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Most of the teaching methods for individuals with learning disabilities at the present time depend on the traditional theories of intelligence concerned with linguistic and mathematical abilities and neglect the other non-cognitive abilities that can benefit students in their academic education namely that intelligence is an acquired cognitive ability measured by specific tests: the total degrees obtained by the individual refer to a degree so-called IQ. The higher degree obtained by the individual means that his intelligence is high; whereas the lower degree means that his intelligence is low.
In addition to the foregoing, the teaching strategies of this group is focused on aspects of their weaknesses only and ignore the strengths they have, therefore I am trying to answer the question: can rely in teaching for people with learning disabilities on the strategies which focus in its activities on investment the aspects of their strengths according to Multiple Intelligences Theory.
I will answer this question by shedding light on the theory of multiple intelligences, which suggests that any individual has eight intelligences; linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual/spatial, musical, bodily-kinaesthetic, intrapersonal, interpersonal, naturalist, and existential intelligence. These intelligences function independently, and can be developed through training and encouragement. I will also try to detect the possibility of making use of these intelligences in teaching for people with learning disabilities depending on the knowing of their strong intelligences and invest in their academic education through instructional activities in intelligences domains.
By looking at special education with regard to theories of intelligence shows that the traditional theories of intelligence focus in dealing with this concept on linguistic and logical-mathematical development and do not take into account neither literary and artistic aspects nor social relations of child as appropriate whereby focus on mental activities related to linguistic and mathematical abilities that the current system depends on them in teaching.
Howard Gardner (1983) has produced the theory of Multiple Intelligences and developed it in (1993). This theory is different from traditional theories in their view of intelligence. Gardner believes that human intelligence is real mental activity and not just the ability of human knowledge therefore he sought in this theory to widen the scope of human potential to exceed the estimate intelligence (Gardner, 1993).
Many of the teaching programs for ordinary children and special needs have been adopted in the recent period this theory. On the basis of this perception Gardner believes that it should not deal with the intelligence of children with curriculum based on memorization only, but must focus on the various activities of the multiple intelligences in order to benefit every child from the activity which fits his/her intelligences.
The concept of learning disabilities is built on the varying of abilities and potentials of each person which means that individual may be weak in some of these abilities and potentials while the others are strong (Kirk and Gallagher, 1986). Individuals with learning difficulties possess high intelligences - according to the theory of multiple intelligences - which clearly appear in some areas of these intelligences, such as painting, music and dramatics, which may outperform the intelligences of normal individuals. Nevertheless, teachers did not employ it to improve the level of academic education of those with learning disabilities. (Stolowitz, 1995, Weinstein, 1994). The current teaching methods of learning disabilities rely on traditional teaching methods that focus on weaknesses of this category and neglect strengths (Poplin, 1993).
1. The Theory of Multiple Intelligences.
Gardner asserts that traditional theories of intelligence have limited the concept of intelligence by traditional intelligences tests that depend on a few mental abilities so they are unfair. These tests request from individuals to solve problems on the basis of linguistic and logical-mathematical ability, for example tests that measure spatial ability does not allow young children to treat objects manually or to build three-dimensional structures, as well as the foregoing the traditional intelligences tests can measure school performance, but they are tools can not predict with professional performance, which indicates that there is a gap between the measured capacity for the student on the one hand and his/her actual performance on the other hand.
Intelligence, according to Gardner, is a "bio-psychological potential to process information that can be activated in a cultural setting to solve problems or create products that are of value in a culture" (Gardner, 1999, pp. 33-34). Gardner posits that each person has eight intelligences.
In return for the limited view of conventional intelligence, which focuses on linguistic and logical-mathematical ability Gardner reached to scientific evidences that people have eight multiple intelligences with varying levels. Gardner in his (1983) book, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, suggested seven different intelligences and then later he added two intelligences. These intelligences are as follows:
Linguistic intelligence: "Linguistic intelligence involves sensitivity to spoken and written language, and the ability to learn languages, and to use language to accomplish certain goals" (Gardner, 1999, p. 41).
Logical-Mathematical intelligence: "Logical-mathematical intelligence involves the capacity to analyze problems logically, carry out mathematical operations, and investigate issues scientifically" (Gardner, 1999, p. 42).
Musical intelligence: "skill in the performance, composition and appreciation of musical patterns" (Gardner, 1999, p. 42).
