Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Multiple Intelligences

In additional to understanding your students and your own learning styles, it is helpful to be aware of current research related to multiples intelligences. Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory is a relatively recent influence on education.  Traditional views of intelligence favored particular cognitive processes, including certain types of problem solving (mathematical-logical intelligence) and language abilities (linguistic intelligence). According to Gardner (1983), however, these are just two types of intelligence. Five  other intelligences—musical, visual-spatial, bodily kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal—must be considered. Gardner later added two additional intelligences, naturalist and existential.

The following definitions describe each intelligence and the related occupations and directions an intelligence might take. These are by no means the only examples, nor does the development of any one intelligence suggest the exclusion of others. All healthy people possess all the intelligences, which they blend in various ways when they create products or perform meaningful roles or tasks. Gardner also asserted that although each individual possesses all eight intelligences, she may excel in some areas and struggle in others. Gardner identified cultural and gender differences in the expression of the intelligences. Therefore, teachers should plan activities that address all areas of learning so that each student has an opportunity to show his or her abilities.

Verbal-Linguistic intelligence—This intelligence type is one of the most favored in schools.  Linguistic intelligence involves the ability to communicate and use language in a variety of ways—through speaking, writing, and reading. They are also fond of rhymes and have an enhanced sensitivity to sounds.  Solving word puzzles, role playing and storytelling are also a favorite pastime activity.  These learners learn best when saying, hearing, seeing words.  Students who enjoy playing with language, telling stories, and who quickly acquire foreign languages exhibit linguistic intelligence. People with this intelligence type often seek out careers such as editors, journalists, politicians, teachers, writers, or actors.

Logical-Mathematical intelligence
—Schools also favor this intelligence type. Logical-mathematical intelligence is involved when we order objects, assess their quantity, and make statements about the relationships among them. Logical-mathematical learners use reason, logic, and numbers to make connections with information.  These learners are inquisitive and will use experimentation to arrive at the answer.  They are problem-solvers who can work through abstract concepts to categorize and classify information.  Performing mathematical calculations and arranging geometric shapes helps them to figure out the relationships between information. Scientists, mathematicians, and philosophers all display strength in these areas. You can observe this intelligence in students who can carry out complex calculations in their heads, enjoy finding patterns in shapes and numbers, and excel at making logical arguments. Career paths for these people include computer programmers, scientist, researchers, engineers, and accountants.

Musical intelligence—We put into practice musical intelligence when we create and perceive sound patterns. These learners understand and process patterns and relationships between sounds.  They are very aware of pitch, tone, melody, rhythm and other auditory information.  They may be heard humming, singing, or taping their foot to a beat.  These learners learn best through spoken instruction and other auditory means.  They may use jingles or rhymes to help them remember information.  Students who sing well, enjoy making rhythmic sounds, and can distinguish between notes are displaying musical intelligence. Composers, singers, conductors, and musicians exhibit this intelligence, as do poets and others who use word sounds and rhythms in their writing.

Spatial/Visual intelligence—We use spatial intelligence when we perceive a form or object (either visually or through touch), when we remember visual or spatial information, and when we recognize and imagine objects from different angles (Gardner, 1985). Spatial ability is often assessed by having people copy shapes or match one visual image with another. Spatially intelligent learners excel at reading maps, completing jigsaw puzzles, repairing machinery, and drawing diagrams.  These learners often have good visual memory for details and are good at visual problem solving. Spatial intelligence can be observed in students who understand and can create visual images of their understanding— like charts, diagrams, or maps—as well as students who are drawn to the visual arts.  Architects, mechanics, and engineers possess strong spatial abilities.

Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence—Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence is visible when people use their bodies to create products or solve problems. Students strong in bodily-kinesthetic abilities show good coordination and gross motor skill—on the stage or playing field—or the fine motor skills involved in making models or sculptures. They learn best by using their tactile sense and movement as part of the learning process.  They prefer direct contact with what they are learning rather than reading about the process.  These learners remember more of what they are exposed to when they can use it in an active way. Athletes, surgeons, dancers, choreographers, and craftspeople display competency in this area.

Interpersonal intelligence—People exhibit interpersonal intelligence when they display an awareness or sensitivity to others’ feelings and intentions. Students exhibit this intelligence when they collaborate well, when they show thoughtfulness and sensitivity toward their friends, and when they interact with ease with others of all ages.  They learn best when using their people skills as part of the learning process.  Interaction with others through committees, group projects, and other interpersonal communication is preferred by the interpersonal learner.  Teachers, parents, politicians, psychologists, and salespeople rely on interpersonal intelligence in their work.

Intrapersonal intelligence—Intrapersonal intelligence helps individuals to “distinguish among their own feelings, to build accurate mental models of themselves, and to draw on these models to make decisions about their lives” (Kreshevsky & Siedel, 1998). Self starters, independent workers, inwardly focused, and following their on instincts is a good description of this learner. Students who understand their strengths and weaknesses have an awareness of their own emotional states, and are thoughtful when they make decisions about their lives are displaying intrapersonal intelligence.  The learning environment that best engages this intelligence style uses tutorials; self paced courses; and interactive computer games.  They enjoy self-reflection, higher order reasoning, and are good at analyzing their own strengths and weaknesses. Therapists, philosophers, poets, and religious leaders may exhibit strength in this intelligence.

Naturalistic intelligence—Naturalistic intelligence allows people to recognize and classify species and other aspects of their environment. These learners have keen sensory skills that keep them more in touch with the natural world.  They have the ability to notice things in the environment that others may miss.  Their interest focuses around plants and animals and they often keep scrapbooks and journals about what they have observed around them.  They enjoy observing nature and find it easy to learn and remember characteristics and names of animals and plants.  They learn best when they are actively involved with plants and animals.  Farmers, veterinarians, gardeners, botanists, geologists, florists, and archaeologists all exhibit this intelligence.

Existential Intelligence – These learners look at life’s “big picture,” focusing on the meaning of life and questioning who else may live in the galaxy.  They focus on their existence and how to make their lives meaningful.  “Does God exist?” and “Is there life after death?” would be some of the questions that you would hear these learners ask.  These learners learn best when they can manage their own learning.  They work well independently, and are good at evaluating their own performance.  They will sometimes have difficulty accepting their mistakes and adapting to others expectations.  Psychiatrists, philosophers, ministers, and counselors all exhibit this intelligence.

Multiple intelligences theory shows promise in developing appropriate instructional strategies for students who do not fit the traditional mold or do not excel in the math or linguistic areas. This theory also provides insight into how we can better meet the different learning styles of the Net Generation.


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