The Personal Intelligences in the Early Childhood Classroom (page 2)
The social development of young children has traditionally been marked by observable behaviors such as sharing (Chen, 1998). Jie-Qi Chen, the editor of Project Spectrum’s Early Learning Activities (1998, p. 171) explains that a curriculum that utilizes the multiple intelligence theory approaches social development through “children’s perceptions and understandings, on how they view the world of social relationships and their role within it.” The “observable behavioral” view identifies social abilities. The view expressed by Chen takes responsibility for children’s social development and involves the internal processes that are responsible for emotions and relationships.
The social development of elementary-school children has traditionally been addressed in a deficit archetype. Intrapersonal deficits are addressed in the disciplinary or remedial realm of the classroom. The child who does not have self-control is punished. The child who cannot manage or channel emotions appropriately is punished or referred for special education. The child who exhibits severe emotional difficulties is placed in an emotional support class. Waiting until a problem exists is too late (Karr-Morse and Wiley, 1997). The multiple-intelligence theory looks at intra/interpersonal potential as critically as other potentials. Intra/interpersonal development is vital to success in the classroom (Gardner, 1993) and to success in life (Goleman, 1995). Intra/interpersonal intelligence in the early childhood classroom is addressed through the purposeful planning, attention, and inclusion of intra/interpersonal content and materials. Successful implementation of the personal intelligences is facilitated through the following principles:
- Emotions are not limited to the personal intelligences (Greenspan, 1997; Gardner, 1999).
- The personal intelligences develop in stages. These stages emphasize a specific crisis. The resolution of the crisis sets the foundation for the resolution of the next crisis (Erikson, 1963).
- Intra/interpersonal intelligence requires an emotionally safe environment (Bluestein, 2001).
- It is essential to establish a sense of community in the classroom (Vance and Weaver, 2002) in order to develop the personal intelligences.
- Relationships are crucial to the child’s emotional development and the child’s ability to learn (Greenspan, 1997). It is through social interaction that emotions develop (Greenspan, 1997; Hyson, 1994).
Emotions and Intelligence
Before examining the curricular implications of the personal intelligences, it is critical to point out that emotions are not limited to the personal intelligences (Gardner, 1999). While the personal intelligences deal with emotional development, emotions do not exist independently from cognition (Greenspan, 1997). Greenspan (1997) refers to emotions as the “architect of the mind.” They are not separate from cognition, but are necessary in creating the structures that govern cognition (Greenspan 1997). Emotions facilitate brain growth. Emotional experience and interaction are crucial in order for the developing brain to be able to symbolize. All experiences are emotionally charged and require emotional response in order to be processed by the brain (Greenspan, 1997). Upon a reexamination of the intelligences in the 1999 publication of Intelligences Reframed, Gardner (1999, p. 43) emphasizes the “emotional facets of each intelligence rather than restrict emotions to one or two personal intelligences.”
Development of the Personal Intelligences
Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development provide a framework for understanding how the personal intelligences develop. The developmental stages presented reflect the development of both interpersonal and intrapersonal development. While they are separate intelligences, they are both an expression of emotions. One looks at inner life, while the other looks at relationships. Hyson (1994, p. 121) explains that “emotions develop in social context.” Emotions cannot develop in isolation; social interaction is necessary (Greenspan, 1997; Hyson, 1994).
Erikson (1950) proposed that a child develops in psychosocial stages. Each stage presents an inner conflict or crisis. Resolution of the crisis in one stage affects the resolution of the crisis in the next stage. The resolution of the crisis is greatly influenced by the parent, teacher, or caregiver’s response to it. Erikson suggests that a favorable resolution of the crisis provides a healthy balance for that stage of psychosocial development. His theory also suggests that any crisis can be reworked at a later stage of development. One has a chance to rework the crisis in school, therapy, special education, with skilled parenting, and/or counseling.
The first four stages of Erikson’s theory will be focused on in this article because of their direct relevance to the ages of the children that the curriculum is intended for. These stages include trust, autonomy, initiative, and industry. The later stages involve identity, intimacy, generativity, and ego integrity.
Trust The first stage is referred to as the oral-sensory stage. This stage presents a crisis centered on trust. The first crisis, trust vs. mistrust, lays the foundation for the child’s culture, relationships, and place in society. This crisis emerges during the first year of life and lays the foundation for resolution of the conflicts that follow and for future relationships with friends, teachers, spouses, and children.
The crisis revolves around the issues of trust and consistency. In order to develop trust, the infant must have her basic needs met consistently. This means the child’s needs are responded to and the child feels safe. When the infant’s needs are consistently and genuinely met, the infant develops a trustful relationship with her parents, caregivers, and with the world. If the infant’s needs are not consistently met or the infant is abused, he will develop a general mistrust of life and relationships. The favorable resolution is a balance of trust and mistrust that instills drive and hope in the child (Erikson, 1963).
Trust in the Classroom The relationship the child and her teacher create is a crucial one. In many instances, the child’s preschool or kindergarten teacher may be the first nonfamilial relationship. Those interactions can be an opportunity for the child to establish a trustful relationship outside of her extended family and the opportunity to begin to foster the development of trust between peers.
The teacher can create a sense of trust in the environment by establishing a predictable routine, responding consistently and appropriately to the children, creating and maintaining a safe environment, intervening when body boundaries are threatened, and by having appropriate expectations of the children.
A predictable routine can be set with flexible scheduling. Schedule blocks of time where certain activities are expected to take place. Provide young children with pictures that signal changes in activities. Post the pictures in the sequence that they will be presented. Exact times are not needed. Free play, center time, activity time, or lunch time may take longer or shorter than expected so flexibility is important. As children begin to tell time and understand the linguistic symbol system, the pictures of the activities can be replaced with clocks and words. The children need to know what to expect from their teacher. By responding to the children consistently, their expectations are met, and they continue to develop a sense of trust.
