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The intelligence-friendly classroom: It just makes sense
Phi Delta Kappan
Authors: Robin Fogarty
Subject Terms: Learning
An intelligence-friendly classroom is a classroom in which the teaching/learning
process is overseen by what is known about developing the intellectual
potential of human beings. Fogarty offers guidelines that serve as a bridge
between theory and practice in the intelligence-friendly classroom.
Copyright Phi Delta Kappa May 1998
Ms. Fogarty provides guidelines that serve as a bridge between theory and
practice in the intelligence-friendly classroom.
IF WE KNOW that intelligence is emotional, then it just makes sense to
use visceral hooks. If we know that intelligence is nurturable, then it
just makes sense to create rich environments. If we know that intelligence
is constructed, then it just makes sense to provide tools for the mind.
If we know that intelligence is experiential, then it just makes sense
to challenge through doing. If we know that intelligence is multiple, then
it just makes sense to target many dimensions. If we know that intelligence
is modifiable, then it just makes sense to mediate learning. If we know
that intelligence is elusive, then it just makes sense to vary the ways
we measure it.
If we know all these things and believe what we know to be true, then the
"intelligence-friendly classroom" should be a given. It is as simple and
logical as an "if . . then" syllogism.
Defining Intelligence-Friendly Classrooms
Let's look more closely at the term "intelligence-friendly classroom" and
see just what it means. An intelligence-friendly classroom is a classroom
in which the teaching/ learning process is governed by what is known about
developing the intellectual potential of human beings. Literally,
means "friendly to intelligence," which can be translated into friendly
to the growth patterns of human intellect and friendly to the learner in
fostering intelligent behavior for problem solving, decision making, and
creative thinking. Figuratively, the intelligence-friendly classroom serves
as a caring companion and mindful guide to the intellect of each and every
child in it. Just as a friend in the real world furnishes certain kinds
of support that are reliable, time-tested, and tried and true, so
classrooms provide similar systems of support that foster the ongoing
of human intelligence potential.
In brief, intelligence-friendly classrooms are classrooms that celebrate
the joy of the learner's emotional and intellectual world, not through
rhetoric and repetition, but through richness and relationships. In this
article, I'll take a closer look at these intelligence-friendly classrooms
and investigate their theoretical underpinnings briefly and their practical
implications in more depth.
Guidelines for the intelligence-friendly classroom are grounded in the
works of the leading voices in the field. First, I offer a cursory examination
of the various theories of intelligence and then suggest what each of them
implies for the intelligence-friendly classroom.
Traditional theory of general intelligence. Intelligence is inherited and
Piaget's theory of developmental psychology. Intelligence is developmentally
constructed in the mind by the learner and moves from concrete to abstract
stages of understanding.
Vygotsky's theory of social mediation. Intelligence is a function of activity
mediated through material tools, psychological tools, and other human beings.
Feuerstein's theory of structural cognitive modifiability. Intelligence
is a function of experience and can be changed through guided mediation.
Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences. Intelligence is made up of
eight realms of knowing (verbal, visual, mathematical, musical, bodily,
interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalistic) for solving problems and creating
products valued in a culture.
Sternberg's successful intelligence. Intelligence is triarchic, with analytic,
creative, and practical components that need to be balanced.
Perkins' theory of learnable intelligence. Intelligence is made up of neural,
experiential, and reflective components that help us know our way around
the good use of our minds.
Costa's theory of intelligence behaviors. Intelligence is composed of acquired
habits or states of mind that are evident in such behaviors as persistence,
flexibility, decreased impulsiveness, enjoyment of thinking, and reflectiveness.
Goleman's theory of emotional intelligence. Intelligence is both cognitive
and emotional, with the emotional (self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation,
empathy, and social skill) ruling over the cognitive.