Bodily-Kinaesthetic intelligence: "the potential of using one's whole body or parts of the body (like the hand or mouth) to solve problems or fashion products" (Gardner, 1999, p. 42).
Visual-Spatial intelligence: "the ability to perceive visual or spatial information, to transform and modify this information and to recreate visual images even without reference to an original physical stimulus" (Gardner, Kornhaber and Wake, 1996, p. 207).
Intrapersonal intelligence: "Intrapersonal intelligence involves the capacity to understand the oneself, to have an effective working model of oneself - including one's own desires, fears, and capacities - and to use such information effectively in regulating one's own life" (Gardner, 1999, p. 43).
Interpersonal intelligence: "the ability to notice and make distinctions among other individuals and, in particular, among their moods, temperaments, motivations and intentions" (Gardner, 1983, p. 240).
Naturalist intelligence: "expertise in recognition and classification of the numerous species - the flora and fauna - of his or her environment" (Gardner, 1999, p. 48).
Existential intelligence: Gardner has reached to this intelligence as hypothesis still needs to scientific evidences particularly on the basis of its nervous system. This intelligence is determined by the person's ability to trying to answer big questions which is related to human existence and the profound meaning of life, such as why do we live or die or why there is an evil.
According to Multiple Intelligences Theory, each person has all eight intelligences and these intelligences function independently, as well as that each individual can develop his/her different intelligences to a higher level if he/she had the motivation or got encouragement and appropriate training (Karen, 2001).
It can be said that multiple intelligences theory is not patterns theory which determines the intelligence that fits someone, but it suggests that each individual has abilities within the scope of the eight types of intelligences. Some people possess very high levels of functional performance in the most eight intelligences while others have very low levels of functional performance, therefore they put in the organizations of disabled people.
Gardner's experimental studies results indicated that individuals' intelligences who suffered injuries in the brain were affected because of these injuries whereas the other intelligences were not affected which confirms the existence of several brain systems are relatively independent for these intelligences. Even though Gardner relied on this scientific basis to establish his theory, but he emphasizes that any of these intelligences can not be considered as intelligence unless there were standards which are considered the theoretical and practical bases of multiple intelligences theory and these. In other words, what made Gardner says that intelligence is pluralistic. The standards of intelligences can be viewed as follows:
Independence in the case of brain damage in the sense that any of different individual's intelligences is likely to maintain its relative independence from other intelligences if an individual exposed to disease or accident led to brain damage (Gardner, 1999).
Any intelligence would not be acceptable and credible unless it has a developmental and evolutionary history, such as linguistic that grows and develops with stages of individual's growth. (Gardner, 1999).
"an identifiable core operation or set of operations"
"susceptibility to encoding in a symbol system" (Ibid, 1999, pp. 36-37).
"a distinctive developmental history, along with a definable set of expert 'end-state' performances"
"the existence of idiots savants, prodigies and other exceptional people" (Ibid, p. 38-39).
From what has been mentioned above, Gardner produced his theory of multiple intelligences.
2. Learning Disabilities
2.1. Definition of Learning Disabilities.
In fact there are many definitions of learning disabilities. These definitions differ from country to country. According to The National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities, learning disability is:
"a generic term that refers to a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities. These disorders are intrinsic to the individual and presumed to be due to central nervous system dysfunction. Even though a learning disability may occur concomitantly with other handicapping conditions (e.g., sensory impairment, mental retardation, social and emotional disturbances) or environmental influences (e.g., cultural differences, insufficient/inappropriate instruction, psychogenic factors), it is not the direct result of those conditions or influences" (National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities, 1987, p. 107).
It could be argued that learning disabilities do not refer to the level of intelligence.
2.2. Types of Learning Disabilities
The field of learning disability is considered one of the most significant areas which are focused by scientific studies at the present time. LD is a large term and there are several different types of learning disability. The special education indicates that learning difficulties are divided into two main categories. The first one includes the disabilities in memory, attention, thinking, realizing, and language. This type called developmental learning disabilities. The second one is disabilities in reading (often called dyslexia), writing (dysgraphia), arithmetic (dyscalculia), and spelling, and so-called academic learning disabilities.
