A short note on the Theory of Multiple Intelligence

A short note on the Theory of Multiple Intelligence

There has been wide divergence among psychologists about the nature of role of intelligence in learning processes. Earlier intelligence quotient was taken be the real measure of one’s intelligence. But, now there is another development in the field of learning, which has far reaching implication for educational field. In 1983, Dr. Howard Gardner1, a psychologist and professor of education at Harvard University, suggested in his book, “Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences”, that there are several kinds of intelligences or multiple intelligences, which help people communicate, problem-solve and create. Multiple intelligences are different ways to demonstrate intellectual ability. These intelligences form the base for identification of the nature of learning process of a person.

Multiple intelligence and learning Styles
One of the important conclusions of the multiple intelligence theory is that every child has a unique learning style. Learning style means the method by which a person acquires and communicates knowledge.2 Once learning style is identified, it would be easier for us to select learning methods and materials child will enjoy using because it `fits’ with his or her way of learning.

Proponents of this multiple learning style theory say that it explains why some children learn ” 1,2,3s” by looking at a book, while others learn by singing a song about numbers and still others learn from manipulating objects.

Most children fit into several of these categories of learning styles. Good teacher should use a wide variety of teaching approaches in presenting new subject matter in hope of sparking interest in different learners.

How do a parent or teacher determines which specific learning styles work best for a child? First, let us watch and observe the child in a learning situation.

What does he/she like to do?

What excites the child?

When left alone, what does the child wants to do?

Next, such observations should be compared with the learning styles defined below, and we will be able to figure out, which is the appropriate one. Now, we must help the child with appropriate learning materials.

Similarly, a learning material can be rated very high by an educationist, but child could hate it. Why? It’s probably because the learning material is not addressing his/her learning style. For example, the Bodily/ Kinesthetic child would probably hate (or say they are “bored” by) a product that is perfectly suited for the Verbal/Linguistic child. Once we know what kind of learner we have, we can design educational materials and games suitable for the child.

Seven styles of learning
Within the education community, Gardner’s3 theory of multiple intelligences have been translated into a recognition that children excelling in certain “intelligences” learn best in one of these seven different styles of learning.

In this sense, information through various sensory organs are received in the brain through different ways of knowing and production, which can be identified as

  • Verbal
  • Logical
  • Spatial
  • Rhythmic
  • Kinesthetic
  • Interpersonal
  • Intrapersonal

Verbal / linguistic intelligence/ style
This is primarily responsible for learning through language and language related matters. It is related to the ability to use words and language. They think in words, rather than pictures. The learners having verbal learning style have highly developed auditory skills and are generally elegant speakers.

It includes learning through skills of listening, reading, writing, speaking, teaching, explaining, editing, poetry, humour, story telling, grammar, metaphors, similes, abstract reasoning, symbolic thinking, conceptual patterning, remembering informations in the form of words, convincing someone of their point of view, analysing language usage, etc.

The learners of verbal learning style would learn best, when we employ activities, which

  • use reading of letters in any way
  • have word games
  • work with interactive storybooks
  • utilise journals
  • make use of written clues.

With a better verbal/linguistic intelligence or people with verbal learning style develop into poets, journalists, writers, teachers, lawyers, translators, storytellers, playwrights, novelists, public speakers, politicians, etc.

Logical / Mathematical intelligence/style

This type of intelligence is most often associated with what we call scientific thinking. It includes inductive reasoning, although deductive thinking is also involved in the process. The learners of this learning style develop ability to use reason, logic and numbers. They think conceptually in logical and numerical patterns making connections between pieces of information. Always curious about the world around them, these learners ask lots of questions and like to do lot of experiments.

With better logical intelligence, people have the capacity to recognise patterns, work with abstract symbols (such as numbers and geometrical shapes) and discern relationships and/or see connections between separate and distinct pieces of information. Their skills include problem solving, classifying and categorizing information, working with abstract concepts to figure out the relationship of each to the other, handling long chains of reason to make local progressions, doing controlled experiments, questioning and wondering about natural events, performing complex mathematical calculations, working with geometric shapes.

Kids with this learning style like to experiment, test, and look for patterns, sequences and relationships. Handling information with accuracy and testing theories are fun for this group. They thrive when information is served to them in the form of.

  • Puzzles
  • Sequencing activities
  • Math games
  • Experiments
  • Logic games
  • Strategy games

This intelligence is visible in scientists, computer programmers, accountants, lawyers, engineers, researchers, accountants, and of course in mathematicians.

