Multiple Intelligences

How Children Learn Best, Part 2 of 10
June 26, 2015 Updated: June 30, 2015
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This series of 10 articles on ‘How Children Learn Best’ is written by Canadian Citizen Pat Kozyra who has been teaching in the classroom for more than 50 years. In the series she will cover a range of topics likely to be of interest to both parents and teachers – topics include Children’s Learning Styles, Multiple Intelligences, the Importance of Music, the Importance of Play and other topics. During the series questions can be posed to Pat and she will choose one to answer each week.
Pat has taught primary grades, vocal music, art resource and gifted education, and she has been a preschool coordinator, English as a Second Language teacher, and has presented courses in Special Education at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.
She offers private tutoring and education workshops, is a freelance writer and has been a repeat guest on a radio program in Hong Kong based on topics from her book ‘Tips and Tidbits for parents and Teachers’.

How important is the theory of multiple intelligences to children’s learning?

Dr. Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences is often referred to as the ‘Seven Ways of Learning’. Below is a brief summary of Gardner’s intelligences. In recent years, more intelligences have come to light, such as the naturalist intelligence and the existential intelligence. Note that Gardner did interviews and brain research on hundreds of people, including stroke victims, prodigies, autistic individuals, and so-called “idiot savants”.

The following are Gardner’s Intelligences with an explanation of each:

1. Verbal /Linguistic Intelligence: These students learn best by verbalizing or hearing and seeing words. They have well developed verbal skills and sensitivity to the sounds, meanings and rhythms of words.
2. Logical/ Mathematical Intelligence: These students explore patterns, categories and relationships by actively manipulating things in a controlled and orderly way. They have the ability to think conceptually and abstractly, and can discern logical or numerical patterns well.
3. Visual/Spatial Intelligence: These students think in images and pictures. They spend free time drawing, designing things, or simply daydreaming. They can visualize accurately and abstractly.
4. Bodily/Kinaesthetic Intelligence: These students communicate very effectively through gestures and other forms of body language. They need opportunities to learn by moving, or acting things out. They can control their body movements and handle objects skillfully.
5. Musical/Rhythmic Intelligence: These students respond to music, both instruments and environmental, and to tonal patterns, rhythms, pitch, and timber.
6. Interpersonal Intelligence: These students understand people. They organize, communicate and mediate. They can detect and respond appropriately to the moods, motivations and desires of others.
7. Intrapersonal Intelligence: These students have a deep awareness of their inner feelings, dreams, ideas and desires. They are in tune with values, beliefs and thinking processes.
8. Naturalist Intelligence: These students have the ability to recognize and categorize plants, animals, and other objects in nature.
9. Existential Intelligence: These students have the ability to discuss deep questions about human existence, such as the meaning of life, why we die, and how we get here.

According to Dr. Gardner, everyone has all the intelligences but in different proportions. You can strengthen, improve and increase an intelligence. Each person has a different intellectual composition. He believes that these intelligences are located in different areas of the brain and can either work independently or together. This is quite a departure from the traditional views of intelligence which are that people are born with a fixed amount of intelligence and that intelligence does not change over a lifetime. In other words, your I Q will always be the same. Note also, that some critics maintain that Bodily- Kinaesthetic and Musical Ability are only talents or aptitudes rather than real intelligences. They also feel it is impractical or utopian for teachers in over-crowded classrooms with a lack of multiple resources to adapt this theory and implement it.

My book “Tips and Tidbits For Parents and Teachers” provides a Multiple Intelligence Survey which anyone can take – parents, teachers and students. They can quickly complete and score it to determine their areas of strength and competency. Another way to take this survey is by computer where websites offer similar opportunities to learn what your strongest intelligence is. Students always enjoy when a teacher shares personal anecdotes with them so teachers, by taking this survey, can share their own strengths with their students which can result in good teacher-pupil report and communication. Proponents of the “Multiple Intelligence Theory” believe that knowing this information can foster learning and problem solving in students. Teachers can structure learning activities around an issue or a question and connect subjects and can develop strategies that allow the students to show many ways of understanding and thus value their uniqueness.

Students can build on their strengths, demonstrate and share their strengths and even become a “specialist”. Think what this can do for self-esteem! Experts say that when you “teach for understanding” your students accumulate positive educational experiences and the capability for creating solutions to problems in life. Some teachers say that students who perform poorly on traditional tests and exams can be turned on to learning when classroom experiences incorporate artistic, athletic and musical activities, so learning is based on students’ needs, interests, and talents. Students enjoy approaching understanding from different angles. One example cited is the following: The problem “What is sand?” has scientific, poetic, artistic, musical, and geographic points of entry for students.

Dr. Gardner believes that when students begin to understand how they are intelligent they begin to manage their own learning and value their strengths. They can be nurtured and strengthened, or even ignored and weakened, but he believes that each individual has all nine intelligences. Note that Multiple Intelligences is not intended to label a student. “It is helpful for teachers to understand how students are intelligent, as well as how intelligent they are.” They can help create opportunities for the student and foster the abilities and strengths.

For all of the above reasons, I feel it is important for both teachers and students to have an awareness about “Multiple Intelligences” and how this awareness can work to their advantage in their education.

Pat Kozyra is the author of “Tips and Tidbits For Parents and Teachers – celebrating 50 years in the classroom and sharing what I have learned”. It is available at Amazon.com books, Barnes and Noble.com , bumps to babes stores in Hong Kong, Swindon Books, Kelly and Walsh (Pacific Place) and Beachside Bookstore in Stanley. If parents or teachers would like to ask advice on a teaching or parenting issue please write to patkozy@hotmail.com.