The purpose of this study was to examine whether performance in MI could predict the performance in reading competency. The other objectives were to identify the components of MI which are correlated with the reading test scores, and to determine the relationship between the multiple intelligences and reading proficiency. A descriptive and ex post facto design was employed to ascertain relationships among the variables. The participants were 128 randomly chosen pre-university students (grade12, 18-19 years old) of both genders studying in Tehran in the academic year 2008-2009. Three instruments were utilized in this study: 1) a demographic questionnaire; 2) the Persian version of Mckenzie’s MI Inventory; and 3) a standardized reading proficiency test which was selected from retrieved paper-based TOEFL® tests. Results of the correlation analysis revealed no significant relationship between the two variables of MI and reading scores of the students. Furthermore, the results of the correlation analysis revealed that there was a low significant, negative relationship between musical-rhythmic intelligence and reading which suggests that when the reading score of a student increases, musical-rhythmic intelligence of the same student decreases and vice versa. Overall, three categories of MI (musical-rhythmic, verbal-linguistic, bodily-kinesthetic) were found to be predictive of reading proficiency.
Keywords: Multiple intelligences theory, Reading proficiency, EFL pre-university students
Traditionally intelligence is defined in terms of intelligence quotient (IQ) which designates the ratio between mental age and chronological age. In this view, the abilities of the individuals are measured via their verbal-linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences while the other intelligences (e.g. musical-rhythmic, interpersonal, and visual-spatial intelligences) are not considered. Along with such a one-dimensional view of assessing the people’s minds, comes a corresponding view of school which is called “uniform view” (Gardner, 1993, p. 6, 2006a, p. 48). Gardner considers the “uniform school” as the ones having a core curriculum, “a set of facts that all the individuals should know and very few electives” (1993, p. 6, 2006a, p. 48). In these schools, the better students (those with higher IQs) are allowed to take courses that invoke critical reading, calculation and thinking skills and are the consumers of paper and pencil instruments such as IQ tests or SAT (the Scholastic Aptitude Test) accordingly. According to the results of such tests, the individuals will be ranked and the best and the brightest ones get into the better colleges.
Gardner (1993, p. 6, 2006a, p. 48) also claims that there is no question that this approach works well for certain people. Accordingly he mentions that there is another vision which is based on a radically different view of the mind and yields a very different view of school. Therefore, he introduces a pluralistic view of mind which can recognize different facets of cognition and acknowledging the people who have different cognitive strengths and contrastive cognitive styles. He then moves further and introduces the concept of an individual-centered school which takes such a multifaceted view of intelligence seriously. The models of these schools are based in part on the finding from cognitive science and neuro-science. Since then, Gardner calls this approach the theory of MI. To Gardner, intelligence is “the ability to solve problems or to fashion products that are valued in one or more cultural settings”
(1993, p. 15, 2006a, p. 48).
Thus, the traditional view of intelligence which includes verbal-linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences is expanded into the theory of MI. According to the theory of MI, all human beings possess at least nine different intelligences which are the initial representative of different ways of our learning (Gardner, 1983). He further argues that all human beings possess a number of discrete intelligences which manifest themselves in different skills and abilities. These intelligences are applied by all human beings to solve problems, invent processes, and, create things. Gardner (1983, pp. 62-67) used eight criteria to identify the seven types of intelligence:
- potential isolation by brain damage,
- the existence of idiot savants, prodigies, and other exceptional individuals,
- an identifiable core operation or set of operations,
- a distinctive developmental history, along with a definable set of expert end-state performances,
- support from psychometric findings,
- an evolutionary history and evolutionary plausibility,
- susceptibility to encoding in a symbol system, and
- support from experimental psychological tasks.
Using these criteria, Gardner (1983) proposed his initial list of seven intelligences and since then added two more to the list (1995, 1999a, 1999b). To Gardner, the classification of the nine intelligences is a preliminary list and each form of intelligence can be subdivided, or the list can be rearranged. His MI classification is verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical-rhythmic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalist, and existential. Giles et al. (2003) believe that the intelligences introduced by Gardner enable the individual’s ability to “solve problems, create products or provide services that are valued within a culture or society”. To Gardner, the purpose of school should be “to develop intelligences and to help people reach vocational and avocational goals which are appropriate to their particular spectrum of intelligences” (1993, p. 9, 2006a, p. 50). Therefore, people would feel more engaged, competent, and more inclined to serve the society in a constructive way. Hence, he proposes two assumptions to designate his ideal school of the future; that is not all people have the same interests and abilities; not all of us learn in the same way, and nowadays no one person can learn everything there is to learn (1993, p. 11).Various types of intelligence are briefly described in the following.
Verbal-linguistic intelligence- this intelligence involves the ability to use language in an effective and innovative way. Weber (2005, p. 4) defines verbal-linguistic intelligence as speaking, poetic or journalistic ability, sensitivity to the sounds, rhythms, and meanings of words, as well as understanding different functions of language. This kind of ability exhibits itself in its fullest form by poets (Gardner, 1993, p. 8).
