An Action Research

(Presented at the TEFL Seminar, Universitas Muhammadiyah Purwokerto, 2010)

Endro Dwi Hatmanto, S.Pd, MA

(English Education Department, Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta)


Motivation is an important ingredient in studying English. One of the teachers’ jobs is to develop teaching strategies which are able to motivate students. Traditional approach where teachers are the center of the teaching and learning process is no longer effective in making students motivated. While the traditional paradigm views intelligence as a single entity measured simply via IQ test, Gardner-the founder of MI theory-opposes this view. For Gardner, intelligence is the capacity to solve problems or to fashion products that are valued in one or more cultural setting. Gardner initially formulated a list of seven intelligences, namely; linguistic intelligence, logical-mathematical intelligence, musical intelligence, bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, spatial intelligence, interpersonal intelligence and intrapersonal intelligence. This paper argues that the multi-dimensional intelligences developed in the MI concept makes it possible for English teachers to develop such various teaching techniques that are able to motivate students’ learning in the English class. The research is aimed at proving this proposition. In order to achieve this goal, the action research was done in the English writing class at the Language Training Center of Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta. The subjects researched were the students of international class, international relation study program of Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta. The seven intelligences of MI were used and developed into teaching techniques to teach the students. Employing the action research, the researcher implemented the processes consisting three cycles as required; planning, observing and reflecting. Based on the survey concerning the level of students’ motivation and the class observation, the research proves that the employment of the MI approach in teaching can significantly elevate the students’ motivation in the writing class. In other words, most subjects of the research feels motivated taught using MI approach.

Key words: motivation, writing class, multiple intelligences, action research

1. Introduction

Motivation becomes an important ingredient for the success of teaching and learning process. Due to the significance of motivation in contributing to the success of teaching and learning process, teachers are to be responsible to improve students’ motivation, not to mention in the writing class.

There are sufficient evidences that the traditional approach of teaching cannot effectively elevate students’ motivation. This is because traditional approach of teaching is derived from the understanding that teachers become the center while students are considered to be the objects of teaching. Consequently, such a approach might not give students ample opportunity to participate in the learning process. In other words, students are highly likely to be de-motivated being taught using traditional approach.

In order to increase students’ motivation, a number of new approaches are introduced and advocated including collaborative learning, students active learning, and problem based learning. Those approaches share the proposition that students should become proactive actors in the learning process.

Another approach which is widely used for encouraging students to be motivated and active in the class is the use of Multiple Intelligence (MI) approach in teaching. The paper would prove that MI approach in teaching will be effective in improving students’ motivation in the writing class.

The paper is a result of an action research done in the writing class of Language Teaching Center at Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta (UMY).

To achieve this goal, the paper is structured as follows. First, the concept of motivation and its role in learning will be highlighted. Second, the discourse of MI will be explored. Next, the writing class in the Language Training Center of UMY, including the goals and targets will be described. Fifth, the methodology will be illuminated followed by the data finding. Finally, the discussion will be presented and the suggestions will be offered.

2. Literature Review

2.1 Multiple Intelligence

The concept of MI is developed by Howard Gardner, a professor of Psychology in Harvard University, in his book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. The purpose of Gardner in putting forward the MI can be gauged from following comments in the introduction of his book:

In the heyday of the psychometric and behaviorist eras, it was generally believed that intelligence was a single entity that was inherited; and that human beings-initially a blank slate-could be trained to learn anything, provided that it was presented in an appropriate way. Nowadays and increasing number of researchers believe precisely the opposite; that there exists a multitude of intelligences, quite independent of each other; that each intelligence has its own strengths and constrains; that that the mind is far from unencumbered at birth; and that it is unexpectedly difficult to teach things that go against early ‘naïve’ theories of that challenge the natural lines of force within an intelligence and its matching domains (Gardner 1993: xxiii).

