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Language Sustainability and the Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Durabilité de l’apprentissage des langues et la théorie des intelligences multiples
Sayena Molaie


Le niveau de réussite d’un étudiant n’est pas uniquement influencé par la manière dont l’enseignement est dispensé, mais également par un ensemble de corrélations qui font que chaque individu est influencé par un environnement immédiat et un environnement proche. La capacité humaine de réagir de manière appropriée à un ensemble de corrélations est ce qui constitue la définition moderne d’intelligence (Barrington 2007 : 423), et plus précisément la théorie des intelligences multiples (TIM) de Gardner (1983). Cet article présente les résultats d’une étude pilote menée parmi les apprenants d’un cours d’anglais afin de déterminer s’il existe une relation entre TIM et durabilité du langage. 220 étudiants en deuxième année d’étude de sciences ont été assignés aléatoirement à deux groupes expérimentaux (enseignements dispensés selon la TIM) et à un groupe de contrôle (enseignements basés sur le manuel universitaire). Les résultats ont montré une différence statistiquement significative entre les notes en contrôle continu dans les groupes expérimentaux et dans le groupe de contrôle. Les résultats des examens finaux, aussi, ont montré une différence statistiquement significative entre les deux types de groupes.

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1As a language teacher, I have been concerned with the sustainability of language among learners. Language sustainability in this paper is defined as the ability of language learners to maintain what they have learnt for a long period of time. This requires an interdisciplinary approach to language learning that enables students to interact in the target language based on different learning styles and preferences, and make cultural and linguistic comparisons (Oxford 2003: 15). Such an approach would bring about gains in language proficiency while preparing language students to become global citizens. Thus, it is important for language educators to create links with other disciplines such as art, literature and culture. Gardner’s “Multiple Intelligences Theory” (MIT) (1983-2006) focuses on teaching based on individual preferences and learning styles. It also emphasizes teaching through various disciplines such as music, arts, literature, sports, etc. (Gardner 1983: 498-528). Foreign languages such as English, can be taught based on the theory of Multiple Intelligences by taking into account learners’ preferences and exposing them to different disciplines in language classes. Hence, using a multidisciplinary approach and aiming at retained knowledge is what language sustainability and MIT have in common. My interest lies in the relationship between language sustainability and Multiple Intelligences, as using an MIT-approach to language teaching might boost language sustainability.

2In the past three academic years (January-May 2013, January-May 2014, January-May 2015), I have taught nine classes at Joseph Fourier University (UJF), now a part of University of Grenoble Alpes (UGA), and applied an MI-based approach to teaching English. The present article focuses on my findings of a pilot study designed to answer the following question: “Does using a Multiple Intelligences approach in teaching English have an effect on language sustainability among L2 English learners?” The article begins by defining language sustainability and the theory of Multiple Intelligences as a framework, then the methodology adopted for the pilot study carried out in three different classes over three semesters is described and the statistical results are analyzed.

1. Theoretical framework

1.1. Defining language sustainability

3The term “language sustainability” was first used by the Norwegian-American linguist Haugen. Haugen defined the pre-requisite of language sustainability “as studying the interactions between any given language and its environment” (Haugen 1971: 19-26). Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Haugen’s approach spread widely in the United States and found its way to vaster fields such as language acquisition, and foreign language learning. Among the many different definitions of language sustainability influenced by Haugen’s definition, I adopt here, Wendel’s definition:

4The ultimate approach to language sustainability considers the complex web of relationships that exist between the environment, languages, and their speakers. (Wendel 2005: 51-76).

5In order to fully consider the interrelations among factors such as environment, languages, and speakers, one has to consider the foundations of human purposes and relationships. In that regard, education plays a key role. As one of the fields related to language sustainability is foreign or second language learning, and the researcher is also a language teacher, the focus of this article is on language sustainability in a language classroom, i.e. students’ capacity to maintain knowledge of English over time. Accordingly, environment is defined as the cultural setting in which the learners have grown up and currently live (France), and the cultural setting of the target language (English), along with the educational setting that is the classroom; the language in focus is English, and the speakers are the language learners and the teacher.

