Social Education
February 1998
Volume 62 Number 2

Exploring Vietnam: A Multiple Intelligence Portfolio of Learning

Linda A. Hoover and Randall Taylor

Linda Hoover teaches a graduate course in secondary curriculum that emphasizes ways to plan, implement and evaluate lessons in terms of how students learn best. Drawing upon Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory, the class examines how to create lessons that incorporate his seven “ways of knowing,” which are summarized here as:
1. Linguistic: Sensitivity to the meaning of words; using language to express and appreciate complex meaning
2. Logical/Mathematical: Capacity to discern numerical patterns; ability to handle long chains of reasoning; abstract thought
3. Musical: Ability to produce and appreciate rhythm, pitch, timbre, and forms of musical expressiveness
4. Spatial: Capacity to perceive the visual world accurately and to perform transformations on one’s visual perceptions; three-dimensional thinking
5. Bodily/Kinesthetic: Ability to control one’s body movements and handle objects skillfully; the body-mind union
6. Interpersonal: Capacity to discern and respond appropriately to the moods, temperaments, motivations, and desires of others; high verbal and non-verbal communication
7. Intrapersonal: Ability to assess one’s own feelings and discriminate among them to guide behavior; knowledge of one’s own strengths, weaknesses, and intelligences1
As in all true learning situations, Linda finds that acting as the facilitator means that she gains as much from students as they do from her. The following is a case in point.
Randy Taylor, a teacher in a rural Pennsylvania school district, had experimented with multiple intelligence inventories with his students, but felt thwarted by the time constraints of the traditional high school day. Then Randy’s school moved into a 4 x 4 block schedule, with 80-minute instructional periods. Realizing that successful teaching in extended blocks required some changes in approach, Randy planned to engage his students in a more thematic, and less chronological, study of history. He was particularly interested in using assessment techniques that acknowledged differences among learners in order to provide all his students—not just those with strong linguistic intelligence—with the opportunity to succeed in his class.
Thus began a collaborative effort to plan a portfolio that would provide students with a wide range of choices embracing the seven intelligences. Randy chose the Vietnam era as the subject because he considered its themes and content to exemplify the “larger, more problematic” issues of a generation. As he noted, “It’s a fascinating time period. I wanted to give my classes the opportunity to discover it from differing perspectives. I thought using the multiple intelligence portfolio as a non-traditional approach to learning matched perfectly with studying a non-traditional war.”
Randy piloted the portfolio project with his classes during the first semester of the block schedule. He recognized the need for several modifications, as indicated by his recommendations to other teachers who may want to try out the portfolio concept:

1. Stress Quality Over Quantity
Initially, students had to complete too many different activities for the portfolio. Because each of the assignments was very demanding, students felt a tremendous time pressure. While both we and the students were pleased with the results, the feedback indicated that they could have done far better work had they concentrated on fewer options. We now include a total of seven choices in the completed portfolio.

2. Plan Interim Sharing Sessions for “Work In Progress”
Recognizing that human nature lends itself to procrastination, and that many students have yet to develop effective time management skills, we included dates for student sharing sessions during the second semester. These are times for students to present sections of their portfolio for collaborative review and feedback. These periodic “checkpoints” also serve as interim “due dates” as well as formative assessments of their progress.

3. Develop a Quality Rubric with Clear Expectations for Success
If students are unsure about the criteria used to assess their portfolios, grading may seem subjective. Although we initially felt that our rubric was specific, review of the first semester portfolios suggested how it could be further refined to offer a more concrete model of quality student work.

4. Make Reflective Self-Assessment Part of the Learning Process
Although—in the spirit of multiple intelligence theory—we try to offer as many choices as possible, each student is required to complete Choice A (a prior knowledge/personal goal statement at the beginning of the unit) and Choice K (a concluding reflection on what has been learned during the portfolio process). We believe that such intrapersonal reflection offers an extension of learning beyond the social studies classroom into knowledge of the self as a learner. As one student commented:

In so many of my classes, I’m not challenged as much as I could be. I just sit there in class and cram the night before the test. We really had to work to earn our grade with this portfolio. Nobody was giving it to us. I appreciated the freedom to choose how I was going to learn. I think that’s pretty cool.

Exploring Vietnam: A Multiple Intelligence Portfolio Project

Each student is required to begin the portfolio with Choice A and conclude with Choice K. Individualize your study by completing and including any five (5) of the nine additional requirements.

A. Prior Knowledge and Personal Goals
Linguistic and Intrapersonal Intelligence
In a 2 or 3 page narrative, discuss your understanding, opinions, and beliefs about the Vietnam War as you begin this unit. Through what means have you obtained this information? For example, do you personally know anyone who was involved in the war in any way? If so, explain. What reading or media presentations concerning the war have you experienced? How did these make you feel about the era? Conclude with both your academic and personal goals for this class.

B. Geography of Vietnam
Spatial and Kinesthetic Intelligence
Using whatever creative materials you choose, create a 3-dimensional map of Vietnam showing the major cities, bodies of water, land forms, areas of natural resources, and important sites during the Vietnam War. Be sure to include a map legend that would make the country’s important locations clear to anyone studying the area for the first time. Although we will display the maps in the classroom, please include photographs of your final product in your portfolio.

