You cannot teach a [person] anything, you can only help [them] find it within [themselves].Galilleo
Designing learning must come down to knowing who your student is, and what they want from the educational experience when they come to visit you each day. This means that it is the educators responsibility to know or develop a learning profile for each student – to know what their learning goal is, what their learning strengths are and how each student approaches the learning process. Essentially – meet the students where they are at, and help them move along the learning continuum.
In 1983 Howard Gardner challenged the notion of intelligence tests saying that we define intelligence to narrowly (which were first developed in 1904). Bloom’s taxonomy was developed in 1956. These models for how we learn and what we can learn were created in a time in which the model of education was based on the needs for an industrial society. We no longer live in a fully industrial based society or economy, which means that the needs of the learners in the education system has changed. Which means…. that education must also change.
Categorizing students into ‘types’ I believe has become a dangerous practice in education. Various schemas have been developed to ‘sort students’ or ‘determine cognitive ability’ such as Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory and Bloom’s Taxonomy.
As educators we are working through a paradigm shift in what education is and what it is for, which means that the ‘old way of doing things’ might not necessarily be the right way of doing things for today. When educators cling to that they believe rather than what they could know, we limit the learning potential of all students. As educators, we need to use evidence based strategies to improve student learning.
Multiple intelligence theory has been used to create a false sense that students will learn best in ‘one way’. In many cases, multiple intelligence theory is used to sort students and over simplify a learner’s profile. This oversimplification can also be seen in simple Google searches for Multiple Intelligence. (See link below.)
The desire for the simplification of learning profiles typecasts students. In a world in which we are developing a much better understanding of intersectionality identity theory (e.g. there are individual aspects of our identity that are brought together to establish who we are, rather than one generic version of ourselves), we must recognize that students can learn in more than one way based on their learning preferences, but also based on the types of experiences that are co-created with the students.
If Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence theory has narrowed the scope on educators perceptions of how students can learn, Bloom’s taxonomy has had a similar affect on what a student can learn.
Bloom’s taxonomy has been interpreted as a stepping stone pattern for what students need in order to be able to think. That is to say, students need knowledge or the ability to remember certain things, before they can understand. An understanding must come before being able to apply, and so on and so forth. Classrooms that focus on the remembering and the understanding are forgetting about the world in which we currently live – a digital world in which the information we need is easily accessible. Education is not about conveying information. It is especially not about the need to memorize. I argue that knowledge is not about the information, it is about being able to find the information that you need.
In this model then, school learning should not be starting at the base, as it traditionally has, but rather with a creative challenge that requires students to discover the knowledge that is needed in order to work through the problem that is identified. This requires educators changing how they see learning: knowledge and remembering does not lead necessarily lead to higher order thinking, but perhaps, higher order thinking leads to knowledge and remembering.
If we redefine this concept of what students can learn, we are opening up the possibilities for all students. The assumption changes the view that ‘smartness’ or ‘intelligence’ or ‘academic ability’ is only for those few students that can endure education, but rather ‘smartness’ or ‘intelligences’ or ‘academic ability’ is for those who choose to cultivate it in themselves.
The learning profile we develop for students is not to identify or determine their learning ceiling, but rather becomes a road map for helping them meet their full potential.
Armstrong, Thomas. “Chapter 1. The Foundations of MI Theory.” How Student Progress Monitoring Improves Instruction – Educational Leadership, ASCD, 2017, www.ascd.org/publications/books/118035/chapters/The-Foundations-of-MI-Theory.aspx.
Blogger, Contributing. “Here’s What’s Wrong With Bloom’s Taxonomy: A Deeper Learning Perspective.” Education Week – Rules for Engagement, Education Week, 15 Mar. 2018, blogs.edweek.org/edweek/learning_deeply/2018/03/heres_whats_wrong_with_blooms_taxonomy_a_deeper_learning_perspective.html.
“History and Development of Bloom’s Taxonomy.” Mission | U-M LSA Museum of Anthropological Archaeology, University of Michigan, 2018, lsa.umich.edu/iss/knowledge-base/teaching-strategies/active-learning/bloom_s-taxonomy-history-and-development/history-and-development.html.
McGreal, Scott. “The Illusory Theory of Multiple Intelligences.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 2013, www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/unique-everybody-else/201311/the-illusory-theory-multiple-intelligences.