By introducing Multiple Intelligences in classroom, we can begin to describe students’ most developed intelligences so that more of their learning in school can take place through their preferred intelligences

The theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI) states that each person has different ways of learning and different intelligences. The MI theory was introduced by Harvard University Professor Howard Gardner in his book “Frames Of Mind: The Theory Of Multiple Intelligences”.

As per Gardner, intelligence is (a) the ability to create an effective product or offer a service that is valued in a culture, (b) a set of skills that make it possible for a person to solve problems in life, and (c) the potential for finding or creating solutions for problems, which involves gathering new knowledge.

The MI theory has emerged to challenge the concept of “one-size-fits-all” approach. This approach to education invariably leaves students behind and does not help to unleash the potential of the students. The MI theory provides direction on how to improve learners’ ability and its ultimate goal is to make them understand the subject matter in the way they find it comfortable.

Intelligence is not a tangible object that can be measured. It helps students to demonstrate and share their strengths, develop the capacity to solve real-life problems. It also involves parents with their children in teaching-learning activities. Gardner has discussed eight different bits of intelligence present in the human mind. They include: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalist.

Linguistic intelligence refers to the capacity to use words effectively—orally and in writing. This intelligence helps students to prepare and to communicate more effectively and freely with peers and other members. This intelligence probably includes the ability of students to manipulate the syntax or structure of language, the phonology or sounds of language, the semantics or meanings of language, and the pragmatic dimensions or practical uses of language.

The logical-mathematical intelligence is the capacity to use numbers effectively. This intelligence helps and prepares students to develop the capacity to analyse the problems logically. Use of activities like charts, Venn diagrams, graphs and tables engage the logical-mathematical intelligence of the students.

Spatial intelligence is the ability to perceive the visual-spatial world accurately and to perform transformations upon those perceptions. This intelligence involves sensitivity to colour, line, shape, form, space and the relationships that exist between these elements. Activities like mind mapping, flow charts, fishbone diagrams and a pictorial representation of a concept help to develop spatial intelligence of the students.

Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence refers to expertise in using one’s whole body to express ideas and feelings and facility in using one’s hands to produce or transform things. Activities like matching games, drag-and-drop exercises help to build this intelligence in the students.

Likewise, musical intelligence refers to the capacity to perceive, discriminate, transform and express musical forms. Adding music, the use of sound or rhythm, or adding spoken text while doing teaching-learning activities greatly help to develop this intelligence in the students.

Interpersonal intelligence is the ability to discern and respond appropriately to the moods, intentions, motivations, desires and feelings of other people. It helps students to learn through interaction. Teachers can encourage students to develop this intelligence by designing lessons that include group activities, seminars and dialogues. It is more related to the ability for self-discipline, self-understanding and self-esteem.

And lastly, the naturalist intelligence is related to the ability to “recognise and classify” plants, animals and other things in nature. This intelligence also includes sensitivity to other natural phenomena like cloud and mountains formations.

Our education system assumes that all children can learn subject matters through one pattern of teaching and that uniform measures can be used to test all the students. Our system focuses more on memory test rather than on intelligence test. This inhibits the cognitive development of students. By using the MI approach in our classroom, we can provide opportunities for learning based on our students’ needs, interests and talents. MI in the classroom acts like the “real’ world for the students. By introducing MI in the classroom, we can begin to describe students’ most developed intelligence so that more of their learning in school can take place through their preferred intelligence.

Teaching through MI makes teachers teach for greater and enhanced understanding on important subject matters, topics and themes for students. Gardner proposes three approaches in teaching for understanding: (1) entry points, (2) analogies and (3) approaching the core. An entry point is the centre of a topic that arouses interests amongst students for further exploration.

The MI theory has two important advantages. First, it paves the ways for planning the education programme in a way that students realise their potentials and move toward their desires. Second, it makes it possible for teachers to reach out to students who are more active because teaching and learning would be more attractive.

Joshi is a PhD Scholar, Faculty Member Patan Multiple Campus