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South African Journal of Education

On-line version ISSN 2076-3433
Print version ISSN 0256-0100

S. Afr. j. educ. vol.35 n.2 Pretoria May. 2015 

The relationship between multiple intelligence profiles and reading strategy use of successful English as a Foreign Language (EFL) readers



Orhan lyitoglu; Hasan Aydin

Yildiz Technical University, College of Education, Curriculum and Instruction Department, Davutpasa Campusu, Turkey




This study relied on Sheorey and Mokhtari's (2001) metacognitive knowledge about reading strategies,which was influenced by a number of factors, including previous experiences, beliefs, culture-specific instructional practices and proficiency in a second language (L2). This study is thereby built on the premise that EFL readers' metacognitive awareness of reading strategies was also influenced by their multiple intelligence profiles. The purpose of this study is to explore the integrated impact of multiple intelligences and reading strategies on EFL learners' reading performance. This was an explanatory sequential study, combining quantitative and qualitative research design. A convenience sample of 60 high school EFL learners from one of the Anatolian high schools in Istanbul, Turkey participated in this study. Two quantitative surveys and an achievement test, followed by a qualitative observation checklist, were used in this study to collect the data. The results of the study indicated that females were found to be more successful than males in EFL reading in addition to employing more support and problem solving reading strategies. In addition, this study also found that successful readers in EFL seemed to use more global strategies and tended to support reading strategies if they were dominant in musical, intrapersonal intelligences. Moreover, successful musically or verbally intelligent readers were found to use more problem-solving strategies. As a result, this study provides EFL teachers and curriculum designers with valuable information that will foster awareness of the role of these intelligence-strategy relations may play in triggering success in EFL reading, and thus, in their overall proficiency in the language.

Keywords: EFL reading; multiple intelligences; reading strategies




Gardner (2011) has attempted to carry the differences between the learners into the hearth of educational processes and procedures. Gardner respected each person's capacity to learn, know and explore new things. In this way, as a criticism to the traditional view of intelligence, Gardner took the first step towards a revolution in cognitive psychology, education and philosophy, by embracing the impacts of both culture and society on this concept of multiple intelligences. In this context, it did not seem possible for the researchers interested in foreign language teaching to isolate themselves from the impact of this revolution. In a world where the bridge between the self and others is built with an international language, it seems to be necessary for people to integrate themselves into the globalised world. Therefore, one must be communicatively literate in English, which has come to be accepted as that international language that bridges the different parts of modern world to one another. Consequently, the application of Multiple Intelligence-based (MI-based) instruction of EFL has become a hot topic for researchers. Hence, the sub-skills, or the processes that determine success in learning this important language, English, have undergone extensive research.

Using this perspective, researchers focus on the role of reading as a skill "facilitating the development in other sub-skills of the language learning" (Anderson, 2003:2). The related literature analyses this crucial skill and locates successful reading as being rooted in strategic reading (Anderson, 2003; Block, 1986; Brantmeier, 2002). More specifically, reading, and the processes involved in it, have been commonly explored research areas in both first language (L1) and second language (L2) contexts (Baker & Boonkit, 2004; Block, 1986, 1992; Brown, 2002; Hayashi, 1999; Hosenfeld, 1977, as cited in Brantmeier, 2002; Phakiti, 2003b; Singhal, 2001). However, the success in what has become such a globally important process as mastering reading in EFL is also influenced by some other factors, including the learning and motivational backgrounds of the learners. These all require the application of multiple intelligences, the use of which is believed to increase success in reading in English (Eggen & Kauchak, 1994).

Consequently, by seeing the key of successful teaching as a holistic approach that explores the various intelligence types and learning styles of the students and then teaches them accordingly, this study aims to bring two recent themes together. When we accept the act of reading as a cognitive process in the brain and each of the multiple intelligences as a "unique cognitive profile" (Hajhashemi, Akef & Anderson, 2012:1475), it can be understood that both MI and reading strategies touch on the concept of a problem, as well as providing its solution. This has attracted the attention of educational researchers to the fact that comprehension requires the acquisition of some teachable strategic skills in order for students to become efficient readers in EFL. However, these mentioned skills may differ in respect to dominant intelligence types of the learners (Abdulkader, Gundogdu & Eissa, 2009; Hajhashemi et al., 2012; Heidari & Khorasaniha, 2013; Razmjoo, 2008). Therefore, researchers have suggested teachers train students to master strategies based on their dominant intelligences. This seems to be the first point, where multiple intelligences can be linked to the concept of reading strategies. More specifically, Hajhashemi et al. (2012) argue that there are some reasons and conditions that make it necessary to study the relationship between reading as a skill and multiple intelligences in an Iranian setting. This leads to the second point of this article: the necessity to look at the connection between multiples intelligences and reading skills in a Turkish setting. Contextual concerns in this regard include a lack of native teachers of English at state schools; the necessity for students who wish to study a language-related field at university to learn English at the pre-university level for the sole reason of passing University Entrance Exams For Foreign Language Students (based mainly on assessing the test takers' reading skills) (LYS); and the necessity of learning the language at university or post-university levels so as to attain and comprehend the academic information in the studied area.

