Throughout our lives, we come across different educational opportunities.
Research is being conducted worldwide to comprehend and clarify the diverse learning styles that exist. These styles refer to the various methods individuals use to acquire information about their environment, and they have a significant impact on how experiences influence us.
As educators, it is our duty to become acquainted with different learning styles so that we can accommodate all types of learners in our classrooms. Howard Gardner has enhanced the concept of learning style by introducing “multiple intelligences” (Gardner 3). Gaining knowledge about these intelligences will allow us to design our classrooms and curriculum in a way that engages every student. Moreover, this understanding may help reduce negative behavior by involving students through various approaches.
By incorporating activities that engage multiple intelligences, we can enhance the performance of all our students (Gardner 2, Santrock 311). As a result, they will achieve better grades and retain knowledge for a longer duration. Furthermore, learning styles enable us to identify suitable career paths for children, thus guiding them towards the right direction. For individuals, understanding their own learning styles has the potential to optimize their information processing and teaching methods.
Howard Gardner, a professor at Harvard, has examined the concept of intelligence through a combination of research and personal experience (Traub 1). He first discussed the concept of “multiple intelligences” in 1983. Since then, Gardner has received a MacArthur “genius” grant, authored books that have been translated into twenty languages, and delivers approximately seventy-five speeches annually (Truab 1). Many organizations committed to educational reform have embraced and promoted his ideas.
According to Traub (1), the concept being conveyed is that a child’s intelligence cannot be solely determined by their test scores. Failing tests does not indicate a lack of understanding or learning ability. Gardner, on the other hand, aims to broaden the definition of intelligence by incorporating various other aptitudes (Traub 1). Typically, we tend to associate success in school with a particular level of intellect, often focusing on just two types.
Traditional education emphasizes verbal and mathematical abilities, and individuals who lack proficiency in these areas typically struggle academically. In contrast, according to Gardner, there are eight distinct aptitudes or “intelligences.” Each person possesses varying levels of these eight intelligences.
According to Gardner (5), our abilities in “intelligence” have a significant impact on our learning process and could also determine our overall success in life. One of Gardner’s suggested forms of intelligence is the “verbal-linguistic” intelligence, which pertains to individuals who primarily think in words (Gardner).
According to Gardner (24), individuals who are linguistic learners utilize language as a means of both expressing and comprehending meaning. These individuals possess a sensitivity towards the significance of words, their arrangement, and their intonation (Gardner 24). Common modes of self-expression for linguistic learners include writing, particularly through the mediums of poetry, stories, and letters. Furthermore, verbal linguistic learners are typically proficient readers and have a strong aptitude for spoken communication, often employing oral persuasion and memorization techniques (Gardner 133).
Verbal linguistic learners are frequently articulate and possess exceptional auditory abilities, enabling them to quickly acquire foreign languages. Identifying these learners in your classroom is not challenging since their expressive skills are evident in their outstanding class work (Gardner 24).
The verbal linguistic learner has a strong ability to communicate through writing and speech. They excel at expressing their thoughts and can easily describe events through words. Designing lessons that cater to this type of learner is straightforward. The conventional curriculum is particularly suited for the verbal linguistic learner.
The text emphasizes that individuals who excel in reading and writing have a natural inclination towards these skills, which are widely used as the primary teaching method in classrooms. Various activities cater to these learners, including storytelling, essay writing, humor, debates, problem-solving through stories, and crossword puzzles. Engaging in these activities enables students to reinforce their knowledge and communicate their understanding using language. Additionally, Gardner (65) notes that individuals with visual spatial intelligence possess the capability to think in visual representations.
According to Gardner (67), individuals who are visual learners possess the capability to accurately perceive the visual world and think in three dimensional terms. Visual learners typically excel in the realm of art and have a natural aptitude for recreating things they have observed. They also exhibit ease in constructing various objects, reflecting their unique learning style.
