Theory of multiple intelligences
‘Every child matter’ was the bold statement that put out a strong message for all teachers: a fact that subsequently continue to reverberate through inclusive learning and differentiation in the classroom in the modern day classroom. The child-focused initiative launched by the then Labour Government in a green paper to be followed by the Children’s Act 2004 highlights that the classroom is full of individuals all with their learning abilities, methods, and idiosyncrasies. Improving and progressing, the all-inclusive learning experience for students developed further with the ‘Developing and Embedding Inclusive Policy and Practice of Higher Education’ which was launched in 2007. One example of this 2007 policy’s holistic outlook focuses on the courses that are being studied, and that the approach by teachers could be obstructing the learning of the students that do not include all individuals. Thus, teachers by adapting the classes to all, they complement each student. This would demonstrate that inclusive learning and differentiation are paramount and are a dominant force for change that tries to give empowering success in every student. This brings forth, and the focus of this piece of writing, the ideas of the American psychologist Howard Gardner and his theory of Multiple Intelligences, from his book Frames of Mind (1983): looking after the needs of all students and their unique learning and performing methods in the classroom. Basically stated one student could work better by using their practical knowledge while another by their theoretical knowledge; recognizing the point of the fact that these two students are learning the same subject matter. I will further discuss the attributes of Multiple Intelligences highlighting first that individuals have cognitive nuances and hidden abilities, moving onto an example of a kinesthetic model that has the students actively working on the subject matter. I will then talk about creating interest for the student through their understanding of the lesson and also onto the actual students’ intelligence and the teacher underestimating them. I will finally discuss going beyond the norm for teachers and them not taking classes or the individual students for granted.
Having studied beforehand about functional skills and the embedding process in the class, at that time I was drawn to Howard Gardener’s ideas which subsequently to this writing led me to a closer inquiry into Gardner’s theory and how different formats for the students would help with inclusive learning and differentiation. In this respect, I have increasingly become encouraged by cognitive-contextual theories. This theory deals with the way that cognitive processes operate in various environmental contexts. Thus, to explain Gardner’s theories in further detail, if we presume that each student has different learning abilities and each can acquire a subject constituent but in different ways, we can say that intelligence comprises multiple abilities. Each individual has his or her way of studying. We can break down these abilities/intelligences into categories that as a teacher can be manipulated into lesson plans as helping to achieve more from the individual students, recognizing their differences. Gardener’s ideas are far reaching but from the perspective of the classroom for my classes, I feel that teachers should nurture the talents that each student holds; thus helping to produce better knowledge and understanding of the subject matter in question. This key point was highlighted also by Carol A. Tomlinson when she mentioned ‘teachers in healthy classrooms work continually to ‘tame’ their students: to see who they really are, what makes them unique in this world’ (p31. 1999). Overall, it is a focus to exploit these (in a certain way, ‘hidden’) talents that will hopefully use the concepts of Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences, incorporated onto inclusive learning, come to the surface. This, of course, means using differing structures in the teacher’s class that will in time show the teacher how their students are developing as a group and individuals.
Moreover, a ‘multiple intelligence (MI)’ example is bodily / kinesthetic. This is the theory that can be used to encourage students to prepare role-plays, dramatic plays, or practical tasks. It gets them off their seats interpersonally and emotionally mixing with other students. Some students will excel with this format. These kinesthetic types of people are strong in acting, using tools, and athletics. They like to move around, touch and talk. This, when used in class, gives the students the social interaction. This is especially good for students who love getting up and doing. It gives them a chance to present material to their peers while appreciating the use of this language. The students can take the key subject matter and use the essence of it to translate the ideas into movement.
It is with this theory that teachers can use the knowledge gained about intelligences to spark all students into getting an understanding of the key concepts they are making in that specific lesson which the student might not get from other mundane methods. This is notwithstanding that each student will start to feel they are contributing and playing a vital role in the class’ progression that encapsulates inclusive learning and differentiation; hopefully removing competition. This will in turn help develop students’ proficiency in learning and progressing through the curriculum. It is true that some students can go through a lesson not realizing that they are leading somewhere. If the key point is reminded to them in certain processes that encourage their talents to come to the surface, during the class they will hopefully come to realize and figure the lesson out. Hopefully, the additional stages of the lesson will be clearer to the student. It is up to the teacher to be capable of making these methods available for the students and recognizing when they comprehend what is put in front of them by the teacher. The teacher is trying to get the students to process all the information they have given for the students to formulate it and understand in his or her own way. The goal is to get the students to acquire that day’s learning objectives inclusively delivered with the theory of multiple intelligences as a powerful support. It is a classic model by which to understand many aspects of human intelligence as the students begin to show their knowledge.
Furthermore, to give an example of a student’s intelligence in use, a student does poorly on the type of correlation question in a test. You could find that a possible conclusion is that the student does not reason well. Some teachers might think that the student is not capable. An equally plausible interpretation, however, is that the student does not understand the words or is unable to read them in the first place. A student seeing the analogy (valiant, faint-hearted, mollify) might be unable to solve it because of a lack of reasoning ability, but a more likely possibility is that the student does not know the meanings of the words. A cognitive analysis enables the interpreter of the test score to determine both the degree to which the poor score is due to low reasoning ability and the degree to which it is a result of not understanding the words. It is important to distinguish between the two interpretations of the low score because they have different implications for understanding the intelligence of the student. A student might be excellent at reasoning but have only a modest vocabulary or vice versa. This example is for all teachers to start research in which they find how the students react to certain classroom techniques incorporated through inclusive learning. Teachers need to see how they can raise understanding through certain tasks. Then, they can see that every student does have a talent and is capable of learning in their own way.
It could be said that the school/college systems for these students often focus on a narrow range of intelligence that involves primarily verbal/linguistic and logical/mathematical skills. Most academic knowledge is presented for learning by means of an extremely limited (or limiting) methodology and the acquisition of that knowledge is evaluated by means of rote tests, whereby the best grades are assigned to students who demonstrate the greatest ability for memorization. It is the idea that there is a single intelligence. It is this narrow mindedness that teacher should come to realize. Multiple Intelligence theory should expand lessons to new places with experimenting. This experimenting with students’ inner intelligences can be multiple. This can include at a minimum of linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal intelligences. The teacher will come to realize that each individual has their own talents that can shine in the classroom and other students will come to respect.
To conclude, it has been shown that recognizing that each student has a unique method of comprehending what the teacher has demonstrated/shown the students. Inclusive learning means caring for everyone’s needs and no one is left behind. It has been discussed that this can be helped by a teacher using different methods to create learning environments that can change perceptions of learning not only in the students but also in the teacher. The teacher can hopefully see that potential is there where beforehand using other more methodical methods they and their classes would have failed to create that spark in students. It is also hoped the theory of multiple intelligences emphasizes the creation of different methods which highlights inclusive learning and differentiation that encompasses varied skills, attitudes, abilities and potential.
Gardner. H, 1983. Frames of Mind – the Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Underlining and Notation Edition. Basic Books.
Higher Education Academy. 2010. Developing and embedding inclusive policy. [ONLINE] Available at:
http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/documents/inclusion/DevelopingEmbeddingInclusivePolicyPractice_ReportFinal.pdf. [Accessed 28 November 12].
Tomlinson C. A, 1999. The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners. 1 Edition. Pearson.