We’ve all probably heard the conversation about being ‘book smart or ‘street smart’, heard others talk about someone ‘having a sixth sense’ or being a ‘people person’.
As a society, we often find ourselves describing people in terms of their strengths or ‘intelligences’.
But, what does it mean to be intelligent?
In 1983 Harvard researcher Howard Gardner proposed that, as learners, we fit into seven distinct intelligences – seven different kinds of cognitive preferences which help us learn, remember, perform, and understand our world. He then added an 8th one a bit later on. In his world of ‘multiple intelligences’, people’s overall intelligence was formed based on the following 8 key domains:
- Visual-Spatial – they think in terms of physical space and their environment
- They like to draw, do jigsaw puzzles and read maps.
- Bodily-kinesthetic – they have a keen sense of body awareness
- They like movement, making things and touching. They communicate well through body language.
- Musical – they show sensitivity to rhythm, sound and music
- They may study better with music in the background.
- Interpersonal – they understand by interacting with others
- These learners typically have many friends as well as empathy for others.
- Intrapersonal – they understand by focusing on one’s own interests
- These learners tend to be more shy. They’re in tune with their inner feelings as well as having a strong inner confidence.
- Linguistic – they use words extremely effectively
- These learners have highly developed auditory skills and often think in words. They like reading, playing word games, and making up poetry or stories.
Logical-Mathematical – they enjoy reasoning and calculating things
- These learners think conceptually and are able to see and explore patterns and relationships. They need to learn concepts before details.
- Naturalist – they sense patterns and connections within natural elements
- These learners have a strong affinity to the outside world, and in particular animals or natural phenomena.
If we agree with this model of intelligence or even if we don’t — we perhaps think that there should be other intelligence types — the issue still remains — Intelligence is complex.
How then do we as educators reach this incredible array of learning preferences?
In fact, as we move into using a mixture of teaching media (e.g. lectures, video-streaming, collaborative group-work, inquiry projects, learning outdoors) and assessment options (e.g. visual presentations, oral reports, movie making, written assignments) we actually help to address these different learning styles automatically.
By varying our lessons, our assignments and assessments — and even the location of ‘where’ we learn — we are able to better engage our students in their learning and ultimately improve their success. By increasing the variety in our lessons and assessments we actually better prepare our students for the complex world in which they are entering.