Smith and Smith’s (1994) call the Gardner’s MI theory a paradigm shifter. While proposing the new paradigm of intelligence, Gardner criticize the old paradigm holding an idea that intelligence is a single entity which can be measured simply through IQ tests. Gardner also challenged the cognitive development put forward by Piaget in two ways (Infed, n.d, Smith, 2008). First, He provides evidence demonstrating that at any one time a child may be at very different stages in the development in number of visual and spatial maturation. Second, Gardner has managed to undermine the Piaget’s opinion stating that knowledge, at any particular stage of development, hangs together in a structured whole.

Different from the old paradigm’s viewing intelligence in the narrow concept of IQ, Gardner defines intelligence as ‘the capacity to solve problems or to fashion products that are valued in one or more cultural setting’ (Gardner & Hatch, 1989).

Gardner initially divided a list of seven intelligences. He categorized the seven intelligences into three provisional lists. The first two has been typically valued at schools. The next three are usually related to arts while the final two are what is called by Gardner as ‘personal intelligence’.

The MI proposed by Gardner (1999: 41-43) are respectively:

1) Linguistic intelligence. This includes humans’ sensitivity to written and spoken language, the capacity to learn languages and the ability to effectively use language to express the feeling and ideas.

2) Logical-mathematical intelligence. This embraces the ability to analyze problem logically, the capacity to carry out mathematical operations, and the skills to investigate problems scientifically. In Gardner’s opinion, the intelligence pertains to the capacity to reason deductively, to think and to detect patterns logically. This intelligence is most often related to mathematical and scientific thinking.

3) Musical intelligence. This intelligence consists of skill in the appreciation of musical patterns and the ability of performance and composition of music. According to Gardner, musical intelligence runs in an almost structural parallel to linguistic intelligence.

4) Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. This is associated with the potential of utilizing one’s whole body or parts of the body to solve the problems. This also involves using mental abilities to coordinate bodily movements. This is in this context that Gardner see mental and physical activity as being related.

5) Spatial intelligence. This is related to recognize and use the patterns of wide space and confined areas.

6) Interpersonal intelligence. This is related to the potential to understand the intentions, desires, motivation and feeling of other people. This intelligence permits people to collaborate and work effectively with other people.

7) Intrapersonal intelligence. This is concerned the capability to understand oneself, to appreciate others’ feelings, motivation and fears. In Gardner’s words, it includes an effective working model of ourselves and possessing ability to use such information to regulate our lives.

Despite its influence to raise a new paradigm in schooling and education, MI is not immune from criticisms. For instance, White (1997) questions around the individual criteria such as do all intelligence involve symbol systems; how should the criteria be applied and why the particular criteria are relevant. Responding to this criticism, Gardner has admitted that there is an element of subjective judgment involved. Next, for researcher and scholars who have traditionally viewed intelligence as what is measured by intelligence tests, Gardner’s MI concept is problematic. Facing this criticism, Gardner argues that it is not possible, as yet, to know how far intelligences actually correlate.

2.2 Motivation

Motivaton is a process which gives energy and guide to the people’s behavior (Santrock, 2009). Different psychological perspective defines motivation differently.

Firstly, behavior science focuses on the external reward and punishment as they keys to determine a student’s motivation. Another terminology concerning the external elements to boost motivation is incentive, referring to positive or negative stimulus to motivate students. The proponents of incentive argue that it can improve the students’ interest, guide the appropriate behavior and avoid the inappropriate one (Emmer, Everston, & Worshman, 2006). Examples of incentive used by teachers in the class are the numerical scores and other rewards such as exhibiting the students’ work and giving stars sign to the high achievers in the class.

Secondly, humanistic perspective believes in the capacity of students to grow up, to have freedom of self-development and to cultivate positive qualities. This perspective is associated with Maslow’s theory of needs hierarchy (Maslow, 1971), stating that certain basic needs such as food and cloths should be fulfilled first before the fulfillment of higher needs such as security, love, self esteem and self-actualization.

Next, cognitive perspective on motivation states that students’ motivation is determined by their thinking. In the last few years the cognitive perspective on motivation has drawn much attention to scholars and educators (Wigfield, Byrnes & Eccles, 2006). The cognitive perspective embraces such ideas as students’ internal motivation to obtain high achievement and students’ perception that attempts can determine success as well as the belief that students are proactive subjects who can control their environment effectively. The cognitive perspective also stresses the importance of goal setting, planning and improvement evaluation in reaching the targets (Schunk & Zimmerman, 2006).