According to Gardner (67), individuals with this type of “intelligence” have the ability to transform concepts into tangible illustrations. A prime illustration of this is a student who can successfully translate an architectural design from their thoughts onto paper and then bring it to life as a model. Those who excel in this kind of intelligence (133) possess a strong perception of the relationship between space and objects. Typically, visually inclined learners prefer sitting near the front in a classroom setting.
The observation of the instructor’s body language and facial expressions is vital for this particular type of learner in order to grasp lesson concepts. Visual aids, including diagrams, illustrated textbooks, videos, flipcharts, and handouts, play a crucial role in their learning process (Gardner 24). Activities such as creating collages and posters, storyboarding, painting, and photography are exceptionally advantageous for individuals with this specific intelligence.
People with strong visual-spatial intelligence (Gardner 17) are crucial in various fields as they can comprehend the overall picture and understand the interplay between different elements. They have an innate awareness of their surroundings, which makes them excel in professions like navigators, mechanics, engineers, architects, interior designers, and inventors.
On the contrary, individuals who possess natural body-kinesthetic intelligence (Gardner 88) have an exceptional capacity to control body movements and manipulate objects with finesse (Gardner 88).
Learners who have a strong body kinesthetic intelligence possess effective motor skills and coordination. They are skilled in expressing themselves through physical movement and display excellent balance and hand-eye coordination. This particular learning style, as described by Gardner, entails processing information by interacting with their surrounding environment, emphasizing good timing and coordination skills.
Michael Jordan exemplifies a strong “body kinesthetic intelligence” (Gardner 144), which is evident in his skillful movement and perceptive abilities on the basketball court. His agility, ball handling, and awareness of both opponents and teammates showcase a unique intelligence in his navigation of the court (Santrock 292). However, individuals with this type of intelligence, referred to as “body kinesthetic” (Gardner 2) learners, may face challenges in the classroom as they may struggle to remain seated.
This learner’s optimal performance is achieved when they have the ability to work while in motion or standing. This particular type of learner excels in activities that require physically acting out skits, directing movement, and playing charades. They typically thrive in physical education classes and greatly enjoy participating in sports. Additionally, our current educational system already places significant emphasis on developing the “logical mathematical intelligence” mentioned by Gardner (6).
Intelligence in this context encompasses the utilization of numbers, logic, and reasoning. Individuals with this intelligence think in logical and numerical patterns (Gardner 112) and are capable of solving intricate mathematical problems. It also involves having deductive and inductive reasoning skills, as well as being adept at critical and creative problem solving (Gardner 122).
Children who rely on logic and math for their learning style are easily recognizable in the classroom because they are curious and inquisitive. They thrive in subjects like math and science but may struggle with language arts and social studies. It can sometimes be difficult to find effective strategies to support their success in these areas.
This individual has a strong potential in categorizing information. By grouping concepts and establishing connections between them, they can comprehend subjects beyond mathematics and science. Assisting a child in mastering these techniques will undoubtedly enhance their problem-solving abilities in their daily life. According to Gardner (121), “Musical Rhythmic” learners possess the talent to create and enjoy music.
These learners, who have a musical inclination, have a natural ability to think in rhythms, sounds, and patterns. Whether they appreciate or critique the music they hear, they have an immediate response to it. Additionally, many of these learners have a heightened sensitivity to environmental sounds like crickets, dripping water, bells, and trains (Santrock 345). They are also particularly sensitive to patterns and pitch in sound.
According to Gardner (121), individuals classified as “musical rhythmic” possess the ability to acknowledge, produce, and replicate sound through their voice or musical instruments (Gardner 125). These types of learners demonstrate a comprehension of the relationship between music and emotions (Gardner 125). Detecting a musical learner may pose a challenge, as they typically engage in extracurricular activities related to music and frequently play a musical instrument.
For teachers, accommodating learners who recreate sounds by tapping on their desk or humming tunes can be challenging. However, these learners can benefit from incorporating music into their lessons and completing homework tasks that involve writing songs about historical periods and literary events.