Logical-mathematical intelligence- it refers to the logical, mathematical and also the scientific ability of a person. Such ability consists of discovering models and deductive reasoning as well as thinking rationally. It also means showing great strength in solving problems.
Visual-spatial intelligence- visual-spatial intelligence involves the ability to form mental models of the world and the ability to perceive the visual-spatial world accurately. Visual-spatial intelligence is defined by Gardner (1983) as the ability to perceive a form or an object which can be developed even in individuals who are blind and have no direct access to the visual world.
Musical-rhythmic intelligence- Weber (2005, p. 4) defines this intelligence as the ability to compose music and play an instrument; the ability to produce and appreciate rhythm, pitch, and timbre; and the appreciation of various forms of musical expressiveness. Those who have a good ear for music can be considered to have this intelligence.
Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence- this intelligence includes the ability to dance and engage in athletics, the ability to control one’s body movements, and the ability to handle objects skillfully (Weber, 2005, p. 4). Gardner (1983, p. 206) considers this intelligence as the ability to use one’s body in highly differentiated and skilled ways, for expressive as well as goal-directed purposes. Those who have a well-coordinated body are good at this intelligence.
Interpersonal intelligence- according to Gardner (1993, p. 9), this intelligence is the ability to understand other people: what motivates them, how they work and how to work cooperatively with them. Those who have the ability to work well with others are good in this way.
Intrapersonal intelligence- it entails the ability to understand and construct an accurate perception of one-self and apply one’s talent in a successful way, which leads to happy and well-adjusted people in all areas of life (Richards & Rodgers, 2001, p. 116).
Naturalist intelligence-Naturalist intelligence, added to the list in 1995, is the ability to understand nature and draw on patterns and design and categorize them in order to solve real-world problems. Evidence for such intelligence among those with it is their ability to observe, understand, and organize the patterns which can be found in nature. These people enjoy spending much time outdoors.
Existential intelligence- Gardner added existential intelligence to his earlier list of eight in 1999. As such, this form of intelligence is still under consideration (see e.g. Armstrong, 2009; Gardner, 1999a, 1999b, 2006b; Nevin, Villa, & Thousand, 2009; Viens & Kallenbach, 2004). Existential intelligence is introduced as the intelligence of understanding in a large context or big picture. This intelligence seeks connections to real world understandings and applications of new learning. Therefore, people who question the meaning of the life are in this camp.
2. The Relationship between Reading and Multiple Intelligences
Reading which is the most complex form of information processing is a cognitive process, centered in the brain and involves processes that the brain utilizes in mental activities such as paying attention to something, remembering a number, and forgetting an important call (Koda & Zehler, 2008 ; Millar, 1997; Taylor, Harris, Pearson, & Garcia, 1995; Wood & Taylor, 2006). It is regarded as a language process that is closely linked to other language processes (speaking, writing, and listening) that we acquire. Reading is a human trait that schools of psychology try to elaborate on its nature and justify its theoretical stand (Koda & Zehler, 2008 ). The theory of MI has addressed issues of reading as their crucial concern (Armstrong, 2003; Safi, 1996). However, reading is treated both as a skill and as knowledge across the literature. Researchers in MI have been specially engaged in reading to scientifically elaborate on its cognitive aspects (Alarcón & DeFries, 1997; Brooks, Fulker, & DeFries, 1990; W. Johnson, Bouchard, Segal, & Samuels, 2005).
Cognitive abilities are the reader’s characteristics that influence his/her reading comprehension. Since the performance of readers with normal cognitive abilities differs slightly, some scholars have related reading to thinking. For example, Goodman (cited in Sadeghi, 2008) believes that efficient reading results from the interaction between language and thought while some emphasize on the effect of cognitive strategies and meta-cognitive knowledge on reading comprehension (A. P. Johnson, 1998; Schoonen, Hulstijn, & Bossers, 1998).
Reading is also compared to ‘a detective act’ in which the reader uses his/her cognitive ability in connecting all the relevant information to solve the problem (Sadeghi, 2008). Hence, it can be implied that the reader’s comprehension can be affected by his/her cognitive abilities including intelligence. Accordingly, Taylor et al. (1995, p. 4) state that reading is centered in the brain involving the whole processes that the brain uses in mental activities (e.g. we perceive, forget, remember, and so on).
Walker (2004) moves further by saying that “embodied within this text is the strong belief that our strengths lie in our individual differences” (p. vi). Thus, she mentions that there is a need to nurture these individual differences within the instructional programs which should be built on the students’ unique strengths. It is also recommended to use these strengths in order to expand the conceptual knowledge of the students and create intelligent citizens (Walker, 2004, p. vi). In this regard, Moallem (2002; cited in Brunton, et al., 2006) suggests that considering the learning styles of each individual and matching them with teaching or instructional style will help the information be kept longer and make its application more effective. Further, Moallem mentions that such students have “more positive attitudes towards the subject of the course than those who are subjected to clashes in teaching/learning styles”.