1.2. Education and human purposes and relationships

6Learning is defined as assimilating and processing new knowledge and skills, moving them via short-term memory to long-term memory and then re-using them in another context (D’Angelo and al 2009 : 236). When there are breakdowns in learning, teachers may question themselves or the educational system as well as the students. As a result, teachers often begin to search for ways of making lasting changes in knowledge (Kincheloe 2006: 75). This leads us to the concept of knowledge, defined as familiarity with a certain topic, being able to reproduce new material using information about that topic, and also being able to adopt strategies and appropriate solutions when in a difficult or problematic situation (Myles 2002: 4-5). An example in language learning would be: if one knows the meaning of a word in several different contexts, is able to use it purposefully, and can think of appropriate substitutes for the word when its usage is not appropriate or the audience has difficulty understanding it, then this can be considered knowledge (Kihlstrom 2015: 6). Therefore, when as educators, we are concerned with making knowledge sustainable for students, the first step is to verify that the students have integrated the material (Gonzalez-Lloret and Ortega 2014: 336-340).

1.3. How can we make knowledge of a language sustainable?

7What is of great importance here is the fact that knowledge of a language, and hence competence, might fade away. This fading can happen during or after a language course. There are three factors that can slow down this speedy disappearance.

1.3.1. Factor 1: language learners’ needs

8According to Wesson (2012: 20-24), as human beings, we tend to remember what we need in our lives. This need can arise based on personal interests, and/or educational and professional requirements. We learn and remember things more easily if we have been exposed to similar things before, if we have encountered them in a context we understood, and/or if they were emotionally important to us (Ranpura 2013: 10).

9We can say that it is beneficial for educators to be attentive to a learners’ future educational and professional goals, along with what subjects they appreciate, for integrating this can raise the possibility of learners retaining what they have learned for a longer period of time.

1.3.2. Factor 2: language and identity

10Based on the definition by Elaha (2003: 90), sustainability in a language is achieved through being exposed to the culture of the target language. In a research they carried out in language classes in which German was the target language, learners stated that they were more involved with the challenges in German culture, and as a result, became more interested in learning the language and developed a sense of a new identity.

  • 1 Modern Language Association webpage. 2016. “Foreign Languages and Higher Education: New Structures (...)

11It is argued that a sense of a multinational or international identity is developed through broader and more coherent curricula in which language, literature, arts and culture were taught as a continuous whole1. It can thus be argued that the more a curriculum links a target language to the culture, including its arts and literature, the more learners will adopt a new identity. This more global identity may play a key role in retaining knowledge of the language and therefore enhance language sustainability.

1.3.3. Factor 3: Variety

12According to numerous studies on sustainability such as Tilman (1996), Elton (2000) and Odum (2005), increasing diversity, increases stability. In terms of language sustainability, language and curriculum variety maximizes chances for learners to become more successful (Pashler 2008: 116). When learners are exposed to a set of facts several times, in various forms and in different contexts, their knowledge shifts from a purely theoretical construct to a more practical one (Heshmat 2015). In my opinion, schools and educational systems thus have an important role in maintaining language sustainability. Therefore, language teaching curricula should be designed in a way that matches the needs of learners, creates a sense of new identity and contains variety.

13One of the approaches to language learning that is believed to have the capacity to embrace the three factors of need and necessity, identity and variety is the Multiple Intelligences (MI) approach.

1.4. Necessity, identity and variety in MIT

14The theory of Multiple Intelligences is a theory of intelligence that differentiates types of intelligence into specific sensory modalities. According to this theory, intelligence is not a single general ability. This model was proposed by Gardner in his book Frames of Mind (1983). Gardner sought proof in cases such as potential for brain isolation by brain damage, symbolic expression, and the existence of exceptional people. He also found support from experimental psychology and psychometric findings.

