In a nutshell, the theory of multiple intelligence believes that there’s more to being smart than what an IQ test can reveal. The traditional test is strongly based on math, written language and spatial reasoning. But Dr. Howard Gardner said that there were eight different kinds of intelligences, including those that could never be tested in that kind of set-up: musical ability, people skills, physical aptitude and a grasp of nature.
Here is a simple guide to Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory and its influence on the way we think about the way we think.
The different kinds of intelligences are: linguistic (word smart), logical-mathematical intelligence (number and reasoning smart), spatial intelligence (picture smart), bodily-kinesthetic intelligence (body smart), musical intelligence, interpersonal intelligence (people smart), intrapersonal intelligence (self smart), and naturalistic intelligence (nature smart).
School curriculums put a premium on people who are logical and articulate, but Gardner believes that a true education recognizes and develops all kinds of creative potential. There are kids who are gifted in singing and dancing, or have a natural empathy for others or a strong reflective quality. They are the artists, the therapists and diplomats, the philosophers—and their skills can be enhanced within a broader approach to education.
Gardner does not say that a ‘people smart’ child can’t learn math because that’s not his natural intelligence. However, he believes that this child may become more inspired to learn if the curriculum adopts to his learning style. That’s why Gardner encourages teachers to present concepts in various ways, such as cooperative learning, field trips, multi media, role playing, arts and crafts, reflection, field trips.
Gardner’s methods are part of a movement called ‘progressive education’ or ‘progressive schools.’ These schools call themselves child-centered because they adapt the curriculum to accommodate the unique needs of their students.
However, Gardner’s research has implications for adult learning too. Many of us were raised to see success through society’s standards, and to force ourselves to think a particular way. The theory of multiple intelligence, however, helps us see ourselves and our careers in a different light. If we are ‘body smart’ we may be happy in a job where we aren’t stuck behind a desk. Or, it may help us find a hobby or activity that satisfies our inner interests, such as a dance class or running.
For parents, Gardner’s findings on multiple intelligence boils down to this: even if we can’t put our kids in a progressive school, we can take a progressive approach to developing their potential. We can supplement their classroom experiences with learning opportunities at home. We can organize our own family fieldtrips, or review them for Science by taking a walk in the park or doing an arts or crafts project with a related theme. (Read tips on raising kids who like homework.)
Photo from expectumf.umf.maine.edu