Harvard professor Howard Gardner theorizes that students have multiple intelligences that can grow or weaken depending on what is nurtured. Understanding this multiple intelligence theory can help teachers hone their students' natural strengths and compensate for any inherent weaknesses. Students are taught in diverse ways based on their specific talents, while also learning to appreciate the gifts of other students.
Multiple intelligences theory of learning is based on neuropsychological research and holds that each student has unique cognitive skills, including linguistic, logical/mathematical, spatial, musical/ rhythmic, naturalist, intrapersonal, interpersonal, bodily kinesthetic and existential knowledge. All categories of intelligence vary greatly within individuals and fit into a more holistic view of students' capabilities. According to the theory, there are many ways to demonstrate understanding. By approaching learning in an individualized way, students can acquire skills in ways that makes sense to them.
Valuing Unique Strengths
The multiple intelligence perspective helps teachers appreciate students' unique gifts. They acknowledge that students grasp elements in different ways -- one may portray their understanding of a plot through drawing it, while another may summarize it in writing. This flexibility allows students to learn through a variety of experiences, reinforcing lessons for longer-term retention. Classrooms that are designed to take multiple intelligences into account may be more beneficial than standard education for students' learning, self-esteem, development, critical thinking and divergent thinking skills.
Embracing Learning Struggles
Multiple intelligence theory fosters learning in areas where students struggle. For example, students who have difficulty with division are not viewed as less intelligent than students who learn division easily. According to the theory, the struggling child may be thinking about division at a deeper level, or they may learn better with a different teaching method, or might even excel in other areas of mathematics later in life.
Classrooms using this theory function like the real world, where people with different skills collaborate. Each student has an important role and equal value. Students are actively involved with other students' and their own learning. This reflects the collaboration required of many careers, such as when an artist and an author create a story book together, or when an actor and a set builder work together to create a play. Teachers work with students to provide clear outlines for how they will be evaluated before a collaborative project begins.
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