15One of the Gardner’s central focuses is understanding the educational needs of learners (Dörnyei 1998: 123). Gardner believes that one of the flaws of the educational system today in many parts of the world such as in the United States, Canada, and Italy, is exposing students to many different topics before identifying if this material will be relevant in the future (Gardner 2006a: 113). MIT promotes gaining a deeper level of knowledge about different topics. As a result, deciding and prioritizing which needs and requirements must be met is a central focus of MIT.

16Furthermore, MIT promotes curricula that embrace different subjects along with the environment and the culture they represent or in which they were developed (Gardner 2006a: 53-63). As the culture of a language manifests itself through its literature, modes of art, music, sports etc., it is important that learners are exposed to these domains while learning a foreign language. Another reason that MIT highlights the importance of learners’ exposure to different domains is learners’ different learning styles. According to the theory of Multiple Intelligences, not all learners learn the same way, and so they should not be taught the same way. Learners have one or two strong types of intelligences, and that has a direct influence on their learning styles (Foster 2013: 2). For example, if a learner is musically intelligent, learning English through listening to English songs can be of help. At the same time, listening to English songs can be a means of getting to know aspects of English or American culture.

17Using syllabi, classroom tasks and activities which are based on the culture of the target language and on the learner’s strong intelligence types is directly related to MIT’s third characteristic, and that is variety. When the teacher uses tasks and activities that are based on eight different intelligences, variety becomes inevitable in the classroom. This way the teacher can verify that each learner is exposed to at least one activity during each session that best fits his/her learning style (Arnold and Fonseca 2004: 130). Based on this, we can conclude that the theory of Multiple Intelligences and sustainability have three important characteristics in common and they work towards the same goal: helping students retain what they have learned.

1.5. MIT and foreign language teaching and learning

18The first intelligence test was invented by the French Psychologist, Binet, in 1904. This test allowed intelligence to be represented by a single number which is called Intelligence Quotient (IQ). The IQ score is based on a test of mental intelligence, divided by age and multiplied by 100. Although Binet himself did not mention that intelligence is either fixed or changeable, expressing the level of intelligence by a single number leads people to think this way, and give educators the excuse to ignore the students who did poorly on the IQ test (Strydom and Du Plessis 2000: 1). For decades, IQ tests were embedded in examinations in different countries (such as Japan, United States, Australia, Iran, etc.) to underpin school selection procedures. Despite continued use, the prevalence of IQ test has faded with the rise of the modern view towards intelligence (Bartholomew 2004: 79).

  • 2 Measuring Intelligence: A Brief History. 2010. IQ Des tests de QI qui ne mentent pas webpage. <>. (la</http> (...)

19The modern view towards intelligence holds that intelligence is learnable. A growing number of educators and psychologists believe that intelligence is a carrier of genes along with innumerable experiences that shape us (Education Scotland: 10). Children in the United States gain about 3.5 intelligence points during each year they are in school2. As a result of this view towards intelligence, the tests of intelligence now measure different types of intelligence and no longer operate on the basis that intelligence is fixed. Educators can therefore use this information to create curricula that fits learners’ needs, and help them improve their weaknesses (Shearer, 1996). We can conclude that the modern views towards intelligence have two major beliefs: a) Intelligence is not a single trait, b) Intelligence is not a fixed trait.

20The theory of Multiple Intelligences (MIT) has a cognitive perspective on intelligence which has profound implications for education in general. More specifically, it has led to the application of eight of these frames to language teaching and learning. Good second language speakers are often considered to be talented people with special verbal abilities who possess more than one code to understand and acquire knowledge in order to use it in new situations (Arnold and Fonseca 2004 : 123). Various empirical studies (Dörnyei 1998, Skehan 2001) have investigated the relationship between Binet’s IQ scores and the capacity for learning foreign languages but have found only a moderate level of correlation; therefore, Binet’s traditional static concept of intelligence cannot be used as a predictor of successful language learning. Arnold and Fonseca (2004) studied the relation of cognitive aptitudes with success in foreign language learning of over 5000 students at American military academies and concluded that future research should involve experimentation with alternative models not narrowly dependent on a general aptitude test results.

