The key to all this
is the ability to reflect: for the student to be able to metacognate
about him/herself in such a way that he/she is able to understand
self and as a result take positive steps that take advantage of
the strengths, and either build up weaknesses or compensate for
An example is what
Daniel had written about homework: I sat at the desk, and had
it quiet. I usually get into trouble with Mum because she wants
me for dinner but I want to get my work done.
on his work habits has crucial information about wanting to get
work done before going to dinner, despite his mother's call. The
normal connotative meaning of persistence is positive. In this
case, however, without a greater understanding of himself, for
Daniel it is a negative. For Daniel to know himself he must first
of all understand why his persistence causes him to behave as
he does. This is the Intrapersonal Intelligence - the knowing
about ourselves in order to self-direct and adapt - that Gardner
Once Daniel understands
that his persistence drives him to complete a task before he moves
on to the next activity, he can self direct accordingly, whether
it is getting to dinner or a further academic activity. For instance
he could chunk his work, with each chunk bringing closure in keeping
with the dinner hour, or simply keep the longer pieces of work
until after dinner. In so doing he uses his Intrapersonal Intelligence
knowledge to avoid the conflict with his mother in concert with
his Interpersonal Intelligence - having sensitivity for others
that allow our own advancement. As Gardner tells us, neither of
these intelligences can develop without the other, and the above
illustrates this well. Understanding the connection is important.
The connections he
makes thus enables him in both the academic and social/emotional
spheres. The more he understands who he is and why the more positive
and in control he becomes. He feels good.
the brain friendly classroom knowledge informs us that this feeling
good activates the neurotransmitters in the brain (serotonin/endorphin/dopamine).
Thus there is a further connection. Success breeds success!
Daniel of course can
not be expected to successfully work all this out for himself.
The teacher must lead him, and lead him gently toward metacognition.
It may take months for that to happen as the teacher's trust has
to be earned and is constantly going to be scrutinised. Again
the neurobiologists warns us that at 11 or 12 Daniel has moved
away from the trust and obedience of the years 0 to 10 and on
into the fiercely independent and anti authoritarian teenage years
when parental, teacher, and other authority figure directives
are no longer easily accepted.
So the teacher's task
is not simply to do Multiple Intelligences, to do Learning Styles,
to do Intelligent Behaviours, or to do any of the new ideas and
innovations that come along as if they were ends in themselves,
but to use them to promote and maintain, within the learner, successful
strategies for understanding and improving their own learning.
In this way Multiple
Intelligence, Learning Styles, Intelligent Behaviours and so on,
serve their real purposes as means to an end. That end is giving
the learner the knowledge and skills to control his/her learning.
If what we choose to do does not do this we need to ask why then
are we doing it at all? Learning is too serious a business to
have emotional bandwagons, or teachers chasing the latest fad
simply to be fashionable.
As our students construct
their knowledge through metacognition so do we as teachers need
to do the same. Every connection we make between one school of
thought, one theory of learning and another needs to be done with
a healthy scepticism until the practical evidence is in. Paradox
and mirage will not be far away.