Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users, please click the view more button below to purchase a copy of this dissertation from Proquest.

(Some titles may also be available free of charge in our Open Access Dissertation Collection, so please check there first.)

Teaching to their strengths: Multiple intelligence theory in the college writing class

Kimberly Marcello De Vries, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation combines research in neuroscience, psychology, inter-cultural communication, and teaching with technology to envision a more balanced approach to teaching writing. Many composition scholars have proposed theories about the cognitive processes that support writing, and have suggested pedagogies based in these theories, but too often this work has evolved in isolation from the research carried out in other fields. I hope that by taking this interdisciplinary approach, I can rough out some avenues for fruitful future exploration and lay to rest some misperceptions that currently hinder our teaching. I introduce this study by sharing a brief literacy narrative, and then in Chapter One lay out the range of theories held in the composition community about writing, learning, and thinking processes. In Chapter Two, I examine how Multiple Intelligence (MI) Theory can add to our understanding these processes, and consider recent attention to cultural context. China stands out as a particularly useful example by demonstrating very a different but effective pedagogy. Recent neuroscience research supports MI Theory, and I consider how it explains the existence of multiple intelligences in Chapter Three. In Chapter Four I shift to more practical concerns; the media required by non-verbal intelligences are hard to bring into classrooms, but computer technology offers solutions to some of these difficulties. I discuss my own experiences designing an on-line writing tutorial as an example of how neuroscience can be applied to teaching with technology, then describe an introductory literature class in which I used technology to address multiple intelligences. I suggest paths of further inquiry, identifying gaps in current research on teaching with technology. When discussing computer technology, we must ensure that students can cross the “digital divide.” I look at recent studies of access to computers and the internet; analysis of these results gives a clearer picture of how we might ensure that technology serves our students, rather than acting as another stumbling block. To close, this study looks forward, suggesting questions to be addressed in the future, as well as practical steps teachers can take now, to begin addressing multiple intelligences in their college writing classrooms.

Subject Area

Rhetoric|Composition|Higher education

Recommended Citation

De Vries, Kimberly Marcello, "Teaching to their strengths: Multiple intelligence theory in the college writing class" (2002). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3068551.