Every child is unique with an innate potential. It is our responsibility to help them achieve their potential. Children learn in a variety of ways. When children enter primary school, too much emphasis is laid down on linguistic and logical skills. Teaching and learning is restricted to the curriculum. Teaching is one way and lacks interaction with the students. Using multiple intelligences in the classroom allows a single topic to be taught and learned in eight different ways. It also enables children to learn that there are eight different ways to learn. Children can exercise their choice by learning in any of the eight ways, thereby facilitate their own learning. Before we begin to understand the concept of multiple intelligence, let’s take a look at where this idea originated. This revolutionary concept was proposed by Howard Gardner in 1983. A developmental psychologist and professor of cognition and education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education at Harvard University, Howard Gardner was an enthusiastic pianist. His extensive work in the area of human cognition led him to his theory of multiple intelligences. In simple words his theory leads to the understanding that intelligence is a property of all human beings. Each one of us possesses the eight intelligences listed in Gardner’s theory.
This theory gained popularity because of how relatable it was to educators. Every educator had faced the problem of not being able to reach a few students in their classroom until the information was provided in a completely different manner. For example, fractions may seem difficult to understand when explained through the chalk and board method but when they use ‘gems’ or a whole piece of chocolate that gets broken and divided into parts the very same students grasp the concept with ease. Similarly, there are several instances where concepts when presented differently for different individuals have more value and yield better learning. The important thing to remember in all of this is that, the theory must not be used interchangeably with learning styles. It is very easy to mistake these intelligences as learning styles, whereas Howard Gardner proposes them simply as intellectual abilities and not learning styles.
According to the theory, every individual possesses eight types of intelligences but at varying levels. These intelligences include:
1 Linguistic - having sensitivity to the meaning of words, the order among words, and the sound, rhythms, inflections, and meter of words (e.g. poet). In simple terms it means the ability to speak and understand spoken and written language. People with good linguistic abilities can think in words and use language to express themselves well.
2 Musical - having sensitivity to rhythm, pitch, meter, tone, melody and timbre. May entail the ability to sing, play musical instruments, and/or compose music (e.g. musical conductor).
3 Logical/Mathematical - The capacity to conceptualise the logical relations among actions or symbols (e.g. mathematicians, scientists) is what logical intelligence entails. It is the ability to develop equations, calculate, solve abstract problems.
4 Spatial - The ability to comprehend spatial information. The ability to understand three-dimensional space.
5 Bodily – Kinesthetic - The ability to use one’s whole body, or parts of the body (like the hands or the mouth) to solve problems or create products (e.g. dancer). It is the ability to control body movement.
6 Inter personal - The core capacity here is the ability to notice and make distinctions among other individuals and, in particular, among their moods, temperaments, motivations and intensions.
7 Intra personal - The core capacity at work here is access to one’s own feelings. Intrapersonal intelligence amounts to the capacity to distinguish a feeling of pleasure from one of pain and, on the basis of such discrimination, to become more involved in or to withdraw from a situation.
8 Naturalistic - The ability to make consequential distinctions in the world of nature; between one plant and another, or one cloud formation and another (For example: taxonomist). (Sometimes called nature intelligence).
Multiple intelligence is a way of providing children with multiple perspectives towards things, ideas and concepts. Multiple entry points are different ways of introducing a different topic in the classroom. Explaining a topic through different entry points helps to make the information more accessible to a range of differing learners, addressing their strengths, while challenging their weaknesses. It also makes the material seem more interesting and relevant to the students, encourages a multiple faceted understanding of the topic and helps students to keep their minds focused on the material. It is not necessary to use all entry points every time, just enough variety to accommodate different ways of learning. The choice of entry points will depend upon the circumstances as well as the nature of the material. Multiple representations help the teacher to gauge how much the children have understood. Besides the routine academic tests and exams, there are various ways of knowing whether the children have understood and learnt a concept or not. What is learnt and understood can be represented in the following forms:
Ever since Howard Gardener has expounded his theory in his path breaking book – Frames of Mind; practitioners in the field of education and human development have grappled with its implementation with varied degree of success. As it is true for any new theory, every implementation brings out a better and newer nuance of MI. The beauty of multiple intelligence is it is a very simple theory. Most people intuitively know that every child is different and that they learn and express differently.
Multiple intelligence theory is very important for anyone involved in the field of human development on at least two fronts.
1 It broadens the definition of intelligence. Historically we are accustomed to a linguistic – logic definition of intelligence. Traditional IQ tests assess this. But MI gives credit to artistry, melody, physical performance, relationships and self awareness and society.
2 It provides a framework to guide human development if there are intelligences beyond the traditional linguistic-logical, how should education evolve to give every child the chance to succeed by using his/her unique combination of the eight intelligences.
This psychological theory has direct educational implications and it reveals the differences in the intellectual profiles of individuals. Thus, these differences can be considered as a factor while devising the education system.
Dr Reeta Sonawat is former Dean, Faculty of Home Science, Professor and Head, Department of Human Development, SNDT Women’s University, Juhu Campus
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