Monday, October 15, 2012

Kinesthetic Learning and Sex Education

Let me paint two pictures for you that represent the opposing sides of a spectrum.

The first is one of my observations for HSED 625. There are thirty desks jammed in a small room with the teacher’s desk squeezed in the corner. The walls are nearly completely lined with posters, white boards, and filing cabinets. Three knowledgeable, but obviously nervous, presenters stand in front of a text-heavy PowerPoint presentation and give tons of great information to high school sophomores for an hour and a half straight. The facts come quickly at the students in hopes that they will soak some of it up.  One small point in the presentation requires volunteers to come to the front of the class and attempt to put a condom on a cucumber while wearing “beer goggles”. The bell rings, and a new load of students walk in the door.

The second is my “Exotic Dance for the Everyday Woman” class that I taught for two years. This big open martial arts studio has an entire wall lined with mirrors, padded mats on the floors, two vertical poles on the side of the room, and is typically kept a bit chilly. Women 18-55 years old enter into this room where they are handed hula hoops and jam to Madonna. When stretching is over, these ladies sit in a circle discuss the topic of body image, exotic dance, female empowerment, and/or sisterhood. They are up as quickly as possible to practice their confident march while I encourage them to take their sensual self seriously. They stumble while they try to learn the moves from each other, but at least the music is good. Some people are out of breath, but they are all encouraging one another. The time is up; the women are given a description of next week’s class.

It isn't fair to compare these two experiences. The environment is hard to control; we work with what we have. Of course the dance class is going to be heavier in movement because that is what is being taught. We are restricted in a public high school about what we can teach and how we can teach. But it is my experience with both of these instances that has created my bias toward incorporating as much spatial, kinesthetic, and musical learning into the classroom as possible.

The Theory of Multiple Intelligences includes musical, spatial, and body-kinesthetic among its seven categories of intelligences. Although each of the different types of intelligences are important to emphasize, Gardner (1993) felt that linguistic and logical-mathematical were overemphasized in our culture. It is because of this that I feel the need to highlight these other intelligences. I have included a few examples for pandering to these lesser-recognized intelligences below.

1)      This fellow and his students at a YMCA created a song about using condoms as a means to prevent STI transmission.
2)      This male Indian singing group made an up-beat song about condoms that discusses both HIV/AIDS, female condoms, and is inclusive to gay males.
3)      This medical model can be felt to learn how to do breast examinations. 
4)      Students can create their own “genderbread”person as a homework assignment.
5)      Students can hold signs and place themselves in the proper order of events that occur (ie. the sexual response cycle).

What other examples can you think of that uses these types of intelligences? How would you work with these intelligences within certain disabled populations (i.e. deaf, blind, or limited mobility students)? What considerations would you have to make to include very introverted students?


Gardner, H. (1993). Multiple intelligences: The theory in practice. New York: BasicBooks.


  1. Regarding your question about introverted students, I think it's important to point out that teaching to multiple intelligences means /teaching to multiple intelligences/. Asking your students to write a song or to make a video is /not/ using Multiple Intelligence Theory correctly. Rather, in order to /effectively/ differentiate learning in a classroom, you need to provide /all/ options to /all/ students. This is why Multiple Intelligence Theory is brilliant in theory, but not so much in practice.

    That is, if you want to employ Multiple Intelligence Theory in, say, an assessment, the way to do that effectively would be to come up with eight different ways to complete that assessment, and then let the students choose which works best for them, and then grade all of those assessments on the same kind of scale, which /could mean/ coming up with eight different rubrics (if it's hard, in the assessment's case, to judge a song and a dance in the same way). Thus, if one is using Multiple Intelligence Theory correctly, then you're already taking your introverted students into consideration.

    In short: I think that good teaching (whether through Multiple Intelligence Theory or not) is about options and being open to how your students want to learn, rather than forcing them to learn any which way. It's important, as you said, to incorporate /all/ of these abilities and learning styles into a classroom, rather than focusing on any one or another.

    And also: I like the examples that you gave. Super cool.

  2. First of all, I love your written examples from your experiences teaching and observing - you were very descriptive so I felt like I was really there in both cases! The videos were interesting too and I can't get the beat of the Indian Condom Song out of my head haha.

    As far as the Multiple Intelligences Theory goes I guess I was under the impression that you could use them all with all your students and use the same type of grading rubric for each activity so some students would excel more in one type than another, but it would balance itself out among the class. This would entail teaching sexuality topics in all seven ways but not at the same time. Now that I think about it though I guess that's how all typical classrooms work, with some students doing very well on certain activities (i. e. a music video or dance), while others will excel in a different kind of activity (i. e. a poem or with group work). I need a refresher on the way his Theory is supposed to play out in practice because if it is the way Melissa described then is there an easier way to assess the students' progress?

    As far as examples for activities I love doing the forced choice (Agree/Disagree) activities with my groups of teens because it gets them up and moving around and gives them a chance to let me know their opinions (which they definitely can't get enough of). The trick with these kinds of activities is that you can't let it turn into a debate. Teens are quick to call one another out and say that their classmate or peer is wrong, but you need to make sure to present that activity as just a way to hear everyone's opinions/values so there are no right or wrong answers. When facilitated well (a group of students that like to talk doesn't hurt either), these activities are great because the more introverted kids don't have to share why they chose to Agree or Disagree but they are still participating with the group AND if they do feel passionately about a topic they have the floor to contribute with the more extraverted students. I think it also helps to have the solidarity of the rest of the group that "agrees" with your opinion to back up students that might not know how exactly to put their thoughts into words, while also having varying opinions represented to get a good discussion of the diversity of values going within a class.

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  4. Great post! I agree with Melissa in that there are ways that Multiple Intelligences Theory is not used correctly. I think the point is that there are multiple intelligences within the classroom and teachers need to differentiate their strategies and curriculum with keeping options open to students but having a set assessment and evaluation process. This is where educators need to be incredibly organized and thoughtful by creating assignments and rubrics that can evaluate learning objectives in a variety of assignments, given the intelligence preference of the student.

  5. I also agree that Multiple Intelligences Theory can be improperly used. There isn't much that I can say about differently abled populations, but I am a horrible aural learner and quite introverted.

    It is hard for me when a lecturer wants me to focus on what they are saying and not type or write it down, because they often speak too fast for me to convert it to text in my head. So, visual displays help me a lot. Given what we recently learned in class, I am not sure if this would help deaf learners since there can also be literacy issues in that population, but that's the only way I know how to relate.

    As far as introversion, I think small groups and dyads might help some so that they have an opportunity to be heard (I say some because I think this might freak out other introverts). I also like reflective activities where I'm able to take time and write my thoughts. It takes the pressure off having to vie with the extraverts for attention in class, while still giving me the opportunity to say what i need to say.