13 May 2013

A Study of Chinese Undergraduates’ MI Distribution in EFL Class

A Study of Chinese Undergraduates’ MI Distribution in EFL Class  


Abstract 
This paper initiates an investigation of the college students’ MI (multiple intelligences) distribution in English class. The participants are a group of Chinese sophomores from different majors: city planning, tourism, software engineering, financial administration and arts of English. With a view to make the investigation more specified in students’ English learning activities, the paper doesn’t use other existing MI scales, but specifies research items on Chinese college students’ activities in their EFL (English as a Foreign Language) class. The result reveals students’ overall and comparative MI distributions among different majors, which provides English teachers in China with fundamental information about college students’ varieties, as well as referential information for English teachers in other EFL countries.

Keywords: MI distribution, EFL, ESL, Chinese undergraduates

Introduction 
Although MI theory has been widely accepted and applied by educators, there are still some voids which have not been popularly addressed to: 1. The assessment of students’ MI distribution in one subject. Since MI assessments usually aim at indentifying students’ different preponderate intelligences by observing their different behaviors in different settings, informants are usually asked to indentify their learning habits in different subjects, hobbies in or out of schools, etc., when their MI distributions are assessed.However, this form of assessment may lead to less precise and practical insights than a survey focus on one subject. For instance, a student may write essays better in Chinese than in English, so his or her linguistic intelligence tend to be high in Chinese while low in English; a student who solves mathematic problems quickly and well may feel embarrassed in psychoanalysis in reading a literature. Therefore, an abstract categorizing of students’ MI distribution may lead to an untrue hypothesis of students’ preponderances in certain activities in one subject, which may confuse teachers from different subjects when MI theory is applied in their teaching; 2. Comparative analyses of students’ general MI distribution among different groups. How to incorporate MI in teaching is an important issue whereas no uniform answers have been achieved. As Seidel says, “MI theory raises many questions for classroom practice. Should teachers try to nurture all of the intelligences equally or should they focus on identifying and developing children's strengths? Should schools offer a wider selection of courses or should they maintain a traditional curriculum and provide more varied ways of engaging students in the standard subject matter? It is important to remember that MI is not an end in itself.” (Sternberg & Williams, 1998, p. 23) Obviously, every effective teaching has to adapt to the settings. Considering the differences between ESL and EFL environments, any superficial copying of MI-based teaching approach which originates from ESL countries don’t always fit EFL classes. Chinese EFL classes are usually characterized by their students’ big-sized number, similar educational background and same mother tongues. Although student-centered English teaching are encouraged, teacher-centered teaching is still prevailing due to the environmental limitations in China. Obviously, a comparative analyze of students’ overall MI distributions among different groups provides more practical references to teachers than analysis of students’ individual MI distributions. From the author’s personal teaching experience, Chinese undergraduate students from different majors are usually various in their performances when taking part in English activities. It goes without saying that English students are usually most active since they usually have more chances to contact the target language, while there are apparently differences among students from other majors. With the hypothesis that different majored students usually have overall MI distributions of their own, this paper had an MI survey among a group of Chinese undergraduates from different majors. As a MI scale based on one subject is scarcely found, this paper redesigned a scale, all the research items in which are related to subjects’ real EFL activities in class.

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