Visual / Spatial intelligence

This intelligence, basically, deals with such things as visual arts (including painting, drawing & sculpture), navigation, mapmaking and architecture (which involve the use of space & knowing how to get around in it). It also involves games like Chess, Chinese Checkers, etc., which require the ability to visualise objects from different angles and perspectives. The key sensory base of this intelligence is the sense of sight, but it also involves the ability to form mental images and pictures in mind. This leads to development of ability to perceive the visual. These learners tend to think in pictures and need to create vivid mental images to retain information. They enjoy looking at maps, charts, pictures, videos, and movies.

Their skills include puzzle building, reading, writing, understanding charts and graphs, a good sense of direction, sketching, painting, creating visual metaphors and analogies (perhaps through the visual arts), manipulating images, constructing, fixing, designing practical objects, interpreting visual images.

These children need to see things to learn. They enjoy visuals of all kinds. They think in terms of visuals and reduce every thing in terms of pictures. Painting, drawing and building things interest this type of learner. These kids literally see the world through their eyes. Seeing makes it real. The most productive learning occurs, when they can use:

  • Images
  • Maps or charts
  • Mazes
  • Puzzles
  • Videos
  • Models

This intelligence is clearly visible in such people as artists, painters, sculptors, graphic design artists, cartographers, industrial designers, draftspersons, navigators, sculptors, visual artists, inventors, interior designers, mechanics, engineers and architects.

Body / Kinesthetic intelligence
It is an ability to use the body to express emotion (as in dance and body language), to play a game (as in sports) and to create a new product (as in crafts & invention). It is, basically, related to doing things with our loco-motor system. It empowers a person to develop ability to control body movements and handle objects skillfully. These learners express themselves through movement. They have a good sense of balance and eye-hand co-ordination. (e.g. ball play, balancing beams). Through interaction with the space around them, they are able to remember and process information. In fact, our body knows many things, which our minds do not and can not know in other way. For example, it is our bodies that know how to type, ride a bicycle, stitch a cloth, skate on rollers and Parallel Park a car.

Their skills include dancing, physical co-ordination, sports, hands on experimentation, using body language, crafts, acting, miming, using their hands to create or build, expressing emotions through the body.Using their hands, feet and whole body is the way these children learn the best. With these kids, we should get something like Cuisinaire rods, when they are ready to learn Maths. Kinesthetic learners enjoy role-playing, hands-on activities and fixing things. In addition, they flourish, when provided with anything physical, such as:

  • Fast-paced action activities
  • Games that challenge hand-eye co-ordination
  • Things to build or create with crafts
  • Outdoor sporting events.

Learning by doing has been one of the ancient ways of education. Kinesthetic intelligence basically refers to this method of learning.

Learners of this intelligence can develop into actors, dramatists, athletes, mimes, professional dancers, craftsmen inventors, physical education teachers, dancers, fire-fighters, and artisans.

Musical / Rhythmic intelligence
It includes such capacities as the recognition and use of rhythmic and tonal patterns and sensitivity to sound from the environment, the human voice and musical instruments. Many of us have learnt alphabets, tables and many complicated grammatical and other difficult set of facts through musical and rhythmic patterns. Of all forms of intelligence, the `conscious altering’ effect of music and rhythm on the brain is the greatest. This intelligence, basically, leads to development of ability to produce and appreciate music. These musically inclined learners think in sounds, rhythms and patterns. They immediately respond to music either appreciating or criticizing what they hear. Many of these learners are extremely sensitive to environmental sounds (e.g. crickets, bells, dripping taps).

Their skills include singing, whistling, playing musical instruments, recognizing tonal patterns, composing music, remembering melodies, understanding the structure and rhythm of music

These children learn best in a musical environment. They are sensitive to rhythm and melody and will derive joy from playing an instrument or singing. They can make `drums’ out of anything available, when they were toddlers. They probably think in terms of sounds, rhythms and patterns. Musical learners, even though they themselves sometimes tend to be a bit on the quiet side, do well when the learning involves music playing in the background.

Such children can learn best, when they are given learning materials in the form of musical songs. If they have to be taught lessons on science, even that should be converted into songs.

This is why in our traditional method of learning, musical and rhythmic method of learning was given greater importance. It’s a common experience that we are able to memorise larger number of songs and tunes than what we are able to memorise through essays and other such literary materials. Shlokas and Richas of Vedas were memorised for several millennia only by virtue of their rhythmic compositions.

This intelligence is highly developed in advertising people, who write catchy jingles to sell a product, dance bands, professional musicians, disc jockey, singers, composers, and music teachers.

