Teaching & Learning: Know Yours & Others’ Strengths

Over the course of both modules the two main take-aways I had were:

  • Teaching for Understanding
  • Using Multiple Intelligences (See Howard Gardner)

This post focuses on how I as a learner and teacher unpacked multiple intelligences. Watch this video, answer some questions about your reactions which may provide you with some insight into your preferred intelligences.

Question #1: Give an example of one of your intelligence strengths.
I didn’t have to look at the table in the handbook or to do the Cats test to know that my core strength was linguistic – I like languages and pick them up relatively easy. I did English and French in university and subsequently returned and did Irish. If given a choice now I’d go learn a different language. I’m one of those oddballs who likes grammar and I like wordy activities be it reading, writing Scrabble or the Countdown word rearrange! I’ve even been known to tweet about Scrabble – yet another linguistic tool!

Question #2: How does this strength influence your teaching?
When it comes to presenting information I’m quite happy to talk and to have words on a page or words on a screen. For students who come to Special Collections I use a printed guide as a safety net, for me and for them. There can be a lot of information and areas to pick up in a 1 hour visit and I feel that at least if something is missed in that one class (either by me forgetting to say it or if they’re tired and don’t pick it up) that at least the student has something to refer to.

However I was moderately surprised then when I did Walter McKenzie’s MI Inventory (knowing that it wasn’t wholly reliable) that on relatively equal footing were: naturalist, logical, musical, visual and intrapersonal. I definitely use the visual when presenting as I feel a picture tells the story of a 1000 words. For example when presenting on Boolean logic AND NOT OR used in searching databases it can be handy to relate it back to venn
diagrams which most students would have done at school. The visual representation of each then makes it I hope easier to understand what each (AND NOT OR) mean.


The classes I have tend to be one-offs and I rarely see a class group more than twice. When I produce how-to guides I try to include pictures with text because I find the how-to
guides that only include pictures decidedly unhelpful. I hope by including both that I’m reaching more people than if I only went with one.

Question #3: How can you go beyond your own comfort zone and recognise students’ strengths?
When asking students to work with databases I always ask them to fill in the various search boxes online rather than asking them to create a venn diagram which is a representation of their search. I know from a recent class that I gave examples solely from the Arts & Humanities as that was what I expected the makeup of the class to be. As it turned out there was someone doing a Food Science PhD and someone else doing a PhD in Law and while they appreciated the class they felt it would have made more sense to them if their disciplines, even on a broad scale, had been included. Now that I know from the table in the handbook that people may be drawn to one discipline if their core intelligence lies in that area it forces me to think of ways to be more inclusive for the various discipline.

Interpersonal is the skill where I’m genuinely woeful which seems to be at odds with the profession that I’m in. The only saving grace I hope is that because I know I’m not good at it I’m constantly working at it trying to improve.

I remember one of the others in my group appreciated that real world activities inform better than a textbook and they tried to recreate this with various learning activities.

Another thing that cropped up in the group discussion was student participation in discussion.  It’s a tricky balance getting quiet students to voice an opinion because I can be really grateful that someone speaks up sometimes. Do students participate because they want to, because the lecturer stares them down, because there’s marks for participation? Can we give each student two flags where one flag means you can say something for three minutes max. When you talk you use a flag. When you’ve no flags left you can’t talk, even if you really want to. The flag method was used in a staff meeting I was in a couple of years ago. It did mean that everybody participated but it was slightly forced. We never used it again but maybe if we had used it more on a regular basis we’d all be better at being forthcoming. On a personal note I can recommend Susan Cain’s Quiet. I don’t remember it giving ways to draw quieter students out but it could well do. I know I read it from the perspective of someone trying to deal with an extrovert-oriented world.


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