7 min read


Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory outlines a biological and cultural foundation for someone’s varied ability to interface with the world and, more importantly, their strength in learning knowledge or tasks. The seven intelligences the Multiple Intelligences Film Teaching (MIFT) model is concerned with are the logical- mathematical, linguistic, spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal intelligences. It’s worth noting one of the main criticisms of MI: a few of these intelligences (such as bodily-kinesthetic or musical) are more traditionally considered aptitudes or talents instead of a domain of intelligence (Huang & Luo, 2). It is also important to draw a distinction between students’ MI and what could be perceived as learning styles — while students may be more developed in one intelligence than another, MI does not account for nor encourage a preference for one learning style over another. For example, in language acquisition, students’ linguistic intelligences will always be engaged, whereas learning styles would argue that a students’ preference for aural instruction is definitively better than kinetic or visual. More importantly, MI encourages an inter-intelligence approach by leveraging a student’s more developed intelligence in concert with (continuing with the language acquisition example) their linguistic intelligence. Beyond the instructional application to vary classroom activities and keep students engaged, integrating the MI theory with other teaching tools and methods can improve the efficacy of students and teachers alike. Namely, integrating multimedia technology with MI has many positives for second language instruction (Beckett & Chisholm, 258).

Carol Beckett and Inés Márquez Chisholm argue for the integration of information technologies within classrooms and before in teacher preparation. The use of multimedia technologies, such as the internet and media arts, enable and support MI no matter what the students’ strengths are — these become tools that teachers must know how to leverage in order to dynamically engage their students (259). Ellen Yeh’s MIFT model requires teachers be able to utilize media in many ways, adapting one or two works per lesson across multiple activities. While it is called the “film” teaching model, Yeh makes use of different kinds of media to contrast and appeal to multiple intelligences — teachers utilizing the MIFT model need to have familiarity across modes and enough comfort working in a multimedia environment to make use of these varied lessons. The focus, however, is the explicit inclusion of films across lessons to “enhance L2 learners’ linguistic and cultural competencies by integrating films into an ESL/EFL curriculum...[and] enhance L2 learners’ motivation and engagement in target language activities” (67).

Yeh outlines two modes of interactional feedback, called “recasts” and “negotiations,” with two separate functions in the classroom: recasts focus on pronunciation, intonation, stress and fluency while negotiations focus on lexical and grammatical skills (69-71). This interactional feedback utilize lesson types and media to encourage students to “notice the gap,” which scaffolds the students’ feedback so they can correct their own mistakes (64). Yeh also outlines seven lesson types tied to either recast or negotiation interactional feedback and also to specific intelligences (see table 1). Necessarily, all of the lesson types engage linguistic intelligence, but they are also almost evenly distributed between other intelligences. Most of the lessons include four or more intelligences. The use of these lesson types with the inclusion of a specific film that demonstrates cultural aspects as well as models some of the activities that the students do is the core of Yeh’s MIFT model. For example, Yeh’s explanation of a role play activity (her example uses the film Freedom Writers):

The teacher shows students four short clips...The scenes discuss the theme of cultural diversity and racism. Students are prompted to write their own scripts to accompany the clip, making sure that both the dialogue and content are consistent with and supported by scenes depicted in the film. Students discuss their scripts in a small group. Each group chooses one version of the scripts and revises it as a group. The teacher uses recasts with each group before they present their skit to the class...The teacher provides feedback to the scripts and recasts to draw students’ attention to phonological awareness. The role play activity helps to develop learners’ linguistic, visual, musical, body/kinesthetic and interpersonal intelligences (70).

The best part of this strategy is the modeling it does for students in relation to their assignments. The cultural aspect the film introduces can be far more relevant to the students’ lives, allowing the students to use their lived experiences to scaffold the scripts they’re writing and help to motivate them to participate and monitor their own language use. Using a film engages students’ different intelligences and can also scaffold relevant cultural notes for students with no prior experience (along with being more accessible to students who already have that scaffolding from their own lives). The film can be further utilized across other lesson types and activities to model other activities — Yeh gives an example of journal writing, which is modeled for the students in the film. In Yeh’s example with the film Freedom Writers, the characters are assigned a journal writing assignment; this is mirrored and modeled, then, for the students to do their own journal writing assignment (75-76). However, the MIFT model presumes a school with access and resources to materials such as films and equipment with which to watch the film, which is to the model’s detriment.

