As a K-4 General Music Teacher, I educate and see a variety of intelligence and social backgrounds. Everyday, I attempt to create a learning environment that will spark interest and curiosity for musical expression and appreciation. I am always amazed at the inherent ability of some students to process and nurture the information given. I have seen some students apply the information of meter and sound to other disciplines of education while others do not. So, it is the question; Is this an example of general higher intelligence or an example of Gardner's musical intelligence? Is it the naturally developed cognitive mind that is recalling and applying similar information, or a more developed part of the brain (i.e.; the musical brain) working for the student?
It is believed that before entering Kindergarten, every student carries with them varied natural abilities to learn. In 1923, Charles Sperman, a British psychologist, identified this natural ability as their level of 'g', or their mental energy/ability to process and apply information. To explain it in a classroom setting, the student that exemplifies strong "g" processing is the student that has an overall functioning intellectual nature. This student shows the same control and interest no matter what is happening in the classroom. It is the same student that demonstrate the ability to process new information, review existing knowledge and apply both for a deeper understanding. This natural "g" intelligence factor crosses curriculums and is the foundation that past, present and future learning will be built on. It was his contention that the stronger the students ability to cognitively associate and apply the information the higher the intelligence level. It was also his contention that this ability is static in nature and the level you are born with is representative of what your intelligence level will always be.
Looking for an example of this "g" student in a musical setting, this is the same student that can add new pitches to a scale (do, re mi etc.) or add a new value to a rhythmic passage ( half note, quarter note eighth note etc.) without missing a beat As a music educator I would love all of my students to take with them a broad understanding of musical expression and theory. However, as an educator, it is also my quest to instill the skills of learning for any discipline.
In 1983 Howard Gardner offered exciting information on Multiple Intelligences, or MI. This MI Theory point to the existence of seven separate intelligences:
1. Linguistic Intelligence (a poet, lawyer)
2. Logical-Mathematical Intelligence (mathematician, scientist)
3. Musical Intelligence (composer, performer)
4. Spatial Intelligence (pilot, sculptor)
5. Bodily-Kinesthetic (dancer, athlete)
6. Interpersonal Intelligence (salesperson, actor's ability to understand others)
7. Intrapersonal Intelligence (the ability to know and understand oneself and effectively make decisions based upon that model)
Gardner's theory initially stated that basically the brain was broken up into individual areas of expertise. The strength or energy of these areas determined what came naturally as a style of learning. In his latter book, he seems to expound upon his theory and give credit to the communication the brain has between the sections and goes on to say that overall communication between all sections is needed for the musical or any other intelligence to perform optimally. Thus a vocalist would have musical, bodily/kinesthetic, interpersonal/intrapersonal intelligences, while a lawyer would possess linguistic, logical, interpersonal/intrapersonal intelligences. The contention here is the dominant section would be the field of choice. He also contends that this is the natural learning style.
It is my quest to take Gardner's theory and apply it to the student that is albeit seemingly interested in education, is somehow falling behind in reading. The crux of my exploration is how to use the natural musical interest of a student to support behavioral and educational discipline in the regular classroom. Specifically, helping the student to focus and achieve. The process of taking turns singing or playing an instrument, suggesting rhyming words and writing a song, or learning to listen for clues in poetry / songs should reinforce their classroom experience. Hopefully in turn create a stronger and self motivated reader.