Finally, social perspective on motivation views that relationship with other people is vital to determine one’s success. In this juncture, Stipek (2002) maintains that students who has healthy interpersonal relationship climate cultivated in schools tend to build positive attitude and obtain improved academic achievement.

Motivation can be divided into two. The first is extrinsic motivation referring to the motivation which is driven by such external factors as reward and high scores (Santrock, 2009). The second type is internal motivation, that is the one generated by internal desire to achieve certain purpose. For example, a student studies hard because he or she is interested in the materials.

Recent evidences support the creation of classroom climate which can intrinsically motivate the students to study. For instance, a study done by Corpus and Lyenger (2005) finds that intrinsic motivation significantly influences the achievement of students.

2.3 Multiple Intelligence and Motivation

While the concept of MI has not been readily accepted within academic psychology, it has gained a strong positive response from educators. In other words, the MI theory has been employed by a range of educational scholars and embraced by teachers to solve the problems of schooling. For example, Kornhaber (2001: 276), has identified two reasons why policy makers and teachers in North America have give positive response to Gardner’s MI concept. First, students are able to think and learn in many different ways. Second, MI approach also assist teachers to use a conceptual framework for organizing and reflecting on pedagogical practices.

Viewed from the perspective on motivation, MI can open more opportunity to design creative teaching materials and the creative material is one of the keys to the success of developing students’ motivation. This argument is supported by Wigfield, et al (2006) stating that students’ motivation will be optimum when teachers give challenging tasks which enable students to be independent and create positive cognitive and emotional environment.

Since MI embraces seven intelligences, teachers can have wider opportunity to develop materials of high varieties. Hence teaching using MI approach will becomes a valuable option for teachers in order to motivate students in the learning process.

3. Research Method

3.1 Setting of Research

This is an action research, one of a group of activities which is associated with the idea of reflective teaching. One of the most important characteristics of an action research is that it is done by the participants themselves in a particular social situation, rather than by outside researcher. The main goal of an action research is to find out more about what goes on in one’s own local context in order to change or improve current practice. Accordingly action research entails with attempts to reflect on and intervene in one’s current practice (Burns, 2005).

In this research, the researcher is the lecturer of the group of students who becomes the subjects in the classroom, whereas the students are acting as the participants. This research was conducted in the writing class of the international relation students of the international class of Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta (UMY). The outcome expected for the writing class at UMY is that students are able to write an essay. The research was conducted from……..to……..2009.

3.2 Indicators

Two indicators are employed in this research, namely process and product indicators. The former can be traced through the observation during the research process. To some education experts, learning process can be claimed successful if whole or the large amount of proportion of the students (>75%) involves physically, mentally and socially (as cited in Akhsan, 2009). The data used to measure this indicator is obtained from the observation and filed notes. The product indicator is collected from the assessment after learning process. After all action is carried out, a survey is given to the subjects.

3.3. Research Procedures

A spiral cycle diagram proposed by Lewin (cited in Akhsan, 2009) comprising some stages, namely planning, acting, observing and reflecting is used in this action research. The following diagram show the process:

3.3.1 Planning

There are several preparations the researcher does in this stage, such as:

· preparing lesson plan

· preparing the teaching materials and media

· preparing research instrument covering observation sheet, evaluation sheet and field notes. Since each cycle consists of 7 cycles namely the some teaching techniques develop using MI approach, the assessment of the improved motivation of the students is done after the completion of all cycles.

3.3.2 Acting

In this stage the researcher implements what she has planned earlier:

· explaining the teaching topic in every meeting.

· grouping some students into some groups to carry out activities in the class.

· explaining the activity that is going to be carried out in the classroom.

· asking students to accomplish the task which is done either collaboratively or individually.

· checking students’ tasks in whole class feedback session.

3.3.3 Observing

In this stage the researcher collects research data using previously designed research instruments which include observation sheet, assessment and field notes. Those instruments are utilized to collect students’ response, feedback, and answer including verbal and nonverbal statements and their activities during the research.

