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October 1, 2002
Vol. 60
No. 2

Special Topic / Toward a More Intelligent School

By adopting Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences, teachers at a new elementary school in Turkey inspire students—and one another.

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Teachers at Esentepe Elementary School have discovered that integrating multiple intelligences theory into their instruction helps students become active learners. A 2nd grade teacher explained,After I introduced my students to the multiple intelligences theory and started using it in my classroom, I was not surprised to hear a student say, “Teacher! I learn best visually, so could you explain this information by drawing a picture on the blackboard?” Such a request represents the student's crucial shift from passively receiving information to actively seeking knowledge. The student is not saying, “Teacher! I am incapable of understanding what you are talking about.” On the contrary, the student is saying, “I would understand the subject better if you taught it in the way in which I can best learn it.” That level of self-understanding sends a powerful pedagogical message from students to teachers.

Introducing the Theory

Founded by Selcuk University Foundation as a private school in May 2000, Esentepe Elementary School in Konya, Turkey, started its K-3 program in September 2000, serving 116 students (61 boys and 55 girls) from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds. Because of our commitment to the multiple intelligences theory, we employ a large teaching staff whose diverse methodologies help us develop the multifaceted minds of our students in personalized ways. One kindergarten teacher and five regular classroom teachers each serve approximately 20 students. The school also employs fulltime specialists in art, music, physical education, English, computer science, and drama; a principal and assistant principal; a school counselor; two assistant teachers; and two part-time specialists, one in folklore and the other in chess. I serve as Esentepe's education consultant.
Teachers came to Esentepe from different public schools, so in August 2000 we held a 5-week professional development program to get to know one another, develop a vision for the school, and prepare for the school's first year. Our conversations focused on structuring a school that would nurture our students' potential through personalized education.
I introduced the multiple intelligences theory as a strategy for personalizing students' education. Our discussions centered on books by Howard Gardner (1983, 1999) and on resources dealing with the application of the theory in education (for example, Armstrong, 2000; Lazear, 1999; Nicholson-Nelson, 1998). Our biggest challenge was—and still is—the lack of Turkish literature on multiple intelligences. We have dealt with this issue by partially translating important materials from English to Turkish.
We adopted the multiple intelligences theory as our philosophical framework because it offered a new approach to instruction based on a model of intelligence that we could believe in. We now had a theoretical foundation of the human mind and an education philosophy that responded to students' different needs. One of our veteran teachers, reflecting on her 25 years of teaching in Turkey's public schools, explained,We teachers have always been held responsible for the intellectual development of students and yet have lacked an adequate theory of human intelligence. But now, everything makes sense, and I understand more clearly how to teach in my classroom.
Another reason that we chose to implement multiple intelligences theory is that it allowed us to focus on each student's potential. For a long time, being smart has been determined by a score on a standardized intelligence test, not by how well students learn in a variety of ways (Gardner, 1999). But the multiple intelligences theory shows teachers that all students have potential—they are simply smart in different ways. By applying the theory, educators can help all students learn. As our principal said,We remain in education because we want to make a difference in the lives of students. The multiple intelligences theory offers us a pragmatic way of recognizing the special abilities of each student in the classroom.

How We Began

The multiple intelligences theory helped us recognize that all people have different intelligence profiles. Our kindergarten teacher reasoned,As our students learn differently, we teach differently, too, because we also have different combinations of intelligences.
Consequently, we began to wonder about the different kinds of intelligences among the Esentepe faculty. To uncover those intelligences, I provided our faculty members with a translated Turkish version of “The Multiple Intelligences Inventory for Adults” developed by Armstrong (2000), with the author's caution that “this inventory is not a test” (p. 12). Armstrong points to the need to identify our own multiple intelligences as educators and adult learners:For unless we have an experiential understanding of the theory and have personalized its content, we are unlikely to be committed to using it with students. (p. 12)
The overall results of our multiple intelligences profiles indicated that our interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligences were strongest, but we needed some improvement in the naturalist and musical intelligence areas.
After gaining insight into our own intelligence profiles, we realized that if we were to personalize our students' education, we needed to know each student's strongest and weakest intelligences. Although Armstrong (2000) discusses several worthwhile strategies for determining a student's intelligences profile, he contends that “the single best tool for assessing students' multiple intelligences [is] simple observation” (p. 21). Therefore, I gave our teachers a translated Turkish version of Armstrong's “Checklist for Assessing Students' Intelligences” (2000). Both classroom and specialist teachers observed students for about two months. They then came together and shared their observations and anecdotes about each student's special intelligences. Classroom teachers, for example, compared their observations with those of the specialist teachers. We used the results to organize students into multi-age groups for multiple intelligences-related exploratories.