21Fonseca-Mora, Toscano-Fuentes and Wermke (2011: 109) emphasize that in classroom language learning, MIT can provide a basis for developing more effective communicators in the target language by helping learners to connect with the learning activities and to activate linguistic information stored in memory. However, it is not a question of addressing all the individual MI profiles of each learner in every language class but of offering a balanced approach where different windows on the same concept are incorporated (Gardner 1993 : 204).

1.6. What are the different types of intelligences?

22In 1983, Gardner posited that there were at least seven different types of intelligences. Following more research, he later defined an eighth type of intelligence (Gardner 2000). Later on (2006a), he also mentioned that there is a possibility for the existence of another type of intelligence, which is different from all the rest. Below is a brief description of these nine intelligences by Gardner (1983, 2000, 2006):

  • Musical intelligence refers to the ability and liking of music, ranging from the ability to keep in tune while humming or singing a song to more professionally playing a musical instrument;

  • Bodily/Kinesthetic intelligence refers to the movement and ability of muscles in different body parts, ranging from being good with one’s hands at fixing and repairing things to being a good athlete;

  • Logical/Mathematical intelligence refers to the ability with numbers and figures, ranging from calculating sums in one’s head to a liking for mathematics and algebra;

  • Visual/Spatial intelligence refers to the ability of imagining the three dimensions of things, ranging from finding one’s direction in a new location to being a good sculptor or a painter;

  • Linguistic intelligence refers to the ability of using words, ranging from having a convincing way of speaking to note taking and being a good public speaker;

  • Interpersonal intelligence refers to one’s ability with social skills, ranging from having successful long-lasting friendships to understanding other peoples’ moods and needs and behaviors;

  • Intrapersonal intelligence refers to one’s ability to understand one’s self, ranging from being productive when working alone to making appropriate decisions for oneself and being able to see it through;

  • Naturalistic intelligence refers to the ability of relating to nature and the natural environment in general, ranging from taking care of a pet to being able to categorize different breeds of animals, flowers, or plants (Gardner 2000).

  • Existential intelligence is defined as the ability to be sensitive to, or have the capacity for, conceptualizing or tackling deeper and fundamental questions about human existence; questions that revolve around the meaning of life, why we are born, why we die, how we got here? (Gardner 2006a).

23Most of the credibility of Gardner’s work rests on neurological evidence of site specific locations within the brain (Blanken, Dittman & Grimm, 1993 : 15-33). However, the exact location of existential intelligence in human’s brain has not been pinpointed (Wilson 2015 : para.3). Accordingly, in this study, the first eight intelligences defined by Gardner have been taken into account.

24Language learning can be supported by bringing into play the musical, visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, mathematical and naturalistic abilities as they constitute distinct frames for working on the same linguistic content. Not only does this variety allow students to learn in their own best ways, it also helps to reduce boredom as language learning requires frequent circling back over the same material if learning is to be sustained (Arnold and Fonseca 2004 : 125). In this context, the research question explored in this article can be stated as follows: “Does using a Multiple Intelligences approach in teaching have a significant effect on English sustainability among second-year undergraduate (L2) science students?”

2. Methodology

25During three semesters (2013, 2014 and 2015), the researcher/teacher (author of this article) taught three groups per semester. Each semester, two groups were randomly selected as the experimental groups, and one as the control group. Both experimental and control groups study the course book Minimum Competence for Scientific English (Blattes, Vans & Upjohn, 2013). However, MI-based activities were added to the course book in the two experimental classes. Students in the experimental groups participated in classroom task and activities that were based on their strong intelligence types (MI-based activities). The control group followed only the activities of the course-book Minimum Competence in Scientific English. The activities in the control group were not MI-based, and students’ strong intelligence types were not taken into account for participating in the class activities.