Within this perspective, by embracing the integrated impact of multiple intelligences and implementation of certain reading strategies on EFL learners' reading performance, this study will differ from the existing literature. Many previous research studies have been conducted in order to find the relationship between language proficiency, or more specifically reading achievement, and the dominant intelligence types of the subject (Ab-dallah, 2008; Abdulkader et al., 2009; Akbari & Hosseini, 2008; Hajhashemi et al., 2012; Mokhtari & Sheorey, 2002; Razmjoo, 2008; Tahriri & Yamini, 2010; Visser, Ashton & Vernon, 2006), or to investigate the relationship between reading proficiency and reading strategies (Baker & Boonkit, 2004; Block, 1986, 1992; Brown, 2002; Hayashi, 1999; Hosenfeld, 1977, as cited in Brantmeier, 2002; Javier, 1997; Phakiti, 2003b; Singhal, 2001). Other studies have focused on the relationship between learning strategies and multiple intelligences (Hajhashemi, Ghombavani & Amirkhiz, 2011; Rahimi, Mirzaei & Heidari, 2012). However, there is still a limited amount of research that connects these areas. Therefore, this study reflects the attempt to shed light on the relationship between dominant multiple intelligence types and self-reported L2 reading strategy use among successful and unsuccessful male and female high school readers of English in EFL. The main purpose of this study is embodied in the following primary research question:

Which combinations of intelligences and reading strategies can predict success in EFL reading?

Review of Literature

There is no one, widely accepted definition of reading to be found in the relevant literature. Therefore, various definitions of reading must be considered. The simplest definition of reading is proposed by Grabe and Stroller (2002). They define reading as "the ability to draw meaning from the printed page and [to] interpret the information appropriately" (Grabe & Stroller, 2002:9). However, the influence of many studies on EFL reading in the field has given cause for this definition to change. So, new definitions stressing the cognitive nature of the act of reading, which takes place between the reader and the text, have been adopted (Brantmeier, 2002). As a result, through the literature, it can be seen that this new notion of reading changes the roles of the reader. Readers are now regarded as active participants in the reading process, who make and confirm predictions based on their background knowledge and their command of various linguistic levels of metacognitive and cognitive knowledge (Block, 1986; Brown, 2002; Phakiti, 2003b).

Additionally, the deep analysis of the active process involved in EFL reading in EFL, discussion about the strategies, and the classifications of these strategies have all been focal points in the related literature. Consequently, strategies used in the active reading process, described as techniques and methods readers use to make their reading successful, were accepted as a subset of learning strategies (Baker & Boonkit, 2004). Researchers classified these reading strategies in EFL into six different categories. The first classification divides strategies into the three categories as cognitive, meta-cognitive and social/affective, depending on the observations of learners' strategy applications. The second classification further adds compensation strategies (Anderson, 1999; O'Malley & Chamot, 1990). The following classification embraces the first two and then divides reading strategies into direct strategies that include memory, cognitive and compensation strategies, and indirect strategies covering meta-cognitive, affective and social strategies (Oxford, 1990, as cited in Hismanoglu, 2000). The fourth classification divides reading strategies into the text-level (top-down) and word-level (bottom-up) strategies (Brantmeier, 2002). A further classification splits reading strategies into global (general) and local processing strategies. Finally, the last classification labels strategies as pre-reading, while-reading, and after-reading strategies, respectively (Block, 1986).

