Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Before We Begin: Part 1: Some Parameters

Previous installments of this series


Before we Begin : Part 1

One of the buzz words in education the past 10 years or so has been the theory of "Multiple intelligences" which advocates teaching students based upon a variety of learning styles which are equated with "intelligence". I think when this fad started it claimed that there were seven types of intelligences and others have since added about 19467 types of intelligences to that number.

While there is great and demonstrated merit in a pedagogical sense to tailoring lessons to the interest, needs and culture of the learner, the theory is, I believe, philosophically and physiologically speaking, nonsense.

Thinking differently is not a different type of intelligence, it is simply using intelligence differently.

Underlying the multiple intelligence theory, it appears to me, is the assumption that people learn differently. That may be. Indeed, I would be surprised if it were not true. However, learning differently because of personality or heredity is not a form of intelligence.

I may be splitting hairs here, but the point is still a valid one. There are not a multitude of intelligence types, there are only learning styles.

I am aware this might all be viewed as semantics but I believe that the multiple intelligence theory is guilty of using terms in a fuzzy and confusing way. This is never a good thing and appears to me to be a rather larger problem in education than in other fields; though it could be that I read more in education than in other fields. However, the point here is to show that the theory of multiple intelligence has used a whole raft of philosophical terms and slightly altered the definitions of the words. In philosophy, words are tools. They have very specific meanings that are different from normal parlance. Thus, it is important to get your terms right or you generate confusion.

(Incidentally, I have just revealed a part of my educational philosophy)

Admittedly , I don't know much about learning theory but learning and intelligence are not the same thing though they may be related to each other, or be dependent upon each other.

I do, however, know something about what philosophers call epistemology or the nature of knowledge. Epistemologically speaking, there are only three ways to discover knowledge (thus learn) and two over arching paradigms to frame those three ways of obtaining knowledge. Every human has, does or will use these. There are no exceptions. If you think, and you are not an animal because research has shown that animals think in pictures not words, then you think using these structures.

That means that there are at most, only six ways (3- ways of knowing X 2-paradigms) to think about any problem. In reality, as we shall see there are only three that concern educators.

This is important to know because before one begins thinking about their educational philosophy it is good to know the form you place those thoughts into. It really does make a difference how you think about something.

While the various approaches to thinking have somewhat multivariate names, depending upon whose book you read, I will use the terms "Idealism," "Realism" and "Sophistry" to set them apart. All forms of thinking fall into these broad categories and there is seldom any overlap and what overlap there is caused by either confusion sloppy thinking. Once we understand the definition or meaning of these categories and see how we think we will be able to begin formulating an educational philosophy.

Next: Before we begin Part 2: "Idealism: Or Jacobs' Ladder"

Until next Time
Fai Mao
The gives you just enough to get interested blogger

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