26The participants of this study were all second-year science students at the University of UJF. As the field of all students was science, and as the name of their course-book suggests, the English course was for specific purposes (ESP), in this case, English for the sciences.

27The first stage of integrating MIT to teaching is to determine the strongest type of intelligence in each individual. In order to do this, the standardized test of intelligence named Multiple Intelligences Developmental Assessment Scales (MIDAS), designed by Shearer in 1996, was used. MIDAS represents the first effort to measure the Multiple Intelligences and has been developed according to standard psychometric procedures (Gardner 2006b : Multiple Intelligences research and consulting, Inc.). There are approximately 12 questions for each type of intelligence and a total of 100 questions in the MIDAS test (See Appendix for sample questions). There are five options for each question enabling test takers to choose the option best fitting their personal experiences. All students in the control and experimental groups took the Midas test. Figure 1 below shows results of one of the students from the experimental group. After a thorough analysis of their answers is done, a detailed report is also provided to them.

Figure 1: Sample MIDAS result of a random student from the experimental group.

28The second stage of MIT application to teaching is to choose and design appropriate MI-based material to use as classroom tasks and activities. There are many different activities and tasks that are considered MI-based, some of which almost all language teachers use in their classrooms without necessarily being aware of MIT. Table 1 below shows examples of MI activities, adopted from Armstrong (2000 : 44) and modified by the researcher. Most classroom tasks and activities used by the teacher/researcher for the two experimental groups are listed in Table 1, and added to the original activities in the course book Minimum Competence in Scientific English. The activities in table 1 were not used for the control group.

Table : MI activities for a classroom, adopted from Armstrong (2000) and modified by the researcher

2.1. Spatial intelligence class activity

29In the control group, students strictly followed the course book, and their intelligence types were not taken into account. For example, if the grammar lesson was about linking words in English, the teacher, taught them the grammar, and then asked them to do the exercises in the book as a classroom activity. The students in this group did not participate in activities such as listening to music. However, designing a visual support for their presentations was suggested by UJF, so students in the control group also participated in this “spatial” activity.

30In experimental group 1 (strongest MI activities), the strongest intelligence type of each student was determined by Midas test. Students who have the same strong intelligence work together either in pairs or in groups. As a result, the activities of each pair or group is different from others. In most of the sessions, groups and pairs exchange partners and listen to a brief report of what other groups have done.

31In experimental group 2 (mixed MI activities), learners’ strongest types of intelligences were determined through Midas test. However, students participate in different MI activities during different sessions, regardless of each individual’s strongest intelligence type. As a result, each session, all students are exposed to different MI activities. For example, in one class, there were 18 students whose strongest types of intelligences were Logical, Musical, Spatial and Interpersonal. The activities in this classroom were based on these four intelligences, but all 18 students had to participate in all of these activities. Consequently, it was possible that a student with strong spatial intelligence participated in a musical activity that required him/her to listen to parts of English songs and write down as many linking words as possible used in the lyrics. All students were then asked to use the linking words they had picked to make sentences related to the scientific lesson of that session.

2.2. Logical intelligence class activity

32As can be seen in Figure 2, in the exercise of the manual, the focus is on using measurement vocabulary, and making grammatically correct sentences, describing measurements in English.

Figure 2: Page 16 of the Minimum Competence in Scientific English textbook

33The students in the control group did not work with real tools. The teacher wrote the grammar lesson on the board, and then asked the students to look up the words area, square, square root, cube root, etc. in the dictionary. Then, they were asked to do the course book exercise of replacing underlined words (Figure 2). In this exercise, students were asked to provide synonyms and antonyms for the underlined words. Once they finished answering, students checked their answers in pairs. The teacher was there to answer questions about the exercise, and when there was none, the class moved on to the next exercise in the course book.

34On the contrary, the teacher provided students in the experimental groups with various objects in different forms and shapes and a number of calipers, measuring tapes and a scale to calculate their weight, diameter, length, thickness, etc. This exercise triggers spatial and logical-mathematical Intelligences. Next, students were asked to create charts using information on the objects and their measures. This exercise triggers spatial intelligence. The chart in Figure 3 below is one example.

