames of Mind by Howard Gardner and has chosen it as a critical text for her teacher preparation course. Her views fit well with adult learning theory’s use of self-directed learning (Mezirow, 1991).

In her discussion with the researchers during the selection process, Wendy stated that she had a genuine interest in teacher efficacy and any element that impacted or influenced efficacy was of great interest. She was familiar with research supporting the use of MI and its effect on the self-efficacy of students in a variety of contexts and grade levels. This, coupled with her strong belief in constructivism and its fit with MI, sparked great interest in the present study.

Course Description

Wendy’s class was a foundations education course made up mostly of preservice noncertified teachers seeking certification at a small, private, and urban university. The course was taught off campus in a metropolitan suburb. Most of the students were currently enrolled at the university via a school-based cohort in which they worked during the day, some in student teaching positions, and met regularly as a group. The teachers taught a variety of subjects including art, math, language arts, science, and computer science.  Most of them were pursuing a master’s degree and certification simultaneously.

Though Wendy has taught a variety of courses in teacher education, she had taught this class only once before at the same university. The course extended from an historical to a practical perspective to provide a foundation for theories of education.

MI-Inspired Teacher Educator and Course Evolution

At the start of the course, Wendy described the use of MI as ‘‘essential for dense and theory-intense content’’ and saw its use an integral component of her course. Wendy received feedback in the previous semester she taught the same course, that the students desired more practical information concerning techniques and questioned the applicability of the content to classroom situations. This might be seen as the need to set a clear purpose of all learning activities, a key element of successful adult learning practices

(Knowles, 1998). The use of MI in the classroom necessitated multiple representations in the course. Wendy commented at the start of the course:

The use of MI can assist the teachers in transforming the theoretical into the practical. The jargon of the ‘‘Academy’’ sometimes over- whelms students, but the use of MI should allow them to take those overarching fundamental ideas and internalize them into something concrete and useful.

Wendy went into the semester expecting MI to produce positive change in her classroom. Several elements of change were identified over the course of the semester and were evaluated as being beneficial to the course itself and to Wendy’s own learning as a teacher educator.

First, as a result of the integration of MI into this course, students’ expectations transformed. Mid-semester students completed a written assignment in which they were to evaluate three of the critical texts in the course and integrate the information with their own backgrounds. They were then told they could represent their evaluations through any of the intelligences, as if they were teaching others about the subject. On the date the assignment was due, students were interested in hearing about and experiencing what others produced and evaluating their peers. One student stated the following in a later interview:

There is a supportive environment in a classroom that wants to hear learners’ voices. I felt very empowered by the word today. This assignment caused a lot of discussion among my friends while we completed it, and even more so in class today. We were asked to express ourselves in unlikely media, like drawing concept maps to see how our ideas and thoughts fit together.

The student expressed his support for this MI-inspired assignment and of a classroom that addressed an interpersonal quality to a critical evaluation assignment. The incorporation of self-evaluation is supported by adult learning theory (Confessore & Kops, 1998). This assignment was viewed by Wendy as a meaningful integration of peer evaluation and lead to a valuable learning experience. Wendy reported that she would be using a peer evaluation activity the next time she taught the course.

Wendy also expressed that at the start of the class she worried that simulations and role plays would be too juvenile and perhaps not well received by the students. However, she came to an understanding demonstrated in the following comment: ‘‘I am asking students to expand their boundaries. I need to open mine.’’ A participant teacher in the adult multiple intelligences study (Kallenbach & Viens, 2002) felt similarly when including MI in her adult literacy courses.

Student Engagement Through MI

Wendy’s fear of incorporating the personal intelligences surfaced in the planning stages of her initial lessons, and she contacted the researchers with concern. The researchers encouraged her to again revisit the chapters on the personal intelligences written in Frames of Mind, as suggested by Kallenbach and Viens (2002) to a teacher with similar fears. Wendy’s rereading gave her a bit of encouragement, and in response Wendy asked students to consult with each other on concepts, ideas, and theories in Dewey’s book Democracy in Education. Teachers were grouped together by content area to actively create a plan for a democratic school environment. In response to the activity, Wendy asked students to share their emotional reactions. Expressing an emotional response to Dewey, one male African American student initiated conversation about a lack of diversity in the times of Dewey. This sparked a debate and discussion. After the class the student stated that he had felt empowered. He expressed that his feeling about the material was heightened; he now felt he was more at ease to use Dewey in his language. Another student of Wendy’s stated, ‘‘The simulation of a democratic school today helped everyone gain a personal meaning for what could be a pretty abstract idea.’’

While challenging their own belief systems with new information, the students also had to communicate those ideas with others. For instance, one student drew an illustration as a reflection of a class discussion about the stories we tell in our history books reflecting the reading of A Different Mirror by Takaki (1993). The mural, he explained, could express ideas he

‘‘just couldn’t put into words.’’ He later offered his appreciation of this activity in his own class journal. Wendy stated that the feedback from students afforded her comfort with the activities and assignments she was incorporating.

Self-Reflected Learning Through MI

In Wendy’s class, the students frequently reported changes in their own learning. A review of the assignments submitted show that the students employed the use of a variety of nontraditional intelligences in their own projects and suggested to Wendy that they feel they should have more choice for all assignments.

Wendy also reported that the students required their peers to be more creative yet critical of the information they accept and learn. Students were initiating more reflective responses and in a variety of media. Self-reflection is a key component of effective adult learning (Confessore & Kops, 1998) and appeared an aspect of the findings in the case studies.

