At the beginning of the 20th century intelligence was seen as one, measurable personality trait. Intelligence tests based on the work of Alfred Binet were developed and became popular. But during the 1980s Dr. Howard Gardner challenged this belief with his studies of stroke victims and gifted children. Gardner discovered that people have a large variety of abilities and capacities.
As a result of this work Dr. Gardner developed his Multiple Intelligences Theory which states that everyone is intelligent, just in different ways. Each person can increase strengths and abilities at any time, based on circumstances, opportunity, environment, and personal choices.
So far Gardner’s theory suggests that there are eight groups or abilities, but that each intelligence area has many parts, and changes as people learn. The ramifications of this theory are many:
• Society values many skills which are not always measured on tests or even taught in school.
• The theory of multiple intelligences says that everyone is smart in some ways and less so in others.
• When teaching adults, teachers should be encouraged to use students’ special strengths to help them improve their weaker areas.
As a teacher, catering to children with various intelligences can be extremely challenging. This is especially true in more traditional classrooms.
Numerous studies have shown that furniture and classroom layout can have a significant impact on learning, no matter what each individual child’s strengths are.
In “Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom,” Thomas Armstrong explains that the classroom environment should not be static, and that it is important to break out of more conventional set ups to better accommodate every kind of student. School desks should not necessarily face forward in neat lines, colors and textures should be used more often, and teachers should be an active part of the class instead of being seated in the back.
When arranging furniture in a classroom, consider the different types of work that will come up throughout the school day. Individual work, work in pairs, group projects… Children also love privacy, so consider creating little reading nooks and other small spaces with the help of bookshelves, rocking chairs and other pieces.
There are many ways to incorporate multiple intelligences into a classroom. Today, many teachers are beginning to recognize the importance of creating an active learning environment, and involving their students in more engaging ways. One great way to start encouraging different intelligences is by changing the classroom layout and structure, which includes the classroom furniture, bulletin boards, creative corners and more. Students with strong spacial intelligence would probably love to help rearrange the class’s learning space.
Thomas Armstrong explained:
“For most Americans, the word ‘classroom’ conjures up an image of students sitting in neat rows of desks facing the front of the room, where a teacher either sits at a large desk correcting papers or stands near a blackboard lecturing to students. This is certainly one way to organize a classroom, but it is by no means the only way or the best way.
The theory of multiple intelligences suggests that the classroom environment or classroom ecology may need to be fundamentally restructured to accommodate the needs of different kinds of learners.”
The concept of multiple intelligences is slowly making its way into classrooms around the world. An increasing number of teachers are incorporating different styles of learning into their curriculum in an effort to engage each individual student and help them discover their unique strengths.
While some students find it easy to remain focused on their classwork throughout the day, others may become restless when seated in school chairs for hours on end. By identifying the different intelligences within a class, teachers are better able to create lessons and schedules to suit all of their students’ needs.
The Birmingham Grid for Learning offers a quick multiple intelligences test that is appropriate for all ages. At the beginning of each school year, teachers should consider having their students take such a quiz, and keep a record of each child’s results.
Try the quiz yourself- what are your unique strengths?
Over the past several years, extensive studies have researched the concept of learning, and the ways in which information is presented and absorbed by the individual. The theory of multiple intelligences states that each person is intelligent in their own way, with different strengths and capabilities that depend on circumstance, opportunity, and the way in which information is presented.
For example, in a traditional classroom, some students may find it difficult to remain focused while seated at school furniture for hours on end. These students may prefer a more active approach to learning, or in other words, may be kinesthetic learners.
Other learning styles include visual, aural/auditory and reading/writing (or lingual).
Assessing multiple intelligences and strengths can help anyone involved in learning or teaching. A student can use this information to better understand his or her learning style and adjust their study habits and learning program accordingly. Similarly, parents and teachers can identify children’s unique strengths and help them harness their abilities and enhance their learning experiences with ease.
Dr. Terry Armstrong created a questionnaire aimed at assessing a person’s intelligence and mapping out their particular strengths.
Visit LiteracyWorks.com to take the test.
View this short video that shows the course structure of delivery and some examples of the different teaching styles lecturers use at INTO UEA London.