Interpersonal intelligence

This intelligence, basically, involves the ability to understand other people: what motivates them, how they work, how to work co-operatively with them. This intelligence leads to the development of ability to relate and understand others. These learners try to see things from other people’s point of view in order to understand how they think and feel. They often have an uncanny ability to sense feelings, intentions and motivations. They are great organizers, although they sometimes resort to manipulation. Generally, they try to maintain peace in group- settings and encourage co-operation. They use both verbal (e.g. speaking) and non-verbal language (e.g. eye contact, body language)  to open communication channels with others.

This empowers them to work co-operatively with others in a group as well as the ability to communicate verbally and non-verbally with other people. It is built upon the capacity to notice distinctions among others, for example, contrasts in moods, temperament, motivations and intentions.

In the more advanced forms of this intelligence one can literally `pass over’ into another’s perspective and `read’ their intentions and desires. Such people have genuine empathy for another’s feelings, feelings, fears, anticipations and beliefs. Their skills include seeing things from others’ perspectives (dual-perspective), listening, using empathy, understanding other people’s moods and feelings, counseling, co-operating with groups, noticing people’s moods, motivations and intentions, communicating both verbally and non-verbally, building trust, peaceful conflict resolution, establishing positive relations with other people.

These types of learners like to learn with other people. They do best in the classrooms, when they can

  • work co-operatively on activities
  • engage in-group discussions
  • interact with other people

This form of intelligence is highly developed in such people as counsellors, teachers, therapists, salespersons, politicians and religious leaders. Since such people have the ability to influence others, they are great motivators also.

Intrapersonal intelligence
Such intelligence holds the key to self-knowledge. It involves knowledge of the internal aspects of the self, such as knowledge of feelings, the range of emotional responses, thinking processes, self-reflection and a sense of or intuition about spiritual realities. It helps develop ability to self-reflect and be aware of one’s inner state of being. These learners try to understand their inner feelings, dreams, relationships with others, and strengths and weaknesses.

It allows us to be conscious of our consciousness; i.e. to step back from ourselves and watch ourselves as an outside observer. It involves our capacity to experience wholeness and unity, to discern patterns of connections with the larger order of things to perceive higher states of consciousness to experience the lures of the future and to dream of and actualise the possible. It is the capacity to form an accurate, vertical model of oneself and to be able to use that model to operate effectively in life. In fact, such intelligences have been instrumental in learning in ancient India. The process of meditation and Yoga basically helps in the development of such intelligence.

Their skills include recognising their own strengths and weaknesses, reflecting and analysing themselves, awareness of their inner feelings, desires and dreams, evaluating their thinking patterns, reasoning with themselves, understanding their role in relationship to others

These children learn best on an independent basis and through introspection. They enjoy self-directed activities and are independent. They like to work at their own pace and are self-starters. Because the Intrapersonal child likes to learn alone, we must design teaching-learning materials that:

  • challenge independent thinking
  • can be played alone
  • are self-paced
  • may require research
  • involve trial and error

This intelligence is highly developed in philosophers, psychiatrists, theorists, spiritual counsellors and gurus and cognitive pattern researchers.

These seven ways of knowing may be conceived as seven methods of receiving informations. These are like filters, which allow or disallow the information to pass through them to brain. Since these filters are in different measures in different persons, each person has a unique learning style. Such learning styles are basically combination of one or more such filters. For example, we may have persons who are more familiar and efficient in learning through spatial and kinesthetic methods. Such persons are basically learners through pictures and body language. If such persons were given instructions through pictorial and activity methods, they would have better receptivity than when they are instructed through verbal or logical methods.

Learning style also refers to the potentiality of a child to present his ideas in a creative way. The seven styles also refer to seven ways of presenting ideas for communication to others. A child of spatial learning style would find it easy to make a painting or draw a sketch to present his ideas.

It would be interesting to note that logical/mathematical and verbal/linguistic intelligence forms the basis for most systems of western education. It also forms the basis of all kinds of standardised testing programs. As a result, only a part of our intelligence system is developed in the process. Creative learning process, basically, requires development of all types of intelligence to the optimum level.

Hence, for creative development, it will be important to understand the learning style of particular child, which should be used to develop his learning ability.

Enhancing learning ability
The main objective of any learning programme is to enhance learning ability of a person. In light of the new insights into the learning process of a person, we would try to see how this could be done.

It should be noted that these learning styles are not watertight. A child may have mixed learning styles comprising of one or more learning styles.

