I’ve spent much time discussing Multiple Intelligences and Learning Styles, and I usually offer Gardner’s model as demonstrated through the website at LiteracyWorks.org. It’s an easy-to-use site, and has a multiple intelligences survey that produces immediate results. I ask students to take it first thing in the semester, and post their results and reactions.
The other day I was driving past one of those places where they train dogs in classes. I noticed one instructor and about a dozen dogs in this fenced area, and I thought, “to need training, that must be a pretty unruly bunch of dogs”. But they weren’t really. They seemed to be looking around to see what the other dogs were doing, and adjusting their behavior because dogs are, after all, pack animals. And I thought of my students.
I’m thinking I can reduce learning styles to two: Cat Learners and Dog Learners.
|Leave Cat Learners alone with a book in a sunny window, keep it quiet, and they learn just fine. Cat Learners are independent, and are thus either self-motivated or not interested in having anyone motivate them. They shun social learning and avoid group work. Their judgement of the value of their work is internal. They tend to fit into Gardner’s logic, language and self learning models.|
|Dog learners are social, learn best in a group, and need active learning exercises. They require external verification and enforcement (“good doggy! have a biscuit”), and tend to fit into Gardner’s social and body movement styles. Dogs run with the pack, and aren’t comfortable doing anything by themselves.|
Yeah, it’s a massive oversimplification. And certainly there are variations in individuals, just as some cats like company and some dogs are very smart and independent. But it’s helped me distill all my problems with teaching into one image: me the Cat trying to teach classes full of Dogs. Think I’ll break out the biscuits.