ENGAGING MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES
Balancing the learning experience by engaging learners in ways that play to their strengths while also challenging them to develop other intelligences.
The key questions for this pillar are:
- How are we structuring the the learning experience so students can thrive as unique learners?
- How are we preparing our community of learners for potential learning challenges?
Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences has been transformational in terms of how teachers and students view learning. The video below gives a brief overview of the various intelligences outlined in Gardner’s theory and features a school in Gainesville, GA that has built its curriculum around the idea of multiple intelligences.
Click here to watch an extended interview with Howard Gardner
As with most theories, the idea of multiple intelligences is not without its critics. Some warn against curricula being designed around only those intelligences where the students are strong. In fact, that has been the pit fall of traditional education in the first place – it tends to focus on and emphasizes just a couple of these intelligences – mostly the logical/mathematical intelligence and the verbal/linguistic intelligence (think lecture based classrooms), which Gardner refers to as the “lawyer smart”.
Focusing on just one or two intelligences, even if they are not the ones favored in traditional education, is problematic because all the intelligences are important. Strengthening and engaging all intelligences empowers students to tackle the myriad challenges and pursue the various opportunities they will encounter outside of school. Understanding and integrating multiple intelligences into how we teach helps to exercise and challenge the brain in diverse way, as opposed to training the brain in just one or two ways of learning.
The key for peace education, then, is about being more self-aware of our practice as educators. Are we conscious of the various smarts and intelligences our students are bringing into the learning space? Are we challenging ourselves as educators to create lesson plans, activities, and assignments that engage the various ways in which we know students learn?
Keeping these questions in mind also plays an integral role in creating safe learning environments where students, and their diverse learning styles, are acknowledged and welcomed. No student should feel like the classroom is a place that denies them opportunities to engage with knowledge in ways that resonate with their learning styles. And every student should know that they will be supported by their classmates and their teacher if and when they are asked to practice a learning style that may be particularly challenging for them.
So, how are you smart? Click here to take a multiple intelligence quiz (of which there are many), and see what kinds of intelligences you posses?
Reflection Question: Do you feel the results of your multiple intelligence quiz were accurate? How, if at all, does multiple intelligence theory make you think differently about teaching and learning?
- Gardner, Howard. Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons in Theory and Practice.
- Gardner, Howard. The Five Minds of the Future.
- Edutopia. Arts Integration for Deeper Learning in Middle School.
- Multiple Intelligence Quiz (literacyworks.org)
- Multiple Intelligence Quiz (Birmingham Grid for Learning)
- Multiple Intelligence Quiz (printable)
My results showed that I learn best interpersonally. I learn best when I can interact with my teacher one on one in a dialogue. I want my teacher to understand where I am coming from and as an undergrad I make sure I visit each professor’s office hours at least once. In general I am a good “student”– I am a good reader and I also have good listening skills but things really stick with me when I am able to talk about them with someone else.
I think teaching to multiple personalities is a great idea. The pitfall is making sure that you don’t use the wrong method at the wrong time. I’ve had teachers who want you to share with a partner about something that is relatively easy to grasp through lecture or homework.
I was a little bit surprised by my results from the survey. Although I know that I do a lot of self reflection, and I am constantly questioning, analyzing and thinking about how I’m doing, or where I’m going next I didn’t realize that my intra-personal learning was so high (88%). I was not surprised that I am a musical, and kinesthetic learner, but I guess previously I didn’t think of those as learning ‘smarts’. In high school we did a series of these tests, but they were more narrowly focused–visual, oral, written etc. Now thinking back, those tests were meant to help us study for exams, and prepare us for “college” classes that would be traditionally lecture based with midterm exams and final exams. Little, did I know that I would be in so many small classes with discussions, community based learning etc!
Ki’tay: Top Results: 81% Interpersonal and 81% Intrapersonal
I would firmly say that my quiz results matches my personality. I tend to be a very analytical, observant and self aware individual. Nevertheless, the results of my quiz does not truly alter the way in which I see multiple intelligences in terms of teaching and learning. I am a strong believer and advocate for multiple intelligence. Mostly, this is due to my involvement in disability justice and ensuring that we respect and value the varying manner in which people go about their daily life. I see disability as such a valuable and important part of human diversity and when we apply this mindset to education we begin to understand and appreciate the varying manners that one can learn and develop.
I feel like the results of my quiz were extremely accurate. I took two different quizzes and came out with the same results. In some ways it clarified things for me but in others it confused me a bit. For instance, my strongest intelligence was “nature smart”. I always knew this was an interest of mine but I am not sure I understand how to use that as a way to teach non-nature themed ideas. It suggested teaching outside but for me that would be distracting because I’d be more interested in the nature around me rather than what we were being taught.
I was unsurprised that I scored 75% as a linguistic learner. I thought it was interesting, though, that I scored 56% as both a intrerpersonal and intrapersonal learner. That goes to show that some people really do benefit equally from different types of learning, even when they may seem opposite. I think it is important to realize that people aren’t just one type of learner. This is helpful to know because it saves teachers from worrying too much about varying their lesson plans to accommodate a large group of learners, since a common assumption is that different students learn different ways. Every student can benefit at least a little from any sort of teaching that is focused towards self reflection.
My top intelligences were tied for first: visual-spatial and naturalistic. This doesn’t surprise me because I’ve realized for a long time that I learn best through visual activities (not necessarily artistic, but if I see something it ‘sticks’). I’d like to know more about what having a “naturalistic” intelligence means, though…
I’m hesitant to put much store in this theory. I often answer quizzes with my ideal learning self in mind, which might explain why I scored relatively high in most of the other categories too! But I think this reveals that while we all have learning preferences/intelligences, most of us also have the potential to stretch our minds a bit and try to learn in a different way.
