Multiple Intelligence Abstract
Intelligence is the ability to acquire and apply, knowledge and skills (Oxford Dictionary 2012). The traditional point of view elucidates that intelligence is an inborn trait that occurs in fixed amounts in people and remains constant throughout life. Its assessment is done through short-answer tests and can be acknowledged through the ability of one’s linguistic and logical skill.
Therefore, one is ‘intelligent’ if one is able to use language to express effectively and if one has the mathematical ability to solve problems. No amount of education and / or exposure can alter this state and level of ‘intellect’ in a human and thus, the question then arises, ‘Are all others deemed unintelligent?’
Newer schools of thought have evolved this theory overtime and proved that intelligence is more than just one’s ability in language and logic.
This paper is based on research conducted by Howard Gardner on ‘multiple intelligence’, its existence in students and the benefits of its application in modern teaching techniques. It also includes my own observations and experience as a teacher.
The term ‘multiple intelligence’ was first coined by Howard Gardner (1983) who believed that these intelligences lay in varying amounts in each individual and could be nurtured and strengthened. He also explained that if any of these intelligences were ignored, they would gradually weaken.
This theory not only expanded the concept of intelligence and included areas such as music and nature, to name a few, in addition to linguistic and logical ability, but also had a profound impact on teaching practices in the field of education.
The Nine Intelligences
Howard Gardner defined intelligence as ‘the ability to solve problems, or to create products, that are valued within one or more cultural setting’ (Gardner and Hatch, 1989). He identified and placed these intelligences into the following nine broad categories:
(1) Linguistic, which relates to well-developed verbal skills.
(2) Logical, is the ability to think conceptually and understand numerical patterns.
(3) Musical, is the ability to produce and appreciate musical patterns.
(4) Spatial - Visual, deals with spatial judgement and the ability to visualize with the mind’s eye.
(5) Kinaesthetic is the ability to control one’s body movements
(6) Interpersonal, which deals with one’s social competence and appropriate response to others’ moods.
(7) Intrapersonal, which deals with self-awareness and in tune with inner feelings, values, beliefs and thinking processes.
(8) Naturalist is the ability to recognize and categorize plants, animals and other objects in nature.
(9) Existential relates to the sensitivity to confront questions about human existence, such as the meaning of life and death.
Applying the theory of ‘Multiple Intelligence’ in modern teaching practices
As a result of Gardner’s research and discovery, several schools have begun to alter their curriculum patterns and teaching practices. The traditional course books are no longer the sole sources of information but merely a guide and support to teachers who refer to them, in regular intervals, to stay on the right track.
Primary Research, Evaluation and Discussion
In my own experience as a teacher at the Julia Gabriel Centre for Learning (New Delhi) and the Pathways, School (Gurgaon), teachers were to identify their students’ multiple intelligences and accordingly plan lessons and conduct classes.
(1) Julia Gabriel Centre for Learning (New Delhi): Children were taught various skills through play, drama, numeracy, music, art and literacy. In my observations, every child would express his or her understanding using one element more than the others.
The learning objective of the lesson for an age group of 4 year olds was to understand the different between domestic and wild animals. The lesson flow included a circle time where students would share their opinions about the topic, a story telling session based on the topic, an art and craft activity where students would need to place animal cut-outs in their appropriate living environment - a farm or a jungle, and an impromptu drama focusing on the nature of each type of the animal.
Students revealed their understanding of both kinds of animals by expressing themselves verbally or through art and craft or drama. No one student showed enthusiasm in all areas but each one did show confidence in at least one.
(2) Pathways School (Gurgaon): The school followed the Primary Years Programme (PYP), a part of the International Baccalaureate (IB). Concepts and topics were taught in ‘units’ where each unit was part of a transdisciplinary theme. (A transdisciplinary theme encompassed all disciplines – literacy, numeracy, art, music, drama, physical education, information technology, science, social studies and design and technology, to name a few) Students acquired knowledge by exploiting one or more of these disciplines, depending upon, which ones they felt most inclined towards.
A Unit on the ‘Solar System’ was done with an age group of 8-9 year olds. The topic was studied, interpreted and analysed using a combination of disciplines (as mentioned previously) over a period of six weeks. At the end of six weeks, the students were to present a summative assignment to show evidence of their understanding.
Each of my students presented different aspects of the solar system as they perceived and learnt about it, all of which were correct. The following were some assignments done:
- A 3D model of the solar system showing the relative sizes of the planets in comparison with one another
- Representation of the solar system through art to show how different gases around the planets gave them that specific colour.
- Numerical implications explaining the distance between each of the inner planets to be far lesser than the distance between each of the outer planets
- A performance to show the movements of the planets around the sun.
Multiple Intelligence and TEFL
The theory of ‘multiple intelligence’ has also helped in teaching students english
, as a foreign language. Students are taught using a variety of teaching aids and layer learning that facilitate a clear understanding, almost mastering the topic amongst these students, over a period of time.
I was teaching adjectives to a group of 6-7 year old beginner level students and employed the following techniques:
? Narrated stories and poems – targeting linguistic intelligence
? Played songs – targeting musical intelligence
? Used visual art, dance movements and dramatic performances to further illuminate the meaning and purpose of an adjective – targeting spatial intelligence
After each activity, students were given progress tests to determine their understanding of the topic. My observations and student responses further highlighted the existence of multiple intelligences and its varying proportion in each one, as some students showed more confidence in responding verbally, while others used the other mediums – art, gestures, dance and drama to express themselves.
The theory of ‘multiple intelligence’ strongly supports the holistic development of an individual and it is important for teachers to harness these intelligences in their students to get the best results. Students must be involved in different activities that include as many ‘intelligences’ as possible to learn and comprehend information accurately. They should also have the opportunity of working alone, in pairs and / or in groups to experience and explore each avenue of learning.
Oxford Dictionary Online, 2012 Oxford University Press.
Retrieved from: http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/intelligence?q=intelligence
Smith, Mark K. (2002, 2008) ‘Howard Gardner and multiple intelligences’, the encyclopaedia of informal education.
Retrieved from: http://www.infed.org/thinkers/gardner.htm