This study is based on Sheorey and Mokh-tari's (2001:433) assertion that "the reader's meta-cognitive knowledge about reading includes an awareness of a variety of reading strategies and that the cognitive enterprise of reading is influenced by this metacognitive awareness of reading strategies". Moreover, they claim that this awareness includes both awareness of the strategic reading processes and the implementation of reading strategies, which distinguishes the skilled from unskilled readers. Therefore, these researchers developed a survey to measure English as Second Language (ESL) or EFL students' use of reading strategies. This survey model was based on another survey, measuring the strategies of native English speaking students. They suggested three different categories of reading strategies (Mokhtari & Sheorey, 2002):

a) Global Reading Strategies (GLOB): which include intentional and carefully planned generalised reading strategies that help the reader adapt to reading at their own speed and with a purpose, previewing and predicting the topic of the text, etc.

b) Problem Solving Strategies (PROB): more bottom-up specific problem-solving or repair strategies that readers employ when they come across problems in understanding textual information.

c) Support Reading Strategies (SUP): which involve simple strategies such as taking notes, underlining or highlighting the textual information, and using reference materials like dictionaries that help the readers understand the text.

In this respect, the theoretical framework of the study relied on Sheorey and Mokhtari's (2001) view that the reader's metacognitive knowledge about reading strategies may be influenced by their beliefs, culture-specific instructional practices and proficiency in the L2. Thus, this study is built on the premise that EFL readers' metacognitive awareness of reading strategies is also influenced by their multiple intelligence profiles. This notion of multiple intelligences is derived from Gardner's Multiple Intelligences Theory (Gardner, 1983). This theory is based on the following redefinition of intelligence, stated as: "a bio-psychological potential to process information that can be activated in a cultural setting to solve problems or create products that are of value in a culture" (Gardner, 1983:34). This definition emerged in opposition to the traditional definition of intelligence as a general capacity for conceptualisation and problem solving, which can be measured by IQ tests (Visser et al., 2006). Gardner viewed intelligence as "the composite of different abilities and aptitudes" (Akbari & Hosseini, 2008:143) and proposed seven different intelligences: Linguistic, Spatial (Visual), Logical/Mathematical, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Bodily-Kinesthetic, and Musical (Gardner, 1983). This multiple intelligences theory posited that people have these seven intelligences in varying degrees and in unique cognitive profiles, thus enabling them to understand, perceive and express the world and themselves. Furthermore, Gardner later added "naturalistic intelligence in 1999 and suggested that an existential intelligence might exist in 2001, but that a hypothesized [sic] spiritual intelligence does not" (Visser et al., 2006:487). Gardner concluded that this 'spiritual' intelligence did not meet his criteria for intelligence, and was in need of more empirical evidence. He thought this was closer to morality, and that morals did not belong in this classification. Therefore, in this study, the researchers did not consider existential intelligence, which stands for the terms included in spiritual intelligence, as one of the intelligences.

To sum up, the theoretical framework of this study was based on Sheorey and Mokhtari's (2001) view of EFL reading strategies that distinguish skilled readers from the unskilled ones, and Gardner's (1983) theory of multiple intelligences, which introduced a concept of man with multiple abilities, which defines it as "the ability to solve problems, or to create products, that are valued within one or more cultural settings" (Gardner, 1983:x). Hence, to create the basis for future comparison, a discussion and review of the research studies conducted on L2 reading strategies follows, along with a discussion of multiple intelligences in EFL in two parts.

Reading strategy and MI research in EFL With the impact of the shift in the tendency to regard the process of reading and readers themselves as active, a great deal of research has been conducted to identify the possible differences between how both successful and less successful readers comprehend a text, and what strategies they use while reading in English as a second and foreign language (Anderson, 2003; Baker & Boonkit, 2004; Block, 1992; Brown, 2002; Carrel & Eisterhold, 1983; Hayashi, 1999; Hosenfeld, 1977; Javier, 1997; Phakiti, 2003b). Some more recent studies in the literature have focused on the role of gender in EFL reading performance and strategy use (Hajhashemi et al., 2012; Keshavarz & Ashtarian, 2008; Lee, 2012).

The common thread in these studies, despite inconsistent views about the role of gender, is that successful readers are field independent, use top-down strategies rather than bottom-up ones, as well as general rather than local strategies. The researchers also concluded that successful readers use meta-cognitive and cognitive strategies, frequently approaching the text as a problem. (Bharuthram, 2012).

Due to growing interest in learner-centered perspectives in education, a number of efforts were made by researchers to investigate the role of MI theory in language learning, as well as proficiency in its sub-skills such as reading, listening and writing. However, there is a dearth of studies on the link between MI and EFL in Turkey. Most similar studies on MI and EFL, especially reading, were conducted in Iran (Hajhashemi et al., 2012; Hajhashemi et al., 2011; Rahimi et al., 2012; Razmjoo, 2008).