2.2.1. Developmental learning disabilities: The skill of memory, attention, and cognition are very important for children to accomplish the academic subjects. The child needs to develop many necessary skills such as cognition and consistency of hand and eye movement in order to learn how to write his/her name. Child must develop the appropriate visual and audio distinction, audio-visual memory and appropriate language in order to learn writing. Fortunately, these functions evolve enough for most children to enable them to learn academic subjects. When these functions are largely disordered, the child is unable to compensate them through other functions, therefore he has difficulty in learning to write, spell or perform mathematical processes.
Developmental learning disability is one of the factors that explain the low academic achievement that includes disorders in the effectiveness of memory, cognition, attention, thinking and language. These disorders lead to difficulties impede the academic progress as a result of internal psychological or neurological process or group of disorders that appear in the form of obvious difficulties in skills acquisition of reading, writing, arithmetic, and spelling (Kirk and Gallagher, 1983).
2.2.2. Academic learning disability: it means that the level of academic achievement for children is not keeping up with the level of their mental abilities. This kind of academic learning disability includes the following:
Learning disability in writing (dysgraphia): This type of disability arises from the inability of the child to know the shape and size of the letter, as well as his/her inability to control the distance between the letters or writing commonly used words, in addition to spelling and grammatical errors resulting from his/her inability to distinguish the similar sounds, which leads to errors in writing or delete, add and replace some letters in composition. Dysgraphia is a disorders or disability in written language (Hamstra and Blote, 1993). It has been denoted as a certain learning disability (Brown, 1981).
Learning disability in reading (dyslexia): It appears on several forms, such as the difficulty in the connection between character and its voice, and making words from several characters, and also in distinguishing between characters that slightly different in their form, such as "b" and "d" or "q" and "p", in addition to the difficulty of rapid identification on words, as well as delete some characters and add others or replacement some letters with other letters, or distortion the pronunciation (Feldman, 2002).
Learning disability in mathematics (dyscalculia): These disabilities are represented in identification on the concepts of numbers and figures and their actual meanings and the knowledge of mathematical facts, such as addition and subtraction, as well as reading and writing difficulty of the values of numbers consisting of multiple items, in addition to the difficulty to recognize mathematical symbols and writing numbers which are similar in writing and different in direction (ibid). Dyscalculia can be defined as "a particular problem calculating, or performing the arithmetic operation of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. This problem may exist independently of the ability to understand mathematical concepts or to handle the abstractions required in mathematics" (ibid, p. 86).
The theory of Multiple Intelligences suggests that learning disabilities may occur in the eight types of intelligences, in the sense that, in addition to the types of academic disabilities that may exist of who with learning disabilities, there is also spatial disabilities and disabilities to recognize on faces or bodily-kinaesthetic deficit impede them to perform particular movements, whereas others have musical deficit, personal disorders and inability to establish positive social relationships with others.
Teaching methods for those with learning disabilities based on three strategies:
Training based on task analysis: This strategy assumes the absence of developmental deficit of people with learning difficulties and that their problem is represented in the lack of training and experience, so it relies on task analysis in a way that allows the student to master its simple elements.
Training based on developmental and psychological operations: This strategy assumes that the student is suffering from a specific developmental disability; therefore this strategy depends on the training of developmental abilities of whom with learning disability (Newhall, 2008).
Training based on task analysis and psychological and developmental operations: This strategy is based on the integration of the basic concepts of each of the strategy of task analysis and the strategy of psychological and developmental operations (Deing, 2004).
Since these strategies depend on the treatment of deficit and neglect the strengths of people with learning difficulties, so the right strategy in teaching of this group according to multiple intelligences theory is that focuses on their strengths.
Educational Applications of Multiple Intelligences in the Field of Learning disabilities.
Educational applications for people with learning disabilities depend on both; a teacher on one hand and the selection of appropriate teaching strategy on the other hand, which must take into account the strengths they have as well as weaknesses.
For the teacher must develop him/herself professionally through reading and staying informed on what's new in the field of education of people with learning difficulties as he must change - continuously - his/her presentation of the lesson whereby moves on from linguistic activities to images use or compose between many intelligences with innovative activities (Nolen, 2003).
Teacher must also concern with the strengths of people with learning disabilities in the different intelligences. This means that the educational intervention for these children must focus on the strengths of each student especially those that combine between several intelligences; in addition to that the assessment of these students must be holistic and multi-dimensions to include different intelligences domains (Susan and Dale, 2004). He must also plan for the lesson preparation and introduce it within activities that invest the different intelligences whether linguistic, artistic or musical and take an interest in talents and abilities that may exist among some students and invest them in the educational process.