Figure 3: A chart activity for practicing measurement vocabulary

35As can be seen above, the objects chosen for this activity belong mostly to biology and chemistry labs. This material is familiar to science students as they are used in their field of study and professional lives; therefore, learning their names in English and using them for a classroom task can be useful.

36After that, students were asked to sit in groups and write sentences comparing different objects and their measures. They also asked each other questions with ‘how’ about their charts, such as ‘how wide’ or ‘how deep’. This exercise triggers linguistic intelligence.

2.3. Interpersonal, logical and linguistic intelligences class activity

37All lessons in the book Minimum Competence in Scientific English start with a self-evaluation entry test. The questions on these tests evaluate students’ knowledge on lesson content before they have studied it. The aim of these entry tests is first to see whether students already know about the vocabulary they are going to study in the lesson, and second to arouse their curiosity about the topic. After the students are asked to answer the questions on the self-evaluation entry test, the researcher/the teacher asks them to announce how many questions they were able to answer. This gives an idea whether the students already know the answers before they study each unit or not. To this date, the number of questions students could answer before studying the grammar and vocabulary of each unit has shown to be very few (one or two students out of eighteen, approximately two questions out of ten). The exercise in Figure 4, is an example of a self-evaluation entry test at the beginning of a lesson. The students are asked to answer the test questions on their own and without referring to the lesson or the answer key at the end of the book. In this exercise, the teacher asks the students to do the test on their own in the classroom.

Figure 4: Page 11 of the Minimum Competence in Scientific English textbook

38In experimental groups, after the students answer as many questions as they can in the entry test, they get in pairs to have a peer teaching activity. In each unit of the course book, the entry test is followed by a grammar lesson. The teacher divides this grammar lesson into two equal parts. Each individual in a pair is responsible to study and then teach his/her partner. In this way, all pairs cover the whole grammar lesson. The teacher helps them in all the steps of this peer teaching activity. This exercise triggers interpersonal, logical and linguistic intelligences.

39In the control group, after the students answer as many questions as they can in the entry test, the teacher teaches the grammar lesson that follows. Learners are then asked to go back to the entry test to see if they are able to answer the questions they could not before the lesson. This activity ends with students checking their answers together.

3. Results of the pilot study

40L2 science students receive two sets of marks for their English course.

411) Their continuous assessment marks (CC scores) which take into account their classroom activities, homework, and their oral presentations. These marks are given to the English learners gradually over the course by their English teacher.

422) Their final exam scores. Their final exam contains a written test based on the grammar and vocabulary covered in assigned chapter of the textbook during the semester. This exam is given collectively to all L2 students and hence the teacher/researcher is not directly implicated in the marks obtained.

43The teacher/researcher does not correct the students’ papers. All exam papers are anonymous and corrected by a team of teachers.

44The statistical results of our pilot study are based on these two marks.

3.1. Continuous assessment marks

  • 3 The teacher/researcher used the software SPSS to calculate the regression model for the continuous (...)

45To investigate whether applying MI theory has a statistically significant effect on the continuous assessment marks of the learners, the teacher/the researcher used a linear least squares regression model3. This statistical procedure allows to compare the evolution of CC marks of students in group experimental 1 (strongest MI activities), experimental 2 (mixed MI activities), and the Control group from the previous semester (when they were not taught based on MIT) with the second semester (when they were taught based on MIT). Table 2 shows the comparison of the mean scores in the three groups and the comparison of students’ CC scores in percentages.

Table 2: Comparison of the students’ CC marks

46The regression analysis showed that there is a significant evolution from first semester CC marks to the second semester CC marks (t = 6.0642; p < .001).