According to Gardner, individuals with a musical intelligence may find it beneficial to create songs in order to memorize a variety of information, including operations, sequences, planets, and mathematical formulas. Gardner, who had a background in piano and composition, showed a particular interest in this type of intelligence (Santrock 354; Traub 2).
According to Gardner (121), his interest lies in the “musical intelligence,” with a particular emphasis on childhood (Santrock 354). Young children at the preschool age possess the skill to effortlessly grasp musical patterns and have a remarkable memory for them (Gardner 77). Furthermore, Gardner notes that numerous adults can still recall melodies from their early years.
According to Gardner, individuals with “intrapersonal intelligence” are introverted learners who possess self-awareness of their strengths and weaknesses (78). They rely on self-knowledge to inform their decision-making process (129).
According to Gardner, individuals with intrapersonal intelligence possess the capacity to observe and manage their own emotions and reactions in interpersonal connections, exhibiting what he refers to as “personal efficacy” (128). They demonstrate self-awareness and the ability to regulate their moods and emotional responses (110). In my view, I possess a significant level of intrapersonal intelligence (129).
Despite being introverted, my mind is constantly occupied with thoughts and plans. I meticulously strategize and carry out my actions, displaying a self-centered intrapersonal behavior.
Instead of sympathizing and putting myself in someone else’s position, my primary focus is on my own actions when confronted with difficulties or issues. I am aware of this characteristic within myself and make an effort to be more conscious of it, making sure that it does not overpower my sense of identity. According to Gardner, individuals who are considered “intrapersonal learners” and typically introverted in a classroom setting share comparable behaviors.
Planners, also known as individuals who enjoy contemplating and reflecting on ideas, find activities such as journal writing, fiction writing, and self assessments to be engaging. They have a deep introspective nature and approach their thought process in a methodical manner.
According to Gardner (138), “interpersonal or social intelligence” refers to individuals’ capacity to effectively connect with others. These individuals exhibit empathy and understanding towards others, as stated by Santrock (293). They possess an inherent ability to perceive and comprehend emotions, thoughts, and motivations. Although they are highly organized, they may occasionally employ manipulation in order to maintain smooth interactions.
This type of person, often referred to as “intelligence” (Gardner 139), possesses natural leadership skills and promotes collaboration. They excel in both written and non-verbal communication, utilizing these abilities to establish connections with others (Gardner 139). Additionally, they are known for being exceptional listeners and showing empathy towards others.
According to Gardner (140), the individuals known as “interpersonal learners” take charge in the educational setting. Their ability to solve problems is an asset in classroom interactions. These learners grasp your position as the teacher and empathize with the students’ challenges. They thrive when collaborating in groups or working alongside a partner.
The interpersonal learner is skilled in activities such as reporting, interviewing, teaching, and choreographing. According to Gardner (140), individuals with an “interpersonal” nature thrive in careers that involve interactions with others. They possess a natural ability to understand and connect with people, making them adept at empathizing with various situations and finding optimal problem-solving strategies. Additionally, they have a knack for influencing others through various approaches.
The ability to communicate and comprehend the motivations and needs of individuals aids individuals in excelling in roles such as teaching, counseling, salesmanship, politics, and business. Gardner (150) introduced the newest learning style known as the “naturalist”. This learning style involves a profound understanding of the natural world, with a specific interest in plants, animals, and scientific research (Gardner 155).
According to Gardner (155), individuals with the naturalist intelligence possess the ability to identify and categorize people, species, and ecological connections. The naturalist has a natural affinity for interacting with living organisms, as described by Gardner, who also notes their knack for comprehending animal behavior, needs, and traits. These individuals, often referred to as having “naturalist intelligence” (Gardner 156), typically excel in cultivating plants effortlessly.
The “naturalist learner” (Gardner 156) in the classroom is typically an observer who relishes field trips to places like zoos and farms. They often possess collections of insects and rocks that they can share with their classmates. They thrive in activities like gathering leaves, cultivating plants, conducting experiments, and engaging in field studies.
