How can your kids use their “Smarts” to study for tests?
For many individuals, the word “test” brings to mind:
A. Fill in the blank
B. Multiple Choice
D. All of the above.
These are all traditional forms of assessment, or testing, and certainly serve a role in the classroom. However, these examples tend to lend themselves to students who are verbal-linguistic learners.
Students process information in many different ways – therefore, many teachers strive for ways to help students reach their full potential. While there are many valid and effective ways to accomplish this, some teachers are differentiating instruction.
This approach allows students to experience the learning process in ways that are best suited to the way they learn. There is a common goal, but students may take different paths to reach that goal. Using the Smarts, or Multiple Intelligences, when studying can help students approach learning – and tests – in a manner that underscores the way they learn best.
What is Differentiated Instruction?
There has been a push in recent years to differentiate instruction – a buzzword familiar to many teachers and administrators. This involves teachers meeting students where they are by incorporating methods that accommodate different ways of learning.
According to differentiated instruction expert Carol Ann Tomlinson, “At its most basic level, differentiated instruction consists of efforts of teachers to respond to variance among learners in the classroom.”
There are many methods one can use to differentiate instruction; using the Multiple Intelligences is one way teachers can respond to the diverse learning needs of all students. Choosing to utilize this approach, however, requires a shift in the way teachers view intelligence.
What Are the Multiple Intelligences?
The Multiple Intelligences theory, also called the Smarts, states that there are eight intelligences and that all people possess all eight of the “Smarts”: word, logic, picture, body, people, self, music, and nature. Teachers who use this philosophy determine each student’s dominant and weakest intelligence and offer instruction and testing accordingly.
While differentiated instruction often involves addressing the needs of students in small clusters, the Multiple Intelligences approach tends towards individualistic methods. The common ground between these two philosophies is recognizing that there can be great variation in how students learn.
Educator Scott Seider asserts, “MI theory offers neither a curriculum nor a goal toward which educators are expected to strive. Rather, MI theory is an idea about the concept of intelligence.”
Therefore, the Multiple Intelligences can peacefully co-exist with the curriculum already in place. The purpose of this approach is to show students they are smart in many different ways.
Traditional vs. Alternative Studying
While many students use traditional forms of test preparation such as taking notes and using flashcards, there are several other ways to study. Once students have a good idea of how they learn best, they can choose strategies that are most compatible with how they process information. Students can get a basic idea of their dominant intelligence by taking the Multiple Intelligences survey in Resources below.
The results of any survey, including this one, are not intended to label a student, but to provide feedback for consideration.
Alternative Forms of Testing
Multiple choice, fill in the blank, and essay tests are likely to resonate with students of all ages, as they are often the standard in many schools. However, some teachers are stepping away from the tests that come with curriculum materials in an attempt to reach the potential of more students, as well as encourage critical thinking skills.
While essay tests do require higher order thinking skills, multiple choice and fill in the blank tests often do not. The latter are examples of basic recall or rote thinking skills. Teachers who differentiate instruction approach assessment in different ways.
For example, students sometimes have choices. In order to demonstrate understanding, a student might be able to write a letter, draw a mural, or put on a skit. Rubrics, portfolios, peer- and self-evaluation, journals, and experiments are also common examples in a classroom using alternative forms of assessment. These alternatives allow students to make connections with their dominant intelligence, as well as work on their weaker intelligences.
Strive for Balance
Regardless of the type of assessment students must prepare for, having a mental list of strategies in place can empower them. Balance is key. Students are likely to benefit from a variety of instructional and testing opportunities. Parents and teachers can nurture confidence by helping students become more aware of how they learn best, and encouraging study strategies that are most helpful. To learn more about differentiated instruction or the Multiple Intelligences, check out the resources below.