Allowing Students to Grow

How practical are multiple intelligence activities?

Teachers have a tendency to focus on the educational and intellectual needs of their students, but it is also necessary to take students feelings and emotions into account.  This is one reason why relationship building with students is so important.  There are certain feelings that can negatively impact student learning.  A perfect example of this is stress which is detrimental to short term memory.  According to Medina,  “Stressed people don’t do math very well. They don’t process language very efficiently. They have poorer memories, both short and long forms. Stressed people do not generalize or adapt old pieces of information to new scenarios as well as non-stressed individuals. They can’t concentrate. In almost every way it can be tested, chronic stress hurts our ability to learn” (Medina, p.65).  Clearly, emotions are something teachers need to consider to ensure their students are acquiring knowledge.

Teaching is commonly thought of as teachers broadcasting information and students receiving it.  However, if all teachers did was lecture and talk at the students there would be very little learning occurring.  It is essential that students be active participants in their own learning.

In non-directive teaching approaches the teacher takes on the role of a learning facilitator, rather than decision-maker.   They cultivate an ideal learning environment and provide guidance.  This type of teaching lets students know that teachers are not the only one with answers, and that everyone has something of value to contribute.  This model is designed to help students become more effective, better at self-evaluation, and to achieve greater personal integration.  The teacher gives students the freedom to come up with their own problems and solutions.  This self-directed learning process can be very effective.

Joyce describes four components of this teaching model.  The first aspect involves the teacher.  The educator must exhibit genuine interest in the students, and be friendly and responsive.  Secondly, the teacher should maintain neutrality and not criticize or judge the students’ feelings.  the third component is that students can freely express their feelings within reason.  The fourth component is that the teacher does not pressure or coerce the students in any way.  They avoid indicating any personal bias.  In this way, students have the chance to grow.

The five phases of this model are:

  1. Defining and helping the situation
  2. Exploring the problem
  3. Developing insight
  4. Planning and decision making
  5. Integration


Gardner came up with the groundbreaking theory of multiple intelligences.  They are visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, and logical-mathematical.  He emphasizes the importance of teaching content in a variety of ways.  An image illustrating the components of his theory can be found in figure one.  Everyone has different strengths which can be best utilized in specific  ways.  That being said, it is good for students to get accustomed to challenges and improve in the process.  Gardner says ” When children are young, we should encourage well roundedness. As they grow older, it becomes more important to discover and cultivate areas of strength. Livelihood and happiness are more likely to emerge under those circumstances”.  In non-directive teaching, students are encouraged to pursue their interests and ask questions.  This can serve as a tool to improve areas of strength as well as weakness.  They are also required to evaluate what they know and what they do not know, which informs their own inquiry and investigation.


Figure 1

Everyone has different learning preferences and it would be impossible for a teacher to simultaneously cater to all the diverse wants of their entire classroom in a single lesson.  There is also evidence that suggest this is not best practice even if it were reasonable.  “When instructional style matches the nature of the content, all learners learn better, regardless of their differing preferences for how the material is taught” (Brown, p.146).While teachers may choose to alternate between different teaching styles that suit the various learning styles and material, students possess the lion’s share of the responsibility for their own learning.  It is important that students take charge of their own learning.  Being able to identify the knowledge you need and to independently pursue it is a valuable life skill.  Teachers need to allow students to struggle and make mistakes.  Deeper learning occurs when the students expend effort trying to puzzle it out themselves instead of having it spoon fed to them by the teacher.  Mistakes teach us significant lessons and are opportunities for learning.  Students need to take responsibility and learn to advocate for themselves.



Brown, P. C., Roediger, H. L., & McDaniel, M. A. (2014). Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Joyce, B., Weil, M., & Calhoun, E. (2015). Models of Teaching (9th ed.). Boston: Pearson.

Medina, J. (2014). Brain rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School. Seattle, WA: Pear Press.

Ostwald-Kowald, T. (n.d.). Understanding Your Student’s Learning Style: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Retrieved from

Edwards, O. (n.d.). An interview with Howard Gardner, Father of Multiple Intelligence.