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Conference Reviews


Session N29

Theories of Learning: From Performance to Multiple Intelligences
reviewed by Steven J. Corbett

Douglas Meyers, “Making Waves in Composition Pedagogy with Multiple Intelligences Theory”

Meyers draws on Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences (MI) theory from works like Frames of Mind to ask the question: what can MI theory contribute to composition? Meyers argues that MI theory has enjoyed much attention in K-12, but not so much in higher education. He claims we need to provide multiple avenues for students to prove their competence in all classrooms, helping them find communicative expression in a variety of ways and means. Meyers distinguishes between three major categories: object-related intelligences, like visual-spatial; object-free intelligences, like verbal-linguistic; and person-related intelligences, like interpersonal. Meyers contends that teachers and students probably do not share the same types of MIs. Meyers speaks on how deployment of MI theory might help our students succeed in the writing classroom—perhaps leaving our comfort zones in verbal-linguistic intelligence to try and accommodate visual or kinesthetic learners. To illustrate how MI theory promotes active learning, Meyers asks the audience to think about a topic we might present at next year’s 4Cs. Then he moves us through four active exercises in which we take this same topic and practice: our verbal-linguistic intelligence by brainstorming this topic in words; a ven diagram to activate our logico-mathematical intelligence; our visual intelligence by drawing what this brings to mind; and our visual intelligences by drawing a picture of what came to mind. Overall, I gathered from this presentation some great ideas that helped confirm my belief in the multiple ways we as teachers of writing can make good use of the diversity of student learning styles.

Tony Ricks, “New Collaborations: Synthesizing Learning Theories in Composition and Information Literacy as They Inform Library-Based Writing Center Tutorials”

In this presentation, Ricks talks about his research and practice with a writing center located in a library. He draws on Vygotsky’s social constructivism as an influential theory bridging information technology and composition—languages as the key building block in communication. Ricks explains how library studies key goal is to provide students with information—both material and discursive—and how librarians are also interested in understanding student experiences with students. Ricks claims that Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development (ZPD) theory is very important for this. For librarians research processes has similarities to writing processes. But, Ricks asserts, when it comes to collaborative theory, library studies is fifteen years behind writing and composition studies. He says there have been more PhDs granted in comp/rhet over the years than in Information Studies. He draws on an article from Irene Clark on the importance of analysis and synthesis of sources for writing and research—even more important now in an “information-saturated age.” Because of the rapid rise of the Internet and telecommunications, students must be able to be increasingly adept at acquiring, managing, and using vast amounts of knowledge. He claims technology has transformed the research landscape. He draws on the work of Kathleen Blake Yancey and her call for more work in multimodal literacies—a critical shift in how we make knowledge and share it. Ricks argues for libraries and writing centers as spaces for a “remix, a combining of ideas and sources for creativity,” knowledge making, but also knowledge being discovered or “remixed.” Ricks goes on to talk about a satellite writing center he worked at in the library with a wired laptop— the ability to help students find information especially when working on a research paper. He claims it’s helpful to be located in library so that when students need more research work librarians are on hand to help with finding resources (knowledge). Ricks says that writing centers and libraries have been living parallel lives all along. This sort of collaborative synergy, he acknowledges, can be tricky and requires commitment by both. Vygotsky’s ZPD gets pulled into play as both try to work and interact just a bit outside their comfort zones. And of course this can find its way into the comp (writing) course, or with graduate students who may not be familiar with discipline-specific journals or other resources. Rick’s presentation added to my understanding of the potential for closer collaboration between writing programs, writing centers, and libraries.

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