In general, there are very few studies that have been conducted concerning MI and EFL emanating from a Middle East setting. One conducted by Green (1999) indicated that the application of the MI theory improved students' academic achievement and motivation in diverse L2 classrooms. In his qualitative study, he also explored teachers' positive attitudes towards the application of MI reporting, where it helped students achieve higher test scores.

During the second half of the last decade, research of this nature in the Middle Eastern context, especially in Iran, held the goal of understanding the relationship between MI and learning styles, learning/reading strategies or overall performance in EFL or its sub-skills. In this respect, some researchers have attempted to explore MI in EFL in Iran, with its relation to language learning performance and strategies (Abdulkader et al.,2009; Akbari & Hosseini, 2008; Razmjoo, 2008; Tahriri & Yamini, 2010). However, these studies, in which researchers primarily collected data from university students through the use of MI questionnaires and reading strategy scales using a quantitative design, produced inconsistent results. Ak-bari and Hosseini (2008) indicated that linguistic, interpersonal, and logical-mathematical intelligences had a positive relationship with metacognitive, cognitive and memory learning strategies. Moreover, they posited that proficient L2 learners of English had higher verbal/linguistic intelligence. However, Razmjoo (2008), surprisingly, did not find any significant results to support this. On the other hand, Abdulkader et al. (2009) and Tahriri and Yamini's (2010) findings seemed to support Akbari and Hosseini's (2008) results. These researchers found a statistically significant impact of MI-based instruction on the participants' achievement in EFL and, more specifically, on reading comprehension and word recognition skills. Some experimental studies in Turkey also supported the positive role of MI-based instruction played in the levels of students' motivation and success (Ba§, 2010; Demirel, 1998). Some more recent attempts were made by Hajhashemi et al. (2012); Hajhash-emi and Eng (2012); Hashemi (2007); Heidari and Khorasaniha (2013) in Iran, to relate MI to reading proficiency. In these studies, the researchers collected data through the use of questionnaires and reading proficiency tests from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). They indicated that successful EFL readers, who were found to be internally oriented, wanted to learn for the sake of learning. Moreover, successful readers were also found to be more visually, but less musically intelligent. Studies conducted by Hajhashemi, Shakarami, Anderson, Yazdi-Amirkhiz and Zou (2013) and Rahimi et al. (2012) are similar to the present study. However, they investigated the issue in terms of language learning strategies and overall language proficiency, not just reading. Although they aimed to investigate the impact of successful EFL readers' MI profiles on their use of reading strategies, Rahimi et al. (2012) used a learning strategy inventory to explore participants' use of reading strategies. Moreover, they used Oxford's terminology and considered language learning strategies (cognitive, metacognitive, compensation, memory, affective and social) as reading strategies. They indicated that all intelligences except for naturalistic ones, are related to all strategies in varying degrees.

The researchers hypothesise that successful EFL readers use certain reading strategies, and are dominant in certain intelligences. Therefore, this study promises valuable information that will foster awareness of the role of these intelligence-strategy relations in triggering success in EFL reading and, thus, the total proficiency in the language.




This explanatory sequential study is grounded in a mixed method design, in order to scrutinise the relationships among EFL high school students' performances in a reading achievement test, and their reading strategy repertoires and their dominant intelligence types. This type of study is defined by Creswell (2012:542) as "a two-phase model consisting of first collecting quantitative data and then collecting qualitative data to help explain or elaborate on quantitative results". The underlying reason behind the choice of this design was that MI profiles and reading strategies, seem conceptually difficult to explore solely by collecting quantitative data through the administration of an inventory in which the participants give close-ended answers. Therefore, researchers collected qualitative data, and used an observation checklist for teachers. In this way, this study is grounded in a mixed method design so as to better understand the issue.

Research Questions

The following research questions are intended to guide the study in order to determine the relationships among the Multiple Intelligences, reading strategy use, and reading achievement in EFL:

1. Do male and female high school EFL learners differ significantly in terms of their

a. performance in EFL reading,

b. dominant multiple intelligence types and,

c. reading strategy types?

2. Is there a significant relationship between

a. reading strategies employed by the participant high school EFL learners and their performance on an EFL reading comprehension test?

b. reading strategies employed by the participant high school EFL learners and their dominant multiple intelligence types?

c. dominant intelligence types of the participant high school EFL learners and th