47There is also a significant effect of the groups that explains 14% of the variance of the final CC marks (F (2;212) = 23.170; p<.001). In others words, 14% of the differences of the CC marks at the end of the experiment is a consequence of the belonging to one group or another. The CC marks of the students in the experimental group 1 are significantly higher than the CC marks of the students in the control group (t=4.568; p<.001). Also, the CC marks of the students in experimental group 2 are significantly higher than the CC marks of the students in experimental group 1 (t=2.180; p=.045) and the control group (t=6.655; p<.001).

48As it can be seen in Table 2, the mean CC scores of the two experimental groups are higher than the one of the control group. Also, as it can be seen in this table, class participation marks have increased for 67.1% of the students in the experimental group 1. Class participation marks of 81% of the students in the experimental group 2 have as well increased. This shows that students in the experimental groups had a better classroom performance in the semester that they were taught based on MIT, in comparison to the previous semester, when teaching was not based on MIT.

49The researcher’s assumption for the control group was that most students in this group would have approximately the same CC scores as in the previous semester. As a result, a decrease of 59.7% in control group’s CC marks was not expected and requires further investigation.

50As it was previously argued, MI activities are included in most classes with a high level of variety and creativity; this could be a possible explanation why students in the control group had a better classroom performance the semester before even though they were not solely taught based on MIT. It can be assumed that following the textbook activities strictly, and including minimum variety, interest, and learners’ needs in a classroom, have affected the motivation and participation level of the students in the control group.

3.2. Final Exam Scores

51To investigate whether MIT has a statistically significant effect on the final exam scores of the students, their final marks were compared, and the first semester scores (not using MIT approach) were compared to their scores of the second semester (when they were taught based on MIT) through a regression analysis. The regression analysis showed that there is a significant evolution from first semester final exam marks to the second semester final exam marks (t = 6.0642; p < .001) for the experimental groups. Table 3 shows the comparison between the final exam mean scores of the three groups and the comparison of the students’ final exam marks in percentages.

Table 3: Comparison of the students’ final exam marks

52There is also a significant effect of the groups in the final exam marks (the group explains 7.1% of the variance; F (2;210) =12.655; p<.001). The final exam marks of the students in the experimental groups 1 (t=3.893; p<.001) and experimental 2 (t=4.710; p<.001) are significantly higher than the final exam marks of the students in the control group. However, there is no significant difference between the final exam marks of the students in experimental group 1 and in experimental group 2.

5354% of students in the control group had a decrease in their final exam scores, from which 1 student had a decrease of 3 marks, and the rest a decrease between 0.5 to 2 marks. This level of decrease was occasionally found in the experimental groups as well. Yet, it is the level of progress in the experimental groups that makes the difference with the control group significant. 6.7% of the students in the control group had the same mark as the previous semester, and 35.1% had an increase in their final exam marks.

4. Analysis of the results

54The analysis of the results of all students’ continuous assessment scores demonstrated that the two experimental groups have significantly higher scores for these in-class activities than the control group. Also, the continuous assessment scores of the experimental group 2 (mixed MI activities) were significantly higher than those of Experimental group 1 (strongest MI activities). As the continuous assessment scores are based on how active students are in the classroom and how well they perform on tasks in pair work or group activities, it can be concluded that the students in both experimental groups showed a higher level of motivation and participation. Furthermore, as the students in experimental group 2 participated in different MI activities regardless of their strongest intelligence types, higher scores in this group could mean that practicing English in eight different ways can be a successful approach for classroom teaching and learning. It would appear from these results that using classroom tasks and activities that are solely based on each individual’s strongest intelligence type has less effect on language sustainability as participating in an array of MI activities for in-class activities.

55The analysis of the final exam scores showed that there is also a statistically significant difference between the experimental groups and the control group. Both experimental groups performed significantly better on their written final exams than the control group, with no significant difference between the scores of the experimental groups 1 and 2. Hence, the effect of the MI-based learning was also evident in the completely objective setting of a final exam organized for the regular program.

56The lower final exam scores of the control group might indicate that solely following the exercises in the book without considering individual differences and learners’ preferences has a negative effect on students’ performance.