The MIFT model requires a certain level of technology to be available to the school and the teacher’s classroom. In the United States, the very general statistics saw a ratio of five students for every computer, with about 80 percent of classrooms having direct internet access. However, these numbers are not representative of impoverished communities: the ratio changes to nine students to every computer, with only about 40 percent of classrooms having direct internet access (Beckett & Chisholm, 253). There is also an assumption that teachers will be able and willing to integrate technologies both into the classroom and their instruction. Another obstacle is the availability of culturally-relevant films. Presuming familiarity with Western, English-speaking countries’ cultures is an instructional goal in an English-as-a-Foreign- Language classroom, there are a wide variety of English language films available that model the appropriate lessons for instruction. However, if the goal of including a film in language instruction is to make use of students’ own lived experiences and scaffolding, there may be far fewer English language options when selecting a film.

The implementation of MI theory in the classroom has little research in the context of second language acquisition (Ghamrawi, 28). However, more and more studies are becoming available which do show positive growth in students’ language abilities and the integration of MI theory in the classroom. These studies show the importance of lesson types that engage the students’ intelligences and reinforce the plurality of lesson types to engage the most intelligences possible across all students. Jabu et al found that teachers preferred certain lesson types associated with linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences, probably mirroring activities that are more traditional to language learning, while Ghamrawi found a lack of diversity of engagement in students’ intelligences due to the teachers’ biases regarding their own intelligence preferences (1059; 42). Using a film as a foundational piece of the MIFT model ensures a constant across lessons that the teacher can use to explore ways of engaging with other intelligences without being at a loss for material. Taking into account the wide variety of intelligences and benefit in activating all of them throughout multiple lessons, MI theory and the MIFT model can and should be implemented into every lesson. MI should be considered when developing lesson plans for any objective using any activity, from vocabulary learning and retention to complex narration and argument formation.

Ghamrawi and Jabu et al, between both studies, also surveyed a wide range of students. Ghamrawi worked with kindergarteners from a K-12 private school while Jabu et al focused on junior high school-aged students from two Islamic schools and one public school. Even from two studies, this shows a wide range of applicability in second language acquisition classrooms and is supported by the evidence found in both studies. The inclusion of MI theory, and by extension the MIFT model, is appropriate in any classroom with any range of students, barring technological requirements that must be met in order to include films in activities. The MIFT model is easily adaptable to any classroom specifics, as it relies on the MI inherent in every person (Beckett & Chisholm, 258).

The MIFT model suggests a powerful method to improve and differentiate classroom instruction to encourage second language acquisition in any classroom with any student body. As long as a teacher has the resources and capabilities to implement the model in their lesson planning, this method should be incredibly beneficial as a foundation to engage the students’ MI and improve both their acquisition and retention. A single film could be planned for large blocks of interrelated lessons as well, allowing teachers to bridge contextual gaps by breaking down the film chosen and then guiding their students with interactional feedback in order to carry the students to the next lesson, creating and — more importantly — helping the student to create their own scaffolding. The MIFT model even models language study outside of the classroom, since it gives students a method to do their own study beyond rote memorization.

Source: Yeh, Ellen. “Teaching Culture and Language through the Multiple Intelligences Film Teaching Model in the ESL/EFL Classroom.” The Journal of Effective Teaching, vol. 14, no. 1, 2014, Table 1.

Source: Yeh, Ellen. “Teaching Culture and Language through the Multiple Intelligences Film Teaching Model in the ESL/EFL Classroom.” The Journal of Effective Teaching, vol. 14, no. 1, 2014, Table 1.

Works Cited

  • Beckett, Carol and Chisholm, Inés Márquez. “Teacher Preparation for Equitable Access through the Integration of TESOL Standards, Multiple Intelligences and Technology.” Technology, Pedagogy and Education, vol. 12, no. 2, 2003, pp. 249-275.
  • Ghamrawi, Norma. “Multiple Intelligences and ESL Teaching and Learning: An Investigation in KG II Classrooms in One Private School in Beirut, Lebanon.” Journal of Advanced Academics, vol. 25, no. 1, 2014, pp. 25-46.
  • Huang, Mindy and Luo, Mingchu Neal. “ESL teachers’ multiple intelligences and teaching strategies: Is there a linkage?” TESOL Journal, vol. 10, no. e379, 2019, pp. 1-14.
  • Jabu, Baso, Kartiah, St Raden, Rahman, Andi Qashas and Rahman, Muhammad Asfah. “The Portrayal of Multiple Intelligence Theory in English Teaching Strategy for Indonesian Secondary School.” Journal of Language Teaching and Research, vol. 5, no. 5, 2014, pp. 1052-1061.
  • Yeh, Ellen. “Teaching Culture and Language through the Multiple Intelligences Film Teaching Model in the ESL/EFL Classroom.” The Journal of Effective Teaching, vol. 14, no. 1, 2014, pp. 63-79.