3.3.4 Reflecting

This activity is done after the class is over. The researcher, then, analyzes and evaluates what has been done in the classroom and why not doing other things, what has been resulted, why something occurs, and what to do next. In this stage the researcher evaluates all what happens in the classroom, and ten he plans and designs a cycle based on connection between results of data analysis and determined success indicators.

4. Research Findings and Discussion

4.1 The existing condition of the subjects

The students of international relation of the international class in the year 2009 at Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta are those qualifying to speak English fluently. Based on the class observation done by the researcher in the previous year, the students were not motivated when the traditional method (teachers’ center) was used. In other words their potential and ability to express and use their English is not challenged. This becomes a problem which needs solution. The solution offered will likely to be the teaching approach which can accommodate and challenge the high potential of students to express their ideas in English. In this research the MI approach in teaching English is offered to be the option.

4.2 Research Process

Cycle 1 (Linguistic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, mathematic logic).

1. Planning: In the planning stage, the writer planned the materials that contained the linguistic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and mathematic logic intelligence approach for teaching. As the writer taught how to understand and compose a paragraph, the researcher would use the ‘jumbled paragraph’ for an activity in the class.

2. Acting: The researcher asked to the students what the paragraph was. Then some students respond to the questions. The researcher then distributed the jumbled paragraphs to the students. The students, in a group of 3 people, were asked to discuss the right order of paragraph. This activities lasted for 20 minutes. When all of the groups finished ordering the sentences into the paragraph, the researchers once again asked about the definition of paragraph. Most of the group offered correct definitions of paragraph.

The researchers then aimed to give an understanding of the topic sentence and the supporting sentences to the students. To achieve this aim, the researcher asked the groups to observe and analyze the relationship between the first sentence and the rest of the sentences in the paragraph. Then the researcher asked to the student what the function of the first sentence in the first paragraph was and the function of the rest of the sentences after the first paragraph was. This activity lasted for 30 minutes.

After students finished doing the task of understanding the topic sentence and the supporting details, the researcher asked the students to do the task individually. The researcher distributed some topic sentences to the students. Then the students were to write supporting sentences for the topic sentences given. This activities lasted for 20 minutes. It should be noted, however, that some students did not appear to enjoy writing individually. It can be seen from their facial expressions.

For the rest 20 minutes, the researcher instructed one student to type his paragraph on the computer and connected to the LCD projector. The researcher asked the other students whether or not the paragraph was good.

3. Observing and reflecting: During the activities, the lecturer observed what happened in the classroom and then recorded the situation in the field notes. In the first activity (ordering the jumbled sentences into a good paragraph) most of the students are involved actively in the activities. They looked very motivated in sharing their ideas of ordering sentences into a good paragraph.

In the second activity ( discussing the function of the first sentence and rest of the sentences in the paragraph) the students also looked enthusiastic in sharing their ideas in the discussion. Enthusiasm is also shown by students when they work individually in writing supporting sentences to continue the topic sentences.

The process indicator was achieved in the activities for the first cycle as every student seemed interested and motivated. The specific product indicators was not recorded yet.

Cycle 2 (visual, linguistic, interpersonal)

Planning: The researcher prepared a jumbled essay that will be used for students’ activity. The researcher also prepared a visual of hamburger to trigger students to write an essay.

Acting: The researcher asked the students what the essay was. Some students attempted to answer the question. Then the researcher distributed the jumbled essay consisting of separated paragraphs. The students should make groups of 3. The first activity was that they had to order the separated paragraph into a good essay. The ‘lead in’ process and the first activity lasted for 30 minutes.

In the second activity, the researcher distributed questions to be discussed in groups; 1) What is an essay?; 2) What is the function of the first paragraph in an essay?; 3) What is the function of the last sentence in the introduction?; 3) What is the function of the paragraphs in an essay (what is the relationship between the last sentence of the first paragraph and the paragraphs?), 4) What is the function of the last paragraph in an essay?. The students then were asked to answer the questions by discussing in groups. This activity lasted for 30 minutes.

