Gardner’s multiple intelligences took this one step further. He defined an approach that addressed the needs of the individual student, rather than the “one size fits all” approach that was modeled after the early twentieth century factory concept. In her book Differentiation in the Classroom, Carol Ann Tomlinson defined individualized, student-centered instruction as differentiation. While the typical public school still adhered to the old model, teachers began to tailor their lessons to the specific needs of individual students. Mr. Jacobs’ methods, which he was using long before Gardner’s 1983 publication, were differentiated based on his understanding of what Gardner would later call the theory of multiple intelligences.
Mr. Jacobs began teaching in 1937 and noted that he began to intentionally individualize [differentiate] his teaching in the early 1940s. (Jacobs, 1984) The following statements given are testimony to Mr. Jacobs’ student-centered, differentiated approach:
Mr. Jacobs used a differentiated approach to the instruction of his students because of the learning styles of the individual. This approach has a relationship with the concepts found in Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Mr. Jacobs used a wide variety of tools and techniques to address the various learning styles and natural aptitudes and strengths of his students. While the end goal was always the musical product, Mr. Jacobs would use many different approaches to find the most effective manner of achieving this product with each student. His goal was to get the appropriate stimulus in the student’s brain that would facilitate the end musical result. Some students function very well in the realm of verbal/linguistics, so he would have them make up words to the given musical lines, or he would have them try to become “a story teller of sound.” (Jacobs, 1984) For some students, he used devices such as the incentive spirometer or a pinwheel as a visual aid. He would create exercises with these tools, and then would have the student imagine recreating the same effect while playing. One of his favorite methods of finding the stimulus in the brain that would motivate the body into appropriate function was to have the student imagine exactly how their favorite musician would sound on a given note or phrase, and would then have the student focus strongly on recreating that specific sound and musical phrasing while playing.
These now-standard theories in education were woven into the fabric of his pedagogy long before being defined by Gardner and Tomlinson.
You have to be very sensitive to your students’ needs, and to do that you have to in some way be able to equate with the student and if necessary, even try to think like the student; that means you must study their background a little bit. You must have some knowledge of the student—his use of language. To issue a word—if I use the word hypertrophy and the person doesn’t know what it means, then we have to change it into “the growth that occurs as in weight lifting, and so forth.” We have to find words that have meaning and understanding for the student. We can issue messages from now until Doomsday, but if a student can’t receive it there’s no meaning. You have to find how you can equate with a student. (Jacobs, 1984)
It was always—it was very much communicated from person to person rather than from … some kind of a mass media thing. I think that he was really the master of this. He didn’t teach any two people exactly the same thing. I mean there were a certain kinds of basic tools that he gave most everybody, but he really zeroed in on each individual. (Robert Allen Karon, 2016)
In a way, he felt that teaching music was private instruction and that every person was unique. Every person was unique and had to be taught in an addressed matter. (Robert Tucci, 2016)
He approached the student in a certain way. He approached every one of us, I think, as an individual. Individual problems are your problems, and they’re not generalized problems. It’s not like all people from Kentucky can’t jump or something. Jacobs taught absolutely as an individual (Richard Erb, 2013
I would say that the individual is involved in this very, very much. In other words, you go pretty much by what people want to know. There are people who think along different lines—in a sense— than what I do. You have to steer a person into—what would I say—a heavy dominance of the musical thought. (Jacobs, 1984)