Teachers for non-classroom activities like painting, music and physical education must have a key role in assisting teachers of academic subjects in order to occur professional integration between them serves the educational process for people with learning disabilities (Deing, 2004). Elbas states that teaching "trains us to pay attention to difference, to see each pupil for who he or she is, to recognize all the variability in attitudes, abilities, experience, disposition and need that is present in the classroom and meet these differences with fairness and justice" (Elbaz, 1991, p.19).
According to Kirk and Gallagher, the concept of learning difficulties takes basically the strengths and weaknesses of the individual into account (Kirk and Gallagher 1986). Therefore multiple intelligences theory makes teachers who utilize it in teaching consider children with learning disabilities as people possess strengths in many domains of intelligences, such as art, music, computer programming and then invest them in their academic education.
The psychological and educational researches have demonstrated that teaching methods based on multiple intelligences theory are considered one of the effective methods in teaching people with learning difficulties because it makes teachers to vary their educational activities of one academic unit, which allows each student in the classroom to benefit from activities that are compatible with the intelligence type he/she has. (Dunn et al, 2001).
According to multiple intelligences theory, teaching makes pupils who have disabilities in a particular intelligence can overcome these disabilities through their use of alternative ways, for example it can be noticed that students who have learning disabilities in reading, a small part of their linguistic intelligence damages, whereas many aspects of this intelligence is not affected, in this case can be used sign language as symbolic system to help them overcome their learning disabilities. Computers can also help students who have learning disabilities in mathematics. For children who have difficulty in personal intelligence, the psychological guide can help them overcome this disability.
Finally, the best educational activities that are valid in teaching people with learning difficulties, according to the theory of multiple intelligences are those the most successful activities with ordinary children, but the difference between them is the way in which lessons are formed to suit individual needs and differences of these children (Dunn et al, 2001).
There are some activities according to multiple intelligences theory which can be applied with students with learning disabilities and they are as follows:
Linguistic intelligence: The activities of this intelligence depend on the linguistic aspect, such as storytelling which weaves the concepts, ideas and the educational objectives. Additionally, voice recording on cassette is considered as an alternative means to express thoughts, feelings and using linguistic skills in communication, listening, and participation in discussions.
Logical-mathematical intelligence: the example of logical aspect is that student points out to things that list under the three stages of matter, gas, liquid and solid. While in mathematical aspect he could use the numbers game as an example of mathematical activities or transfer of words into numbers so that each character takes a particular alphabetical number.
Spatial intelligence: photographs and charts are used in this intelligence to illustrate the idea. The child can use his/her imagination to change lesson theme to mental images of things and he can also paint picture of the lesson subject that he is studying or change the new words to the drawings, such as drawing a picture of house word.
Bodily-kineasthetic intelligence: Various organs of the body can be used in this intelligence like the use of fingers in counting or the use of body movements to show movements of letters in words, such as standing for vowel letters and setting down for consonant letters or translation of spelling words into sign language or gestures expression of specific words and concepts of the lesson whereby students transfer lesson Information from symbolic linguistic systems to bodily-kineasthetic expressions, such as cell division or numbers subtraction.
Musical intelligence: The musical intelligence activities depend on musical tempo like the repetition of the multiplication table in the form of rhythmic, spelling words on the rhythm or the expression of the lesson core with anthems that consistent with music or rhythm.
Interpersonal intelligence: its activities depend on the positive social interaction with others, such as the participation of peers in different social activities or discussion of some topics, which can be done through the participation of student with a specific individual of his colleagues in each time or participation with new members in class. Student could share his colleagues in the spelling of words whereby each student can hold card for a particular character and line up in queue to arrange the word letters.
Intrapersonal intelligence: The activities of this intelligence rely on to recognize an individual him/herself and his awareness of emotions and thinking, as well as the suitable planning of his/her life, such as making students express themselves in the classroom, reducing criticism of them, as well as help them determining their goals, whether short-term, such as student determination of three things likes to learn them today or to determine long-term goals, such as student expression of how to see himself after twenty years from now.
