Students learn in multiple ways. Within the complexity of the brain there are different intelligences that are used, either alone or blended together, to solve problems and make sense of new information. Although we use all of our intelligences in unique ways, some of these intelligences are stronger than others, what we might call our preferred ways of learning.
Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences broadens our understanding about the different ways students think and learn and has led many teachers to develop new approaches to meet the needs of their students. In essence, one size doesn’t fit all modes of learning.
Gardner formulated a list of 8 intelligences.
It’s worth noting that as teachers, we have intelligence preferences too - and thus we may tend to teach in a particular mode most of the time. Accommodating a wider range of intelligences is something to consider. For example, drawing a picture or showing a film clip when presenting a concept, and allowing students to move around, are simple ways to help students draw on their different intelligences.
Students who know their strengths have a greater chance of success. Each September, teacher Susan Brisson, introduces her students to the idea of multiple intelligences. The students conduct research on the topic, interview their parents, write journal reflections and determine where their strengths lie. Susan has noticed that her students are better able to look at areas of weakness when they understand that not everyone learns in the same way.
Artist and teacher, Andrew Wales, created this comic illustration explaining the ideas and theories behind MI. It is an excellent example of the importance of respecting and encouraging our students' multiple intelligences. You can view the entire comic at the link on the right.
Sir Ken Robinson presents a very entertaining and moving case for creating classrooms that nurture creativity and support multiple intelligences in this TED talk.
In this very creative but important presentation, Robinson links rising drop-out rates, less time and resources for the arts, and ADHD.
Ken Robinson, PHD, is an internationally recognized leader in the development of creativity, innovation, and human resources.