Marlene and Bernice: Two early "M. I." Influences in my Ministry
...a personal reflection by Neil MacQueen, rotation.org founder
We all stand on other people's shoulders.
I first came across Gardner's Multiple Intelligence research in 1993 thanks to an article by Christian educator Marlene Lefever. It was two years after we had launched the Rotation Model and it made us look like we knew what we were doing --educationally speaking!
Marlene had written an article in a Christian education magazine titled, "Learning Styles in Christian Teaching." She later turned the article into the book by the same name for David C Cook.
Learning "Styles" has since grown into its own discipline apart from Multiple Intelligences. And "L.S." has now somewhat been debunked or re-thought. Even Howard Gardner has pointed out that M.I. is not about learning "styles." His research says we are wired for ALL styles of learning. Learning Styles people made the mistake of emphasizing one over others. Marlene's book didn't do that. In fact, her book was actually more about M.I.
Marlene's Learning Styles book drew heavily on Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligence research. I called her to ask some questions and see if she knew of any church doing something like the Rotation Model. She was excited to see how we had restructured our program to ACCENTUATE learning styles and came to visit us several weeks later. She lived about an hour away, which seemed like dumb luck to me! We asked her to come back and teach our congregation about the educational underpinning for what we had created. Her validation spurred us to begin telling other churches about what we were doing, and her visits gave us some new ideas.
Marlene's book referenced another book called the "4MAT System" -a roadmap to reinvent public schools based on Gardener's multiple-intelligence research. It was written by Bernice McCarthy, a student of Howard Gardner's. She had created a center to train public school educators in M.I.
Now here's the kicker.... When I looked up Bernice's address to contact her, I was shocked to find that she lived ten minutes away from our church in Barrington IL. And furthermore, SHE was a Sunday School teacher in a neighboring church. She was equally shocked that a Sunday School had already implemented what she was trying to implement in public school --a different way to organize our teaching and teachers to improve learning and the student's experience.
Coincidence? (As a Presbyterian, I might say "predestined!")
I've since met some great Christian educators who were applying M.I. to their teaching decades before Gardener's research. There has been no lack of creativity in traditional materials, only a lack of a better model to HARNESS that creativity.
M.I. tells us that our creative impulses were and are absolutely correct, --that creativity is not merely "entertainment." The Workshop Rotation Model gives us a sustainable and exciting FRAMEWORK to FOCUS and INCREASE the benefits and variety of M.I.-informed & infused Bible education.
Since the advent of Gardner's research, a number of books have been written in Christian education talking about learning styles and intelligence. If you want to learn more about them, search Amazon or your local Christian bookstore or resource center. The more we understand about best approaches, the better we teach, and the more support we will have within our congregations.