The researcher then asked the students to do the third activity which lasted for 30 minutes. In this activity the researcher distributed the picture of hamburger. The researcher then tells the students that the analogy of writing an essay is like a hamburger. Making a delicious hamburger needs sufficient ingredients. It is also true that to make an essay needs ingredients such as introduction, thesis statement, supporting sentences and conclusion. While explaining about this, the researcher showed the picture of hamburger to students. The hamburger had five blank spaces where students could write a five paragraphs essay. Having explained the analogy of hamburger for writing an essay, the researcher asked to students to work in groups to write an essay with a given topic. Each student should contribute at least one paragraph for the group. They had to write their essay in the blank spaces in the hamburger picture.

Observing and reflecting: During the activities the lecturer monitored students’ activity and wrote everything which happened in the classroom on a filed note book. All events, communication between the students were recorded.

In the activity 1 students look enthusiastic and motivated in discussing and sharing their ideas to arrange the jumbled paragraph into a good essay. Some students show their disagreement in arriving to the same arrangement, but finally they managed to come to the agreement. From the start, the jumbled paragraphs was aimed at enabling students to use their logical thinking, thus allowing their mathematical intelligence to work. In the researcher’s observation, it showed that this activity could trigger the logical thinking of the students since they were actively involve and motivated to give their ideas of the right order of the paragraphs. Beside mathematical intelligence, students also used their social skill in the way they shared their opinion. This reflected their ability to use interpersonal skills. Since sharing ideas needs language as a medium to convey the meaning, automatically students also used their linguistic intelligence.

Most of the students also look motivated when doing the second activity. Most of them took an active role in giving opinion to the questions asked to discussed. It was clear for this activity that students engage with others socially using their interpersonal and linguistic intelligence in this activity. Their logical and mathematical thinking were also challenged since they attempted to solve the problem of the questions given.

In the activity 3, most of the students appeared to feel motivated writing their essay in the hamburger picture. The researcher felt that the picture could make students happy and encouraged to write an easy, thus triggering them to involve their visual intelligence.

Cyle 3 (song, linguistic, kinesthetic, math, interpersonal, intrapersonal)

Planning: The researcher prepared a karaoke song entitled ‘Imagine’ composed and sung by the ‘Beatles’. The karaoke song was taken from ‘Youtube’ put in the flash disk to be played in the computer. The researcher also prepared the computer, and checked the LCD. A sheet of paper consisting of some questions for discussion was also prepared. The questions read; 1) What do you feel of this song? Do you agree with the Beatles’ lyric that if there is no religion, the world will be in peace?

Acting: The researcher asked the students who knows ‘The Beatles’ and songs sung by ‘The Beatles’. The researcher then asked students to sing one of the ‘The Beatles’ song entitled ‘Imagine’. The researcher and the students sang the song while reading the lyric on the LCD screen. The students also had to move their body and hand while singing the song. This activity lasted for 15 minutes.

After singing the song the researcher then distributed the questions asked the students to discuss the questions in group of 3 people. This activity lasted for 30 minutes.

For the third activity, the researcher asked the students to discuss about the functions of religions, still in groups of 3. The researcher conditioned at least one student to be ‘a devil advocate’ concerning this function of religion. By this effort, the group will deal with a debate on the issue. After discussing they have to write an essay on the ‘functions of religion in our life’. Each person should at least contribute one paragraph to the group. This activity lasted for 20 minutes. For the rest of the time, the researcher asked one students to type his essay on the computer and flashed on LCD projector. The other students were then challenged to evaluate the writing based on the criteria of a good easy that had been learned.

Observing and reflecting : In the first activity, namely, singing the song entitled ‘Imagine’ most of the students look motivated. They also appeared happy in singing the song. Some students even asked to keep repeating the song. This proves, according to the researcher, that triggering students’ motivation by activating their musical intelligence can really work and be fun.

When asked to discuss and to write an essay most of the students also show their enthusiasm in sharing their ideas and contributing their opinions in writing the essay.

4.3 Survey on motivation

At the end of the third circle, the students are given survey. The survey questions the level of the students’ motivation from range 1 to range 10. The questions represented the multiple intelligences. The instruction of the survey reads “In the scale from 1 to 10 tell your level of motivation in your study when it comes to the use the following teaching techniques that we have used in the class”.