C. Researching a Historical Topic in Depth
Logical and Linguistic Intelligence
Choose one of the following formal papers:
1. How did the French involvement in Vietnam, especially from 1945 to 1954, influence the history of Vietnam? Discuss why the French were in Vietnam. What impact did French occupation have on America’s later involvement? Compare and contrast French and U.S. reasons for involvement in the Vietnam conflict.
2. Analyze the United States’ “failure” in Vietnam. Explore the reasons why the United States evacuated the country in 1975. What were the effects of the U.S. withdrawal on those left behind? How did the withdrawal affect those back home and the future of the United States? Be sure to include specific references to at least two articles from Why Vietnam Still Matters: The War and the Wall.2
3. Write the same paper as described in #2. However, this time take the
perspective of America’s “success” in Vietnam.
4. Open research topic. Seek approval for your choice.

D. Alternate Points of View: Making a Social Statement in Song
Musical and Interpersonal Intelligence
Research an anti-war song popular in the late 60s or early 70s. Record the piece on cassette and make copies of the lyrics to distribute to your classmates. Analyze the meaning of the song, its theme, and the “group” of Americans it best represents. Explain how the music fits into what you are learning in class about the controversy over the Vietnam War. Survey the class for their response to the song.

E. Alternative Points of View: Struggle among the Vietnamese
Spatial and Linguistic Intelligence
Design a recruiting poster for the NVA (North Vietnamese Army) or the ARVN (South Vietnamese Army) that tries to persuade your countrymen to join you in your struggle. Prepare an oral explanation of your poster to present to the class. Your portfolio will include a photograph of the poster.

F. Alternative Points of View: The War from Insider Perspectives
Linguistic and Interpersonal Intelligence
Read several excerpts from Dear America: Letters From Home,3 a collection of correspondence written by U.S. veterans of the War. Then, use the Internet to contact a Vietnam Veterans Usenet group. Write your own letter online asking several thought-provoking questions. Print out your letter and any responses you receive from Vietnam veterans. Share the results and your own personal reflections with the class.

G. Political Cartoons: Humor as a
Political Tool
Spatial and Linguistic Intelligence
Survey magazines and/or newspapers from the Vietnam War period. Choose an existing political cartoon to analyze or draw an original cartoon based on events of the period. Include a written analysis of the major “figures” or “events” being satirized in the cartoon. What is the cartoon’s underlying message?

H. Understanding through Statistics
Mathematical, Linguistic, and
Spatial Intelligence
Choose one of the following:
1. Select some relevant statistical aspect of the war to investigate. For example, compare and contrast data on U.S. military operations (e.g., bombing) in Vietnam with parallel data from another war. Or, trace U.S. spending on the war in terms of the total federal budget in a given year(s). Include some type of graph or pie chart in your analysis.
2. Conduct an opinion poll on a specific aspect of the Vietnam War. Try to select a representative sampling of the community. Analyze the data you collect and present it in some graphic form.
3. Any topic of your choice related to logical-mathematical thinking may be used with prior approval.

I. Movie Review: Siskel and Ebert
“Do Vietnam”
Linguistic, Interpersonal, Spatial, and
Kinesthetic Intelligence
You and an approved partner review a film based on the Vietnam War. Some possible choices are: Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter, The Green Berets, Hamburger Hill, or Platoon. Enact a Siskel/Ebert “thumbs up/thumbs down” review of the film with special attention to its historical accuracy. Your presentation will be made to the entire class and videotaped. Include the videotape in your portfolio.

J. Journalism: Role Playing a News Interview
Linguistic, Interpersonal, and Kinesthetic Intelligence
You and an approved partner work together to prepare an interview for a nightly news program. One of you will be the reporter, while the other will simulate the role and personal perspective of one of the following: a major historical figure from the Vietnam era (politician, military leader, anti-war spokesperson); a soldier from either side after a battle; a nurse caring for the wounded; a 19-year-old African-American enlisted soldier serving as an infantryman. Include a bibliography of the references used in preparing your script. You may want to explore CD-ROMs and the Internet as you search for facts on which to base your interview. Your interview will be presented to the class and videotaped for inclusion in your portfolio.

K. Concluding Reflection
Linguistic and Intrapersonal Intelligence
Write a 3 to 4 page narrative discussing the most important concepts that you have learned in this unit. What insights have you gained? Be sure to include your reactions to our class trip to Washington, D.C. What were your personal feelings when you visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial? Which goals of this unit, personal and academic, do you feel you have achieved? Do you still have goals toward which you are working? How can your knowledge from this course be applied to your real life in the twenty-first century?

1. Howard Gardner and Thomas Hatch, “Multiple Intelligences Go to School: Educational Implications of the Theory of Multiple Intelligence,” Educational Researcher 18 (1989): 4-10; Howard Gardner, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences (New York: Basic Books, 1983).
2. Jan Craig Scruggs, Why Vietnam Still Matters: The War and the Wall (McLean, Va.: Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, 1996).
3. Bernard Edelman, ed., Dear America: Letters From Home (New York: Pocket Books, 1994).

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund

Linda A. Hoover is assistant professor of education at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania in Shippensburg, Pa. Randall Taylor is a high school social studies teacher in the Big Spring School District, Newville, Pa.

©1998 National Council for the Social Studies. All rights reserved.