5. Conclusion

57To answer the research question “Does using a Multiple Intelligences approach in teaching have a significant effect on English sustainability among second-year undergraduate (L2) science students?”, we can say that using an MI-based approach to teaching has a positive effect on the learners’ activity and in-class participation. As the teacher/researcher was in charge of giving the CC marks based on her observations, this conclusion may suffer from Pygmalion effect. The teacher’s enthusiasm and high expectation of the experimental group might have resulted in better performance by the students in the experimental groups throughout the course. As this is a common problem of studies in which the teacher and the researcher is the same person, the author wishes to further continue the study by asking fellow teachers to use the same MI-approach in an unbiased setting and further study the results.

58Also, the results of the study show that the students in the experimental group had higher performance in their final exams than the students in the control group. As the final exam sheets are randomly corrected by a team of teachers and the papers are anonymous, there is not a high possibility of Pygmalion effect. However, the limitation to a fill-in-the-blanks style of testing is that the testing is not coherent with the teaching, i.e. in a course where the teaching is based on MIT, the testing should as well be MIT-based.

59Integrating Multiple Intelligences into curricula aim at explaining the diverse manifestations of intelligence within learners. Creating environments that foster individual as well as group potential might help individuals make a lasting change in the way in which they perceive and deal with their environment. Consequently, using an MI approach to language teaching might be able to boost sustainability in individual learner’s knowledge of language and language competence.

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Appendix - Sample Questions in Each Type of Intelligence on the MIDAS Test

Do you have a good sense of rhythm?
Do you often have music on while you work, study or relax?

Have you ever joined a team or played a sport?
Are you good at using your body or face to imitate people such as teachers, friends or family?

In school, did you ever have extra interest or skill in math?
Are you good at playing chess or checkers?

Can you parallel park a car on your first try?
Do you often draw a picture or sketch to give directions or explain an idea?

How are you at managing or supervising people?
Do you write notes or make lists as reminders of things to do?

Are you generally at ease around people your own age?
Do friends or family members ever come to you to talk over personal troubles or to ask for advice?

Do you plan and work hard toward personal goals like at school, at work or at home?
Do you get very angry when you fail or are you frustrated?

Have you ever raised pets or other animals?
Is spending time with nature an important part of your life?

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1 Modern Language Association webpage. 2016. “Foreign Languages and Higher Education: New Structures for a Changed World”. <>. (last retrieved June 24 2016)

2 Measuring Intelligence: A Brief History. 2010. IQ Des tests de QI qui ne mentent pas webpage. <>. (last retrieved June 24 2016)

3 The teacher/researcher used the software SPSS to calculate the regression model for the continuous assessment marks.

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Table des illustrations

Légende Figure 1: Sample MIDAS result of a random student from the experimental group.
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Légende Table : MI activities for a classroom, adopted from Armstrong (2000) and modified by the researcher
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Légende Figure 2: Page 16 of the Minimum Competence in Scientific English textbook
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Légende Figure 3: A chart activity for practicing measurement vocabulary
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Légende Figure 4: Page 11 of the Minimum Competence in Scientific English textbook
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Légende Table 2: Comparison of the students’ CC marks
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Légende Table 3: Comparison of the students’ final exam marks
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Sayena Molaie, « Language Sustainability and the Theory of Multiple Intelligences »Recherche et pratiques pédagogiques en langues [En ligne], Vol. 35 N° 2 | 2016, mis en ligne le 30 juin 2016, consulté le 11 décembre 2023. URL : ; DOI :

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Sayena Molaie

Sayena Molaie est doctorante en sciences du langage et didactique des langues étrangères au laboratoire LIDILEM à l’université Grenoble Alpes, sous la direction de Françoise Raby et la codirection de Laura Hartwell. Elle adopte comme cadre théorique la théorie des intelligences multiples de Gardner. Elle enseigne l'anglais depuis 16 ans et depuis 4 ans à l'université Grenoble Alpes où elle réalise des études de terrain dans les cours proposés par le Service des Langues.

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