Esentepe's Curriculum

Esentepe's curriculum implements its multiple intelligences approach through three structures.
Core courses and activities. Students attend Esentepe from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Students in grades 1–3 take nine courses, ranging from art to computer science to the Turkish and English languages.
Exploratories. On Friday afternoons, all students participate in multi-age exploratories during two 60-minute activity sessions. Students first go to their strongest interest area and then spend the next hour in one of the five other exploratory areas, which they change every week. During a 5-week period, then, every student rotates through all exploratories. In this way, they have the opportunity to use their strongest intelligences while improving their weakest areas and developing their interpersonal skills.
Projects. We do not use the traditional homework approach, such as “Do the exercises in your math book on page 110.” Instead, teachers give students choices of what and how to learn and how to demonstrate their learning through interdisciplinary projects. The entire school uses the project guidelines developed by Campbell (1997), which have the student generate questions to explore and use at least three methods for presenting the project. Through projects, we help students apply their knowledge and develop a sense of responsibility for their own learning.

The Benefits for Students and Teachers

After working with the multiple intelligences theory for a year, we established two Esentepe norms and worded them as equations.
The more we collaborate with each other = The more we grow professionally as a team = The more we are able to better our students' education. Since adopting the multiple intelligences theory, our classroom teachers have learned to collaborate not only with one another, but also with specialists whose work is targeted toward specific intelligences. One of our 1st grade teachers explained,Previously, I did not know how to use certain teaching strategies and materials. I now realize that I might have missed helping some of the students. Now I have realized that I do not have to be a master in all eight intelligence areas to tap various resources that I used to shy away from. Now I know that I can draw on my colleagues' knowledge, perspectives, and expertise.
The more we provide choices for our students = The more we are able to individualize their education = The closer we come to our school's vision. Integrating exploratories as choices for our students is one of the most important features of Esentepe's curriculum. Our English teacher pointed out thatBy offering many choices for our students in the program, we help them and their parents realize that the one teacher/one classroom approach in education is not the case at Esentepe. If one student is not discovered by his or her classroom teacher for some reason, another adult at Esentepe will be doing his or her best to reach that student because we all have different education backgrounds, teaching experiences, and views of schooling.

Esentepe's Growing Reputation

Since September 2000, we have met every Saturday afternoon—in return for teachers having one afternoon off during the week—to learn more about multiple intelligences, reflect on how to implement the theory, and share our experiences with one another. As a result, we have established a sense of togetherness and a culture of school renewal. As Hoerr (2000) points out, the success of a multiple intelligences school depends largely on teacher discussion, collaboration, and professional development. At Esentepe, teachers discuss their ideas, share their curricular plans, and assist one another in refining their professional practice. Our drama teacher explained,Because each of us has a different multiple intelligences profile, each approaches instruction differently. By interacting with one another, we learn from one another—whether we teach drama, art, or math.
In less than one school year, we have been able to achieve local visibility and recognition. By May 2001, for example, we had more than 100 parents submitting applications for 60 openings for the next school year. Since Esentepe's opening day, the local media have expressed a strong interest in both our curricular and extracurricular activities, such as the Schoolwide Tree-Planting Festival that grew out of the 3rd grade students' naturalist intelligence project (Dursun, 2001).
Esentepe's multiple intelligences project represents a significant shift in the highly centralized Turkish education system and a new approach to the way education is delivered to students in the city of Konya. The school is also a model for how all students should be taught. We hope that the current demand for alternative school structures will encourage other educators to adopt multiple intelligences practices.

Armstrong, T. (2000). Multiple intelligences in the classroom. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Campbell, L. (1997). How teachers interpret MI theory. Educational Leadership, 55(1), 14–19.

Dursun, Z. (2001, March 24). Minikler fidan dikti (Children planted seedlings). Yeni Gazete, p. 2.

Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: BasicBooks.

Gardner, H. (1999). Intelligence reframed: Multiple intelligences for the 21st century. New York: BasicBooks.

Hoerr, T. R. (2000). Becoming a multiple intelligences school. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Lazear, D. (1999). Eight ways of teaching: The artistry of teaching with multiple intelligences. Arlington Heights, IL: Skylight.

Nicholson-Nelson, K. (1998). Developing students' multiple intelligences. New York: Scholastic.

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