Naturalist intelligence: the activities of naturalist intelligence focus on to explore things that exist in the natural environment, such as plants, animals, birds and rocks. the examples of the activities of this intelligence are that students plant some ornamental plants in small pools in the classroom or in the school garden and encourage them to classify these plants according to their types and colors or according to their parts (root, trunk, and leaves) and also taking them to visit the countryside to recognize these things in their natural environment.
There are many previous studies related to the theory of multiple intelligences and learning disabilities which aimed to improve the level of academic achievement of children in general and those with learning difficulties in particular through the teaching methods derived from the theory of Multiple Intelligences.
The study that carried out by Hearne and Stone (1995) which aimed to identify on the possibility extent of raising the level of academic achievement for children with learning disabilities through teaching strategies based on the theory of Multiple Intelligences showed that the methods of teaching emanating for this theory has led to clear improvement in the level of educational achievement for those with learning disabilities compared to traditional teaching methods. Both researchers demonstrated that the reason for this may be due to traditional teaching methods depend only on the cognitive abilities, while teaching methods derived from the theory of multiple intelligences depend on cognitive and non-cognitive abilities (Multiple Intelligences), which lists the receiving sources of child for information, that is the child may be weak in one of these intelligences, but he has another strong intelligences can benefit from them. This has led to increase the academic achievement for people with learning disabilities.
As for the study of Snyder (2000) have examined the relationship between the traditional and non-traditional teaching methods and the level of academic achievement for primary school students. Snyder has been distributed the sample individuals on two equivalent groups where. He depended in the teaching of the first group on traditional teaching methods, whereas depended in the teaching of second group on methods prepared their activities in accordance to the theory of multiple intelligences. Findings have yielded for the existence of significant differences between the levels of academic achievement in the two groups in favor of the second group which means that teaching methods based on the theory of multiple intelligences led to increase the academic achievement among the sample individuals. Snyder has been interpreted these findings that traditional teaching methods have focused on differences in the learning methods, while the teaching methods based on the theory of multiple intelligences has focused on the content and outcomes of learning process the reason that led to raise the level of academic achievement among the second group individuals.
Karen's study (2001) was a case study of a teacher has taught instructional unit about astronomy in sciences material for students in high school. His teaching methods depended on the theory of multiple intelligences. Study findings have showed that teaching, according to the theory of multiple intelligences has helped this teacher to devise non-traditional instructional activities consistent with the multiple students' intelligences which led to improve the level of their academic achievement in sciences material.
The study of Nolen (2003) was aimed at examining the ability of primary school students to understand the curriculum through teaching methods based on the theory of multiple intelligences. The most important results of this study that the methods of teaching based on this theory were effective in students understanding to their curriculum which led to raising the level of their academic achievement. The researcher has been interpreted these results that the theory of multiple intelligences allows each student in the classroom to learn the way that is compatible with his/her multiple intelligences, so the researcher has demonstrated that this theory is suitable in teaching for pupils with special needs because it meets the individual needs and differences in their ability on learning.
Study that conducted by Burman and Evans (2003) led to improving reading skills among sample of primary school students with learning disabilities in reading. Both of researchers have prepared strategy based its instructional methods and activities on multiple intelligences theory. The findings showed that these instructional methods and activities based on the theory of multiple intelligences have led to marked improvement in reading skills. Burman and Evans have interpreted this improvement that teaching with traditional way makes teachers rely on teaching methods in line with linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences and neglect the other intelligences of students, whereas teaching based on the theory of multiple intelligences makes teachers diversify their teaching methods and activities to be consistent with all students in order to benefit each student from high intelligence he has, therefore this method led to clear improvement in reading skills.
The traditional theories of human intelligence focused largely on aspects of linguistic and mathematical-logical development of intelligence and neglected other aspects, so that the perception of intelligence is going on the academic concept that occupies a privileged position within the current instructional system. The conventional theories tests have also linked children intelligence by the ability and speed to answer the questions and issues based on linguistic and logical techniques. This means that they were only interested in cognitive intelligence and ignored the other mental capacities, whereas multiple intelligences theory has focused on the different abilities of human, therefore made teachers who use it diversify in teaching methods and educational activities that permit for each student to learn from the activity that meets his/her high intelligences. Perhaps this is consistent with the study findings of Huron and Stone which showed that teaching for children with learning disabilities, according to this theory, meet the individual needs and differences in their academic education.