Coles'theory of moral intelligence. Intelligence is composed of cognitive,
psychological or emotional, and moral realms. Implications for Application
The intelligence-friendly classroom is an intricate and complex microcosm
of nuance and activity that propels the teaching/learning process. The
following eight guidelines, derived from the various theories of intelligence,
have compelling implications for today's classroom. I explain each guideline
briefly and offer a sampling of useful strategies. While some readers may
find the suggestions familiar and already part of their current teaching
repertoire, others may discover new ideas or, perhaps, novel ways to revisit
an old idea with a fresh approach. Whatever the case, the guidelines serve
as a bridge between theory and practice in the intelligence-friendly classroom.
1. Set a safe emotional climate. The intelligence-friendly classroom is
a safe and caring place for all learners, regardless of race, color, creed,
age, aptitude, or ability to go about the business of learning. In setting
a climate for thinking, risk-taking becomes the norm, and learners understand
that to learn is to make mistakes as well as to experience successes.
Specific strategies to use include the following: establishing classroom
rules, being aware of verbal and nonverbal teaching behaviors (e.g., wait
time), organizing diverse small-group work that feels "safe," tapping into
the emotional and moral intelligences, setting up the room to facilitate
student-to-student interactions as well as student-to-teacher interactions,
and incorporating learner-centered structures (e.g., multi-age groupings)
that foster the creation of intelligence-friendly learning communities.
2. Create a rich learning environment. An enriched environment requires
attention to the physical aspects of the intelligence-friendly classroom.
The ideal classroom resembles a children's museum, in which students are
repeatedly and implicitly invited to interact with the learning environment.
In such a stimulus-rich setting, explorations, investigations, and inquiries
This enriched environment presents science equipment, art supplies, tools
and workbenches, toys and building blocks, optical illusion posters, and
an electronic circus of computers, telephones, and fax machines. The
classroom has different mini-environments for quiet reflection, noisy projects,
learning centers, and one-on-one tutorials. The sensory input - ranging
from print-rich materials, music, and recordings to visually appealing
bulletin boards and to signs, games, puzzles, and lab setups -- provides
an intriguing and engaging place for teaching for intelligence.
3. Teach the mind-tools and skills of life. Teaching the skills of life
involves both mind and body "tools" that range from communication and social
skills to the microskills of thinking and reflecting, to the technological
skills needed for the Information Age, to the skills needed for solving
algebraic equations or programming computers, and even to the skills needed
to learn a craft or participate in athletics.
More specifically, these skills might include critical thinking skills
(e.g., prioritizing, comparing, and judging), creative thinking skills
(e.g., inferring, predicting, and generalizing), social skills (e.g.,
team building, leading, and resolving conflicts), technological skills
(e.g., keyboarding, surfing the Net, and taking virtual field trips), visual
skills (e.g., painting, sculpting, and drawing), skills in the performing
arts (e.g., dancing, acting, and playing a musical instrument), and skills
of the elite athlete (e.g., diving, skiing, and swimming).
4. Develop the skillfulness of the learner. The developmental path of skill
training moves through fairly predictable stages: novice, advanced beginner,
competent user, proficient user, expert. Inherent in this developmental
arc is the understanding that skillfulness is achieved through mediation,
practice, coaching, and rehearsal.
Skill development often occurs through formal teaching/learning structures,
such as direct instruction models, that demonstrate the skill for students.
Skills are also developed through independent readings and research and
through the dialogue, discussion, and articulation of peer coaching, mentoring,
or internships. Skill development can even happen with experiences in which
the skill is embedded in application and in poised moments for achieving
5. Challenge through the experience of doing. Learning is a function of
experience and is shaped by internal processes that actually construct
ideas in the mind, as well as by the external processes of social interaction.
In the intelligence-friendly classroom, a constructivist philosophy of
education reigns. Active, experiential learning is the norm, as the learner
is invited to become an integral part of the teaching/learning process.