According to Gardner (156), cooking and home economic related activities can be a strength for the “naturalist”. To accommodate individual learning styles, classroom teachers can make changes in the design of the classroom. Currently, many classrooms have a formal design where all students face the front.
In traditional classroom settings, students are typically confined to desks which can hinder the learning experience for those who prefer a more informal environment. However, providing alternative seating options such as grouping in pairs or small groups, as well as incorporating couches, can cater to diverse learning preferences and enhance student achievement. Additionally, Gardner asserts that brain damage has the potential to impair each of the different intelligences.
According to Traub, Gardner conducted a study at Boston’s Veterans Administration Hospital, focusing on patients with brain damage. Despite their limited ability to speak, these patients were still capable of understanding metaphors and telling jokes. In a recent news segment, it was reported that actor Dudley Moore, who is suffering from a degenerative brain disease, can no longer play the piano because he is unable to translate the sounds in his head into music.
This is an instance that illustrates how brain damage or neurological disorders can impact intelligence. Each type of intelligence encompasses distinct cognitive abilities and is evident to a greater degree in individuals who are gifted or have savant syndrome (Gardner 168). Investigations are being conducted on autism and learning preferences. It seems that individuals with autism tend to rely more heavily on a single learning style.
Having worked with autistic children, I can confidently say that each child has their own unique way of interacting with the world. This can greatly influence their preferred learning style, making it invaluable for those working with autistic children to take note of. By closely observing the child, one can potentially identify their primary learning style. For instance, if a child displays a fondness for books, television, and a tendency to carefully observe people and objects, it is likely that they are a visual learner (Santrock 433).
When one’s learning style is identified, utilizing this style to teach can greatly enhance the chances of learning and potentially communicating. There are individuals who criticize Gardner’s theories on intelligence, claiming that there is insufficient scientific evidence supporting his ideas. The issue may stem from the interpretation of the term “intelligence”.
Intelligence is typically perceived as a measurement or a term of value rather than a concept (Traub 3). According to Gardner, he purposely uses the term “intelligence” (Traub 3) to challenge the conventional understanding of its concept.
Various methods exist to assist individuals in identifying their own learning style and evaluating their intelligence. Primarily, questionnaires are used to determine how people comprehend information. Upon examining several easily accessible online assessments, it became evident that they largely follow a standard format. These questionnaires require participants to indicate true statements about themselves by checking corresponding boxes.
These statements are categorized as their respective “intelligence” (Traub 3). The category with the highest number of true statements determines your strongest intelligence. The remaining intelligences are ranked accordingly. As educators, we can evaluate our students at the start of the academic year using a similar inventory.
We can rephrase the statements to make them more interesting for a younger audience. Additionally, we can let our children select from a variety of activities and decide how they want to showcase them. For instance, one popular and enjoyable activity could be “Sharing my summer vacation experiences”. In this activity, children would be encouraged to present and share about their summer vacations.
They have the ability to present this in any way they choose and are given suggestions such as “Write a song about your summer vacation” for the musical learner; “perform a skit about your summer vacation” for the “body kinesthetic” (Gardner 12) learner; and “tell us what you learned about yourself over your summer vacation” for the intrapersonal learner. Understanding the learning styles of the students in your classroom at the beginning of the year will help you effectively plan your curriculum for the remainder of the year. Being knowledgeable about learning styles and multiple intelligence is beneficial for everyone, particularly individuals with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder. While there is not definitive research to support Gardner’s theories, we do know that utilizing learning styles in the classroom is proving successful.
Understanding your personal learning style and the learning styles of your students is crucial for developing effective strategies to overcome weaknesses and enhance strengths. Teachers have a responsibility to create an enjoyable learning experience for all students, and being knowledgeable about various learning styles enables us to fulfill this duty. (Gardner, Howard. Frames of Mind.)
New York: Basic Books, 1988. Santrock, John. Child Development. McGraw-Hill, 1998. Special Report on Dudley Moore. Channel Seven News, ABC Network.
Nov. 1999 Traub, James. “Multiple Intelligence Disorder”. The New Republic (1998).
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