Aspects of MI-Inspired Teacher Efficacy

Students’ reported levels on a teacher efficacy scale detail their high confidence in their ability to effectively impact student learning through instruction. The reported scaled scores were similar to Sarah’s class, with teachers reporting high efficacy in their ability to help students value learning (a range of 6 to 9 on a 9-point scale), their ability to respond to difficult questions (a range of 7 to 9 on a 9-point scale), and their ability to get students to think critically (a range of 7 to 9 on a 9-point scale).

Evidence that these were in part due to the use of MI can be observed in statements made in one student’s journal. She stated, ‘‘If I use MI to explain a concept, I feel it will make things that were once difficult to explain less reliant on the spoken word.’’

Another student described an activity in which they had to solve an administrative problem in a charter school, where the use of MI brought her to a different conclusion:

I felt like this is really a place where you have to think out of the box. Our group put together a great poster presentation and added music written by a student in the school to explain the necessity of art education. We were lucky we could argue in so many sorts of languages (referring to the language of music and visual cues).

Her use of an alternative explanation to support MI showed her critical thinking skills and problem solving abilities were enhanced by the use of MI. The ability to help a student think critically is one aspect of teacher efficacy in student engagement found by Woolfok-Hoy and Tshannen- Moran (2002).


Although these studies are preliminary and limited to two teacher education classrooms, the researchers feel some important conclusions can be drawn.

First, the use of MI supported an increased learner-centered philosophy that was built both by the teacher educators and eventually by the students themselves. MI has been found to encourage learner centeredness in studies done on the elementary and secondary levels (Kornhaber & Fierros, 2000). Increased student centeredness has been found to be correlated with increases in achievement (Campbell & Campbell, 1999). For these adult populations, the learner-centered environment was shown to respect experience and encourage leadership and learning.

Additional support for the personal intelligences was found through the use of MI in these cases studies. Many of the students expressed they were better able to show what they knew in the course through the use of intelligences. They experienced feelings of empowerment as a result of their own freedom. The use of self-reflection in adult students has been found by Confessore and Kops (1998) to aid in successful learning.

Though the majority of the students embraced the use of MI, there were those instances in which some did not. A few of the teachers in both classes expressed their desire to have a more traditional, lecture-led environment at times. Adult learners might come to expect a certain format and hierarchical arrangement in the classroom (Beder, 2001) and might therefore not respond as openly to the use of some MI-based activities. In addition, as Kallenbach and Viens (2002) state, the use of MI is a personal exploration and might appeal to some more than others. For some learners and teachers MI’s incorporation into the curriculum might go beyond their comfort zone, and they might not ‘‘embrace MI-inspired lessons or reflections as worthwhile learning activities’’ (Kallenbach &Viens, 2002, p. 86).

The impact MI had on these two courses varied in other ways. Some of Sarah’s future teachers appeared to have benefited from the use of MI by transferring the ideals into their own classrooms. This might be explained through research that suggests that students who know the ways they learn best, and perhaps the way they teach best, are better able to transfer that knowledge to new contexts (Bransford et al., 2000). Though Bransford’s research was on learning strategies, the transfer of teaching strategies from one context to another might be seen as evidence that the teachers in the course were able to integrate innovative methods into their own instructional practices better because of their abilities to monitor and reflect on their own teaching.

The teachers in Wendy’s course experienced a philosophy change and demonstrated those changes in their participation in the course and in their efficacy in joint decision making in the course. The teachers’ understanding of the course content became most apparent when they were encouraged to display their responses in a non-traditional manner. The students in the course expressed that they were better able to communicate their knowledge as well as better able to enlist the participation of other students in the course in their discussions through MI activities and assignments. Each week, Wendy and the researchers observed that through MI the level of interactivity in student-led activities and the originality in those activities increased. The students in Wendy’s course seemed to take the MI learning more personally and experience internal changes as a result. As Mezirow (1991) found in his work with adult learning theory, the use of critical reflection can lead to changes in one’s perspective or confirm current practices. In these students, their own use of intelligences and subsequent critical reflection appeared to transform the class, fostering a transformative learning experience.

Although differences in the effects of MI in these two courses are evident, it is also apparent that these two groups of teachers were transformed by the use of MI. Further exploration into the areas of MI and adults, particularly with teachers, must be done to fully understand the changes that might take place. Future investigations should observe both the impacts on preservice or in-service teachers in training, the ways a teacher’s own MI profile affects his or her teaching, and the relationships that exist between the use of MI in teacher preparation and future teachers’ use of MI with their own students.

In teacher preparation courses, those learners are future teachers preparing to work in the field of education. These future teachers should be given choices in the ways they will learn and demonstrate their learning and provided with instruction that models a variety of practices and attends to diversity in cultural background and learning strengths, as they are asked to do in their own classrooms. By focusing on MI-based problem-solving activities, assignments that give future teachers choices to express their knowledge, and instruction and teaching strategies that support MI theory, instructors in these cases found their use of MI led to positive change. Perhaps these two cases of MI in teacher education can serve as models to promote greater teacher efficacy and the foundation for additional layers of learning on the application of MI in teacher education.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 106 Number 1, 2004, p. 112-139
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 11514, Date Accessed: 11/29/2021 10:30:18 AM

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About the Author
  • Jane Shore
    Educational Testing Service
    E-mail Author
    JANE R. SHORE is a senior research associate investigating issues related to literacy, language development, and learning disabilities for the Educational Testing Service. She holds an EdD in bilingual special education, with a focus on curriculum and instruction from the George Washington University and an MAT in applied linguistics-TESOL/bilingual education from Georgetown University. She is devoted to research on teaching and learning in diverse populations. Recent publications include ‘‘An Investigation of Collaboration Among Educational Professionals Working with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students,’’ and ‘‘Multiple Intelligences and Self-Efficacy in the University English as a Foreign Language Classroom’’.
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