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Multiple Intelligences and
Brain-based Learning

NELRC’s work in applying multiple intelligences (MI) theory in adult literacy education was prompted by positive outcomes with applications of MI theory at the pre-K–12 level and a the lack of MI research, practices, and resources in our field. MI theory holds promise to improve teaching and learning in adult literacy education through the window of learning differences that the theory represents. The overall goal is to improve the adult literacy (ABE, GED, ESOL) field’s ability to engage and retain adult learners by tapping more fully into their strengths and interests.

From 1996 to 2001, NELRC co-facilitated the Adult Multiple Intelligences (AMI) Study with Harvard University's Project Zero, investigating "How can multiple intelligences theory support instruction and assessment in Adult Basic Education (ABE), Adult Secondary Education (ASE), and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)?" The AMI Study was conducted under the auspices of the National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy (NCSALL) at Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Ten ESOL, ABE, GED, or diploma preparation teachers from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont served as research partners in the AMI study. These teachers took on the challenge to help their students identify and use diverse pathways to learning English, math, and prepare to take the GED tests utilizing MI theory. Each teacher pursued her own research question related to her practice under the "umbrella" of the overarching research question.

The AMI teachers came to view MI theory as a lens through which they could view and understand their students and approaches to teaching and learning. Understanding that MI theory validates multi-modal, real-world based teaching practices, they used the theory as a tool to develop a broad range of learning opportunities.

The data from the teacher research projects informed the overall study across the AMI classrooms. The study thus incorporated two interwoven qualitative research projects. Data analysis across the ten different adult literacy contexts revealed two broad categories of teachers' understanding and application of MI theory, termed MI-Inspired Instruction and MI Reflections.

The AMI workshops offer an opportunity for participants to learn directly from AMI Study staff and teacher researchers, and to draw on the understandings and materials they developed over the course of the project. We also offer workshops on brain-based learning that draw on a wider research base about how we process and retain information. Our workshops, mini-courses and consultations fall in the following specific areas:

  • Multiple Intelligences in Adult Learning
  • Multiple Intelligences in Adult ESOL Instruction
  • Building Community through Multiple Intelligences
  • Multiple Intelligences in Career Planning
  • eacher Research in the AMI Study
  • I Forgot to Remember: Using What We Know About Thinking and Memory to Teach Students Better

NELRC’s MI workshops are developed and led, often in collaboration with other AMI researchers by

Silja Kallenbach
AMI Study Co-Director

Please see Silja’s bio.

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