1. Group discussion (interpersonal intelligence).

2. The use of visual media in the learning process (visual intelligence).

3. Activities which encourage me to move (kinesthetic intelligence).

4. Activities which encourage me to solve the problem and give solution (mathematic intelligence).

5. The use of song and music in the learning process (musical intelligence).

6. Writing individually in the class (intrapersonal intelligence).

The questions representing all multiple intelligences allowed students to reveal their level of motivation of each intelligence used as teaching techniques in the class. The following is the result of the survey.













Group discussion































(linguistic) Debate






(Intrapersonal) Individual writing







It can be seen from the table that in general the level of students satisfaction is high in all types teaching techniques representing each intelligence. In each teaching approach, the students’ level of satisfaction ranged from 6 to 10.

In the teaching approach using group discussion (interpersonal intelligence), the level of students’ motivation is above 5, accounting for 93 %. There is only one student (7%) who is in the level 5.

In teaching approach using visual aids the students’ level of motivation which is above level 5 is 100%. So most of the students feel motivated taught using visual aids in teaching.

In the kinesthetic approach of teaching 99% of the students feels motivated (above level 5). Only one students (1%) was in the level 5.

Regarding the use of mathematic intelligence in teaching approach, 93 % students chose above level 5. This represents their high motivation when taught using mathematic intelligence in teaching approach.

In terms of the musical intelligence approach in teaching, most of the students (93%) also show their high motivation taught using this approach. Only 7% was under the level 5.

Most of the students also show their high motivation when taught using linguistic intelligence approach and intrapersonal intelligence approach respectively. In terms of the use of linguistic intelligence approach in teaching, 93% of students feel highly motivated while only 7 did not feel motivated. When it comes to the use of intrapersonal intelligence approach in teaching 79% chose above level 5 showing their high motivation while only 21% feel that they are not motivated.

5. Conclusion

To sum up, from the data taken from the survey, most of the students feel highly motivated taught using all multiple intelligence approach most of which account for more than 90 %. The least percentage is obtained by the intrapersonal intelligence approach in teaching. This reflects that working individually is less preferred by students than working collaboratively.

Overall, based on the result, the researcher would like to suggest that teachers and lecturers could use the multiple intelligence approach as ‘a creative option’ in teaching since in the researcher’s experience it proved to be able to elevate students’ motivation in learning English.

Appendix: Survey questions

In the range from 1-10 choose your level of motivation when you are taught using the following activities:

1. Group discussion 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

2. The use of visual materials 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

3. Activities which make you move your body 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

4. Solving and answering the questions 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

5. Singing and listening to the songs 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

6. Debate using your ability in English 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

7. Writing individually 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


Emmer, Everston, & Worshman, 2006, Classroom management for middle and high school teachers, Allyn and Bacon, Boston.

Gardner, H 1993, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Basic Book, New York.

Gardner, H & Hatch, T (1989), ‘Multiple Intelligence go to school: Educational implication of the theory of Multiple Intelligences’, Educational Researcher, 18(8), 4-9.

Kornhaber, M.L 2001, Howard Garner in J.A. Palmer (ed) Fifty modern thinkers on education, From Piaget to the present, Routledge, London.

Maslow, A.H, 1971, The farther reaches of human nature, Viking Press, New York.

Santrock, J.W, 2009, Your guide to college success, Belmont, Wadsworth.

Schunk & Zimmerman, 2006, Competence and control beliefs: Distinguishing the means and ends. In P..A Alexander & P.H. Winne: (eds), Handbook of educational psychology, Mahwah, New York.

Smith, L.G. and Smith, J.K. (1994) Lives in Education. A narrative of people and ideas 2e, St Martin Press, New York.

Stipek (2002), Motivation to learn, Allyn and Bacon, Boston.

White, J 1988, Do Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences add up?, Institute of Education, University of London, London.

Wigfield, Byrnes & Eccles, 2006, Developing during early adolescence, in P.A. Alexander & P.H. Winne (eds), Handbook of educational psychology, Mahwah, New York.