As a teacher what we know and what we do in the classroom should have significant influence on the thoughts, achievement and behaviors of the students. Thus, the “teachers must help students use their combination of intelligences to learn whatever it is they want to learn, as well as what the teachers and society believe they have to learn” (Finvoc, 2003; cited in Brunton, et al., 2006). The students who are “aware of their most productive mode of learning meet with greater success in both education and in the workforce than those people who attempt to learn and work through a mode with which they are incompatible” (Brunton, et al., 2006). Thus, aiding the students to be self-aware can be facilitated by investigating their prior learning, their learning styles and their multiple intelligences strengths.
The cognitive competence of the human being is better described in the MI theory in terms of a set of abilities, talents or mental skills which are called intelligences. The MI theory provides a framework of the students’ dominant styles, preferences and areas of talents. Such knowledge can be used in enhancing the experience of the learners toward the goal of higher proficiency. By raising students’ awareness of their preferred cognitive modality, the teacher is raising their interest in learning and helping them gain understanding of what method suits them best. It is important that students are aware of their weaknesses as well as their strengths. Understanding where effort needs to be put in is also essential. The ability to control the individual’s cognitive processes has been linked to intelligence. For example, Sternberg (cited in Brunton, et al., 2006) calls these processes as being responsible for “figuring out how to do a particular task or set of tasks and then making sure that the task or set of tasks are done correctly”.
Since pre-university students in Iran have to pass a one-year course and achieve the Certificate to be qualified to sit for the highly competitive National Entrance Exam (Konkur) and gain a place at university, they are under enormous pressure and have to read a lot of subjects. Different types of texts require different ways of reading and so require different sets of practices. This differentiation challenges the general notion of ‘reading ability’ associated with test scores used to identify students as ‘proficient’ or ‘struggling’ readers (Bryant, et al., 2000; Charl Nel & Kopper, 2004; Tankersley, 2003; Valencia & Buly, 2004; Vaughn, et al., 2008). Due to the influence of the Konkur on the future job prospects of students, teachers usually teach students to pass the test. Thus, they concentrate on the skills required for the test. Based on the studies done in Iranian EFL setting (e.g., Golsorkhi, 2008 [cited in Ghorbani, 2008]; S. M. H. Hosseini, 2007; Jahangard, 2007; Kamyab, 2008; Rahimi, Riazi, & Saif, 2008), the focus of teachers is merely on the reading skill and they try to improve this skill among the students at the expense of other skills (listening, writing, and speaking). For example, Jahangard (2007) and Hosseini (2007), state that the Iranian EFL learners’ aural and oral skills are not considered and emphasized properly in textbooks and learners lack listening and speaking activities as they are not demanded in the Konkur or the final examinations. In fact, the Konkur is a paper and pencil test that focuses on reading and ignores other skills. In addition, the items are multiple-choice in nature.
Consequently, topics and skills in English textbooks are aimed at enhancing students’ reading ability. Achieving an acceptable level of reading proficiency in English is the main aim of the students. Thus, it is justified that the skill focused on is the reading skill. And pre-university students were selected for this study because very few such studies have investigated this group of learners.
This study may provide an initial view of the nature and quality of the students’ multiple intelligences and how they are related to the students’ reading scores. Thus, the results can be used to make recommendations that may serve to make educators aware of ways to modify instruction and offer a variety of opportunities for learners in the classroom. Gardner (1993) states, “only if we expand and reformulate our view of what counts as human intellect will we be able to devise more appropriate ways of assessing it and more effective ways of educating it” (p. 4). Understanding the types of intelligence and their impact on learners can greatly assist educators, teachers, trainers, and instructional designers in their development and implementation of learning materials.
To the researcher’s knowledge, no considerable research has been conducted on this topic in Iran. It is hoped that the results of this study might provide EFL teachers with insights into how learners actually learn in a classroom setting. The findings and recommendations can also provide teachers with further insights into factors involved in determining a MI profile of the Iranian EFL pre-university learners.
3. Aim of the Study
The purpose of this study is to examine whether performance in MI could predict the performance in reading competency. The other objectives are to identify the components of MI which are correlated with the reading test scores of the participants, and to determine the relationship between the multiple intelligences and reading proficiency. The study sought to answer two research questions which are reproduced here for convenience:
1. With regard to multiple intelligences and reading proficiency:
(a) Is there any relationship between multiple intelligences and reading proficiency of Iranian EFL pre-university students?
(b) Which components of multiple intelligences are correlated with the scores of the standardized reading proficiency test among Iranian EFL pre-university students?
2. Are the scores on multiple intelligences a good predictor of students’ performance in a standardized reading proficiency test?
A descriptive and ex post facto (also called causal-comparative) design was employed to ascertain relationships among the naturally occurring variables. Gall et al. (2003) suggested a causal-comparative design when natural categories have been influenced by existing variables. Ary et al. (2009) also suggest that “when an investigation involves attribute independent variables that the researcher cannot manipulate, he or she must turn to ex post facto research” (2009, p. 332). According to Ary et al .