It had been a while since I last facilitated any youth training program due to my Atlas Corps Fellowship. So, as the time for my session with Eastern Senior High School students was approaching, I was getting more and more excited everyday. And the fact that this program was exclusively designed for the young minds who could be the potential leaders in future, was only adding up to my excitement.
The program is called “All Roads Lead to Eastern” and was run by Companies for Causes for the students of Eastern Senior High School which is based in Washington DC. It is to support students obtain necessary skills needed for success in their college years and careers. Theory of Multiple Intelligences, which I believed would help them learn better, was to be introduced to this cohort of students on this particular day’s session as a part of this project.
At the very beginning of the session, students were asked to share their feelings about the conventional teaching-learning methods that are generally used in the classrooms. Apparently, there were as much disappointments about the methods as there were appreciations. I have been down the same road so, I thought sharing my story could help. So, I shared about the things I did and did not like about my classroom and it worked. Their sparkling eyes were giving away their interests in learning ‘what’s next’.
In many countries, lecture method is the only method that is used for teaching-learning. There is rote learning and very little scope for critical thinking. Had I not experienced this sort of learning myself, I would never be able to identify the problems of using lecture method and lecture method only in the classroom, and appreciate the Multiple Intelligence Theory by Howard Gardner as I am able to now.
In the mentioned scenario, too often we see students regurgitating the information learned and spit it up later in the tests. So it is more of a memory test for them than it is about understanding of the concept. And this is exactly where many inquisitive minds struggle and fails. These kids are curious, these kids are smart, but one small issue has these kids lose their interest in the whole teaching-learning process. What is that exactly?
Dr. Howard Gardner– an Educational Psychologist illustrated it best through his famous “Theory of Multiple Intelligence”. There are 8 types of learning styles which combine in different proportions in each of us. As we see architects excelling in 3D models, poets excelling in writing poetries, artists excelling in painting, and so on, all can be described by this theory. The following diagram summarizes his theory:
Multiple Intelligences: An issue overlooked
Dr. Howard Gardner, an Educational Psychologist, claimed human to have different types of intelligence in his famous “Theory of Multiple Intelligence”. According to Gardner (1991), “we are all able to know the world through language, logical-mathematical analysis, spatial representation, musical thinking, the use of the body to solve problems or to make things, an understanding of other individuals, and an understanding of ourselves. Where individuals differ is in the strength of these intelligences – the so-called profile of intelligences -and in the ways in which such intelligences are invoked and combined to carry out different tasks, solve diverse problems, and progress in various domains.”
Gardner also says that these differences “challenge an educational system that assumes that everyone can learn the same materials in the same way and that a uniform, universal measure suffices to test student learning. Indeed, as currently constituted, our educational system is heavily biased toward linguistic modes of instruction and assessment and, to a somewhat lesser degree, toward logical-quantitative modes as well.” Gardner argues that “a contrasting set of assumptions is more likely to be educationally effective. Students learn in ways that are identifiably distinctive. The broad spectrum of students – and perhaps the society as a whole – would be better served if disciplines could be presented in a numbers of ways and learning could be assessed through a variety of means.”
To sum up, human beings have different types of intelligence and each individual differs in the strength of those. Some may excel in linguistics, whilst some can thrive in the visual aspects of learning. But as our education system mainly addresses the lecture method and nothing else, students those are brilliant in other sets of skills but not in linguistics are falling behind, despite their abilities in other areas.
The idea of helping the students of Eastern Senior High School is not only to help them be better students at school but also to be better performers at work in the future and be a better individual in general. How would you feel if you have to interact with someone on a regular basis at work or neighborhood who is completely different from you? What if he is good with images and charts (Visual Intelligence) and you are not? What if he is good with numbers and critical thinking (Logical Intelligence) and you are not?
One of the participants – Lashavia shared about her group activity experience. She was concerned about that one time at school when she had to do a group assignment with her peers and the task did not go well. I helped her understand that it might be because of their preferred learning styles and not necessarily due to a lack of motivation. Probably if there were different types of activity introduced, they all could involve themselves and be engaged in the actual learning process. If Lashavia knew about the 8 types of intelligence, she could share it in her group, stimulate them, and help them have a joyful experience.
The same would be true at our jobs. Have you ever found yourself doing things which you do not enjoy much? Knowing about the Theory of Multiple Intelligence can enable you to work it out better for you. For example, if you had a knack of art and if you are required to do a spreadsheet for hours, you can try to make the information more visual by presenting or transforming it in the form of charts and graphs so that you remember the numbers easily.
Similarly, if you saw a teammate in your group assignment not very motivated at the activity, try to analyze his learning styles – is the method that you have implemented to accomplish the task bothering him? If the task requires a lot of discussion then he may not feel motivated as it requires Interpersonal Intelligence. Knowing the Theory of Multiple Intelligences gives you the power to understand the motivation among the others as well as your own and thereby helping each other out to perform better at work. It also helps in identifying the right person for the right tasks! If the team member happens to have ‘Intrapersonal Intelligence’ it means that he likes to work on his own. Try to give him some personal space to really reflect on things and then the team members can meet at a certain point to discuss findings and then collaborate. If he happens to be a logical learner, then you should try to help him out to find reasons and make it interesting through analysis and critical thinking as individuals with Logical Intelligence tend to have fun with reasoning and mathematics.
This website shows the professions that suit best for individuals with different areas of Multiple Intelligence. It is important to note that all of us have different combinations of the areas in different degrees and the later part in this video can help it explain.
This means we have different sets of Intelligences in us – hidden or untapped. We need to recognize and nurture them as it will empower us to adapt at different learning environments and resources provided to us. You can take this quiz to help you understand which areas of Multiple Intelligence you have and which areas you can work on. Good luck with better achievements understanding and applying this amazing theory!