Safety is of extreme importance. The child must feel safe in her environment. Her environment must be challenging, but manageable; free from clutter; organized and predictable; and have clearly defined limits. The child must also be safe from other children. Expectations for interactions must be clearly communicated.
Autonomy This next stage is referred to as the muscular-anal stage. It focuses on the conflict between autonomy and shame/doubt. This crisis usually occurs during the second and third years of life. During this crisis, the child wrestles with trying to balance being independent with dependency. The child realizes she is a separate being from her mother, with specific wants, needs, and views of the world. The ambivalence of the child leads to frustration, temper tantrums, and vocalization to do things by herself (Erikson, 1963).
Autonomy involves feelings of self-worth, self-confidence, and power. Children who feel powerless will react by trying to impose power on other children and adults. Teachers need to help the child create an appropriate balance of power. Let the children have choices of activities during the day. Let the child also have the option of not participating. As a teacher, examine your feelings on why you want a child to behave in a particular way. Is there a developmental or safety reason why a child should not be engaged in a particular behavior, or is it simply because you do not want the child to engage in a particular behavior? It is important for you to evaluate your own sense of autonomy before helping the children deal with this issue.
If the child is constantly dominated and not allowed to figure things out on his own, he will develop shame and/or doubt. The child will begin to question his efforts in exploring and mastering his environment and relationships in his environment. The child develops autonomy through supporting her efforts to try things on her own, creating an environment that offers challenging but manageable experiences, avoiding power struggles, and by valuing her as a unique human being. The favorable resolution of this crisis is a healthy balance between autonomy and doubt. This balance instills a sense of self-control and willpower in the child (Erikson, 1963).
It is important to note that the child continues to work through trust during this stage as well. Trust is worked on in each stage; however, each stage emphasizes a predominant crisis (Erikson, 1963). The child working through autonomy also works on trust issues that deal with autonomy.
Autonomy in the Classroom A classroom that promotes autonomy is one that recognizes the need for children to make choices regarding materials, problem-solving techniques, and areas of interest. An autonomous classroom supports and shares each child’s point of view. A heteronymous classroom supports one view—the teacher’s or basal text’s view. The heteronymous classroom accepts only one right answer, one way of doing things, one way to succeed (Kamii, 1985). An autonomous classrooms respects the differences children have, respects the multiple ways a problem can be solved, and expects each child to succeed in his own way. Autonomy can be supported through allowing children to debate or brainstorm ideas and solutions to problems, acknowledging diversity in the classroom, and respecting each child’s intelligence strengths and challenges.
Initiative The preschool child operates in the locomotor-genital stage. This stage revolves around the conflict between initiative and guilt. The three- to four-year-old begins to engage in self-initiated experiments and activities. The child of this age is capable of thinking about an experience, gathering materials together, engaging in the experience, and putting materials away. The child can initiate an activity and provide closure to the activity. The child develops her own way of encoding the world and encoding the intelligences. The child will explain conclusions in fantastical terms. Impulses are channeled into appropriate, child-initiated outlets. Initiative allows the child to think for herself, trust in her convictions, and become comfortable expressing her own ideas.
Of course, every expression of initiative cannot possibly be encouraged in the classroom. The child needs to understand the appropriate use and context of initiative. This can be achieved by a skilled teacher who allows choices, allows children to share ideas, but does not allow the child to hurt, endanger, or dominate the classroom.
If the child’s attempts at initiative are constantly thwarted, the child will develop a primary sense of guilt. The favorable resolution to this crisis is a balance of initiative and guilt, which creates a sense of direction and purpose (Erikson, 1963).
Trust and autonomy are also worked on during this stage; however, initiative is the predominant crisis for the preschool child. Trust and autonomy issues related to initiative surface again and will continue to arise throughout the remaining crises.
Initiative in the Classroom Initiative is developed by providing children with choices, allowing and respecting play in the early childhood program, encouraging independence, encouraging children to problem solve, and allowing children to discuss, debate, and question each other’s ideas in an appropriate and respectful manner. Choice is a critical component in the early childhood classroom. Choice encourages initiative and allows the child to access materials that reflect strengths and build upon challenges.
IndustryThe latency stage deals with the conflict of industry versus inferiority. Learning the adult ways of doing things is appealing and motivating for children. The child is interested in adult tools and adult roles. These tools include formal symbol systems, art tools, carpentry tools, literary tools, musical instruments, formal dance techniques, and so on. The child is ready and eager to take part in adult-like experiences. This is the time when cultures teach the use of weapons, tools, roles, and literacy (in literate cultures). It is important not to concentrate on just one role or tool, such as literacy or mathematics. A good relationship with all the skills and tools of society is necessary in order to be prepared for the next crisis concerning identity. The favorable resolution of the industry crisis is a balance between industry and inferiority. The balance should lead to method and competence (Erikson, 1963).
Trust, autonomy, and initiative are also dealt with in this stage. Industry remains the predominant crisis; however, the child continues to work through trust, autonomy, and initiative. Issues of trust, autonomy, and initiative that relate to industry are emphasized. Trust, autonomy, initiative, and industry will surface in the remaining four crises as well.
Industry in the Classroom Industry can be encouraged by acquainting the child with techniques and tools of many disciplines. The child can work as an apprentice to develop the techniques of a role that interests her. The child should have the opportunity to see the roles and tools in action and to use the tools in context to the specific discipline.
Erikson (1963, p. 274) explains that without these basic virtues “and their reemergence from generation to generation, all other and more changeable systems of human values lose their spirit and their relevance.” Hope, willpower, purpose, and competence are important humanistic tools that are necessary not only for success in life, but for success of the human race.
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