Specific strategies that abound in the constructivist classroom include
hands-on learning with lots of manipulatives and lab-like situations;
cooperative tasks; the frequent use and unique application of graphic organizers
(e.g., concept maps, attribute webs, flow charts, and Venn diagrams); and
authentic experiential curriculum models (e.g., problem-based learning,
case studies, project and service learning, performance tasks, and the
use of relevant overarching themes).
6. Target multiple dimensions of intelligence. The multiple intelligences
(MI) approach taps into the unique profile of intelligences of each learner.
The education community embraces MI theory because it provides a natural
framework for inspired practice. MI approaches to curriculum, instruction,
and assessment target a full spectrum of teaching/learning strategies that
encompass the many ways of knowing and of expressing what we know. The
MI classroom is abuzz with activity as all eight of the intelligences are
given fair time in the curriculum for authentic, relevant opportunities
This does not mean that every lesson shows evidence of all eight intelligences,
but rather that the learning is structured in naturally integrated ways
that call upon various intelligences. For example, while creating a school
newspaper, students interview (interpersonal), write (verbal), design and
lay out (visual), and critique (logical) as natural parts of the process.
7. Transfer learning through reflection. The reflective use of learning
is the cornerstone of the intelligence-friendly classroom. It drives personal
application and transfer of learning. It makes learning personal, purposeful,
meaningful, and relevant and gives the brain reason to pay attention,
and remember. Reflection is sometimes the missing piece in today's classroom
puzzle, as the pacing of the school day often precludes time for reflection.
Yet reflection, introspection, and mindfulness must accompany collaborations
and discussions because the time for reflection is the time for internalizing
Specific strategies that enhance reflection include the use of reading-response
journals in which the reader writes a personal, immediate response to what
has been read; learning logs that record the learner's thoughts, comments,
and questions prior to or following a learning experience; lab reports;
personal diaries; sketch books; writer's notebooks; portfolios; partner
dialogues and conversations with a mentor; mediation interventions; and
metacognitive strategies of planning, monitoring, and evaluating through
8. Balance assessment measures. Human nature demands feedback. Whether
that feedback is internally motivated or externally given, all of us who
are intent on learning anxiously await the critique, the judgment. In the
intelligence-friendly classroom, this critical phase of the learning process
is integral to all other interactions. The feedback, analysis, and evaluation
are ongoing as well as summative.
Assessment occurs by the traditional means of grades and rankings for required
classwork, homework assignments, quizzes, criterion-referenced tests, and
standardized tests. In addition, to provide the proper balance to the assessment
process, both portfolio assessments (e.g., project portfolios, best-work
portfolios, electronic portfolios, and videotape analysis) and performance
assessments (speeches, presentations, plays, concerts, athletic performances,
and lab experiments) occur.
In closing, let's circle back for a moment and revisit the title of this
article: "The Intelligence-Friendly Classroom: It Just Makes Sense." Think
about how I've described the intelligence-friendly classroom and about
how it matches or fails to match any preconceived notions you might have
had as you began to read. Intelligencefriendly?What does that mean?What
does that look like? Sound like? Did you learn in an intelligence-friendly
classroom? Do you teach in one? Would you know one if you saw one?
Of course you would. The intelligencefriendly classroom is no enigma. It
makes perfect sense. It draws on the many powers of intelligence of both
the teacher and the learner. It is the teaching/learning process in all
its glorious colors. It is the science of good, sound pedagogy coupled
with the art of uniquely creative minds.
The intelligence-friendly classroom is part of the noble vision of schooling
that led many of us into the field. It is the reason that we do what we
do. It's about children, and it's about helping those children be as smart
as they can be in every way they can be. The intelligence-friendly classroom
just makes sense.
ROBIN FOGARTY has taught at all levels, from kindergarten through college.
She lives in Chicago and trains teachers around the world in cognitive
strategies and cooperative interaction. Her most recent book is Brain-Compatible
Classrooms (SkyLight Training and Publishing, Inc., 1998). 1998, Robin
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner.
Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.
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