I feel the results of the test were fairly accurate. I attempt to be aware of multiple intelligences and design curriculum around the learning styles of my students – in both learning and assessment. I have noticed that the intelligences I test for are often varied depending on the test. I have a musical background and in the more detailed assessments this seems to come out more. The 8% bodily-kinesthetic that I scored was pretty much dead-on.
What may be difficult to overcome with implementing such a philosophy is when the students interests do not match up with their particular intelligences. I was never going to be a professional basketball player – or really a successful rec-league basketball player. I recognized this around my middle school years and chose to pursue music instead; however, if you had asked me what my intelligence should be in the third grade, I may have tried to convince you it was bodily-kinesthetic.
Interests do not always equate to intelligences, however, when you are dealing with students of any age it is necessary to respect the interests – no matter the restrictions we inherently place on one another. Though, that is a topic for another discussion.
Beth Jimerson. I think that the quiz on multiple intelligences was quite accurate yet not extremely helpful for me. I seemed to score pretty evenly on all of the intelligences- there wasn’t anything that was really low or really high. I guess that means I am an extremely well-rounded person? 😉 I scored highest on linguistic, inter and intra-personal, logical mathematical and musical. Those seem pretty accurate although I was surprised to score the same for inter and intra-personal as I usually view these as describing two different kinds of people/learners. But, reading the descriptions I can see a bit of both in me and my learning /teaching styles. I was surprised that I didn’t score higher on bodily-kinesthetic as I see myself as a ‘mover’. Perhaps I am a ‘mover’ in real life but it doesn’t correlate with my learning. I was also surprised not to score higher on visual-spatial as I usually consider myself a visual learner. I think that these exercises are interesting to understand how people learn but I also think that sometimes the questions lend themselves to answering them in a way that you would like to think about yourself but perhaps is not completely accurate.
Richard Cambridge: The results actually confirm what I thought/know of my Intelligencies. I was generally persuaded by Gardner’s theory and impressed by what was shown in the video. However, I kept thinking of the wealth of resources available to that school as compared to the “typical” school I have encountered in low-income countries and communities. There is a challenge to this practice in situations of tight budgets and limited resources. The first step however, is for the educator/teacher/facilitator to recognize and understand that there are multiple intellegencies among and between the learners.
My results were not much of a surprise to me – my highest scores were a tie between intrapersonal and logical-mathematical. I have always been a problem solver, and someone who likes to ask questions, find solutions, and reflect. I also see myself as an intrapersonal learner because of my preference to self-manage and to monitor my progress regularly.
Multiple intelligence theory makes me think differently about teaching and learning because it offers a perspective based on strengths, as opposed to many theories that highlight weaknesses/lesser-strengths. I found it refreshing to watch the video when the students talked about their “smarts” and not their deficiencies. While I favor giving students the opportunity to capitalize on their strengths, I do think it is important to challenge students to work to develop the capacity to learn in all of the different learning styles.
My top score was in logical-mathematical, which was not at all surprising. I was a science major and now I teach math and these methods of teaching (which I saw for most of my career as a student) always worked for me. However, since I started teaching, the idea of multiple intelligences has really shaped my instruction. I found this to be especially true when working with my population with specific learning disabilities. I’ve had students who would not be able to order integers, for example, without actually walking it out on our floor number line. That being said, I agree with the above-mentioned criticism that children have to be able to build up all intelligences and not just what they are most comfortable doing.
Daniel Knoll: The highest score on my Multiple Intelligence quiz is Interpersonal Learner, which does not surprise me at all. I absolutely love to interact with people, helping them solve problems and leading large groups. I particularly like when it mentioned that I like to talk out problems, which is exactly what I do with any problem I may be facing. Two thoughts come to mind when I look at the results of my quiz. First, while I had %100 rating for Interpersonal, I had high scores for a handful of other styles, and it is important to remember that my learning style is made up of a number of different styles that work together. The second thought is that I worry that sometimes I may not be able to connect with people with different intelligences because they way I connect with information and succeed as a learner is not the way they succeed in the same situation. It is important to me to learn how to interact with people with different intelligences.
The quiz echoed what I’ve known and professed about myself for a while: 1. interpersonal, 2. intrapersonal, 3. linguistic. I’m an English Teacher, after all. I like to burrow into books and text and then come right back out to tell everyone what I think (loudly and with exuberance).
I’ve been apprised of Gardner’s multiple intelligences for years now and still struggle with how to incorporate them into my teaching in a meaningful way. My awareness of them always seems to take a back seat to my awareness of… Common Core State Standards, Unit Assessments, and finding the path of least resistance with my truculent students. This is not good, not a source of pride, but it’s my candid truth. Nevertheless, I continue to consider the multiple intelligences, I take a pulse check with each lesson, I encourage the students to come out of their comfort zones and try out a new style (“you might like it!”), but for me – it’s much easier considered than completed.
My strongest intelligence (Interpersonal) was pretty accurate. Overall I think the quiz results were as I expected them to be. It seems very important for teachers and practitioners to incorporate the multiple intelligences into the classroom and activities. Not only does it seem to help students grasp concepts in more holistic ways, it allows students to feel included even if their learning style is somewhat different than traditional teaching methods. Most importantly, it allows students to better understand that their peers have different needs, strengths, and styles. It seems to promote a more comprehensive learning community.