Since Howard Gardner first introduced his Multiple Intelligences theory, educators have been grappling with its implications. Gardner himself does not presume to have all the answers, but rather defers to educators as the experts who can best apply his work in the classroom. In order to make this happen, teachers first need to know the distinguishing characteristics of each of the intelligences. This is important, because in many cases we take an intelligence at face value without truly examining it for its distinct attributes and features. Too often, for example, teachers assume the musical intelligence is merely the introduction of music into a lesson, or that the naturalist intelligence is simply the study of flora and fauna in the curriculum. If we are going to effectively transform instruction by use of Gardner 's theory, then we must understand its basic tenets. To do any less would be to not give it its due as a viable model. Let's take a brief look at each intelligence before exploring the theory holistically:Verbal – traditionally one of the heavily emphasized intelligences in the classroom. It has been valued because it matches the way we have taught traditionally: lecture, recitation, textbooks, and board work. It includes the ability to express oneself orally and in writing, as well as the ability to master foreign languages.
Logical – also highly valued in traditional instruction. It is not the intelligence of Mathematics, but of logic and reasoning. This intelligence allows us to be problem solvers. It seeks structure in the learning environment and thrives on sequenced, orderly lessons. In the traditional classroom students are asked to conform to the teacher's instructional approach and this intelligence allows them to do so.
Visual – an intelligence we as educators are instinctively aware of, the Visual intelligence provides for spatial reasoning through the use of charts, graphs, maps, tables, illustrations, art, puzzles, costumes and many other materials. More than just the ocular internalization of stimulus, the Visual intelligence allows the student to picture ideas and solutions to problems in his/her mind before s/he is able to verbalize them or put them into practice.
Musical – the intelligence of patterns, including songs, poetry, instruments, environmental sounds, and response to rhythms. By picking up the patterns in different situations, learners are able to make sense of their environment and adapt successfully. Note that this is not exclusively an auditory intelligence; it can include all kinds of patterns. Because mathematics is defined as the study of patterns, this is truly the domain of mathematics instruction.
Intrapersonal – the intelligence of feelings, values and attitudes. The intrapersonal intelligence helps the learner make an affective connection with the curriculum. Children who ask, “Why do I need to learn this?” or “How does this effect me?” are exercising their intrapersonal intelligence. It is the part of us that expects learning to be meaningful. The more we find pertinence in what we study, the more inclined we are to take ownership for our learning and the better we will retain what we have learned.
Interpersonal – the intelligence of interacting with others, the interpersonal intelligence requires collaboration in order to make sense of learning. Students with a strong interpersonal tendency may have been labeled “too talkative” or “excessively social” in the traditional classroom. They thrive in cooperative groups, working with partners, and even in whole group instruction where they are free to ask, discuss and understand.
Kinesthetic – the intelligence of interacting with one's physical environment. The kinesthetic intelligence is promoted through fine and gross motor activities such as manipulative learning centers, science labs, active games and dramatic improvisations. Students with a strong Kinesthetic intelligence may tend to seem “overactive” in the traditional classroom, but they thrive in hands-on learning environments.
Naturalist – the intelligence of classification. While the naturalist intelligence can include biology, botany, zoology, archaeology and geology, consider the processes that these disciplines utilize: classification, categorization, and hierarchical frameworks. The naturalist intelligence can be stimulated in the classroom through activities such as attribute grouping, charting and semantic mapping.
Existential – the intelligence of understanding in a larger context. It can include aesthetics, philosophy, and religion and emphasizes the classical values of beauty, truth and goodness. The existential intelligence allows students to see their place in the big picture, be it in the classroom, the community, the world or the universe. Students with a strong existential intelligence have the ability to summarize and synthesize ideas from across a broad unit of study.
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