In view of multi-intelligence concept learning of a person will depend on the informations being received through different intelligence channels. In other words, total informations received by a person can be expressed as

Lo =Lv + LL + LR + LS+ LK + LIntra+ LInter
Where, Lo = Total information received in the brain

Lv = Information received through Verbal methods

LL = Information received through Logical methods

LR = Information received through Rhythmic methods

LS = Information received through Spatial methods

LK = Information received through Kinesthetic methods

LIntra= Information received through Intrapersonal methods

LInt= Information received through Interpersonal methods

So, total learning of a person depends on the functioning of various intelligence channels.

Learning efficiency
The learning efficiency would depend on the rate of informations received through various areas of intelligence. To calculate the rate of receipt of informations through different areas, let us differentiate the function Lo with respect to time.

dLo/dt= dLv/dt+ dLL/dt+ dLR/dt+ dLS/dt+dLK/dt+dLIntr /dt+dLInter/dt

This implies that rate of receipt of information would depend on the efficiency of the intelligence methods. As different persons have different learning styles, efficiency of different intelligence methods would be different.

The learning style basically denotes the intelligence method through which a learner is able to gather maximum information in minimum time. Hence, for proper transaction of curriculum it would be imperative to develop teaching learning materials in different learning methods so that each child receives the material through his own learning style.

Attempt should be made to develop different intelligence channels of the information available to a person. If a person is deficient in certain areas of intelligence, one should concentrate on the existing areas of intelligence only. For example, a blind learner is not able to see, so he would not be able to learn visully. Thus, his language learning would be dependent on auditory verbal mode. The language signs then take help of tectitle learning, as in Braille script..

As different children have different learning styles, they receive information through different methods in their brain. A spatial child receives information through spatial methods, so even mathematics has to be taught to him/her through spatial techniques otherwise the achievement level would be low. He/she would be able to understand any subject in a better way through paintings, visual aids, geometrical methods, etc. Similarly, kinesthetic children need the curriculum to be transacted through actual body movements, physical activities, hand work, etc. So, the methods must be developed to transact mathematical concepts through kinesthetic techniques.

Thus we should design teaching learning techniques which takes care of learners of different learning styles.As learners generally have mixed learning styles, we should develop teaching learning methods which may address to as many learning styles as possible.

Further, it would also be necessary to develop relevant teaching learning materials in the contexual set up of the child. If the child spends lot of time in the field rearing the cattle, or moving in forest we should develop teaching learning materials which he/she can use in the field. This would help the child in using all his energy and time for learning.

Teaching learning methods and materials also need to be developed to take care of family vocation and and environment. if the elementary learning does not take care of this relevance child may find the atmosphere to be alien and may not develop a sense of respect for himself and his surrounding.This may ultimately lead to inferiority complex resulting into serious disorder in personality. Thus there is a great need to use local materials and cultural methods in elementary learning. If broomsticks are used in the family, elementary learning may use of in developing various competencies. If ladies knit sweaters, mathematics or any other subject may use knitting process as a taeching learning method.

As we have already indicated earlier, our teaching learning methods are heavily dependent on verbal and logical intelligence. Hence, many children whose verbal and logical intelligence are low are termed as poor achievers. A person like Sachin Tendulkar, whose kinesthetic intelligence is very high, may not get good grades in the present system of leraning. So for such learners we must have teaching based on kinesthetic mode.Similarly, a person like Lata Mangeshkar may be termed as poor achievers in the present system of education, but if the teaching method is changed to rhythmic style, same learner may become very high achiever. This leads us to have a fresh look at the entire teaching and learning methodology.

In light of the theory of multiple intelligence the teaching learning methodology should be different for different learning styles. Hence, there is a need to divide learners into various groups or sections based on their learning styles rather than on the merit based on language or mathematical skills only. Then all subjects can be taught in a class mainly through that particular learning style. For example, for a kinesthetic section learners would be taught mathematics, language, science and social studies maily through kinesthetic methods. It should be clarified that in the kinesthetic section not all classes would be taken in kinestheic way but majority of class would be taken this way only. This ideal situation is difficult to achieve as it requires large resource base.

So there is another alternative. We can develop a system in which everyday a child is exposed to materials through all intelligence methods. It would require teaching language in spatial method , mathematics through verbal method, science through rhythmic method and so on in the same day. Next day the language may be taught through interpersonal method, mathematics through rhythmic method, science through verbal method and so on. Lazear has illustrated seven new methods of teaching based on multiple intelligence.4

1.Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of Mind: The Theory of multiple intelligences. New York: Harper and Row.

2. Do

3. Lazear, David (1991) Seven Ways of teaching: The artistry of teaching with multiple intelligences. Illinois, Skylight Publishing 

4. Do

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