We’re all familiar with an “intelligence quotient,” or what we call someone’s IQ. The Scholastic Aptitude Test, or SAT, is the most common modern-day IQ test taken by most college-bound high school students.
While the SAT measures two types of intelligences, verbal and math, there are plenty of people who aren’t very good at either. Does this mean there’s whole population of people who are, sadly, UN-intelligent? No! This means there are other types of intelligences the SAT does not measure.
The Multiple Intelligence theory, detailed in developmental psychologist Howard Gardner’s 1983 book “Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences,” was originally comprised of seven separate intelligences which work together within each of us:
Later, he added an eighth intelligence – naturalist – and goes on to say there could be more.
“A belief in a single intelligence assumes that we have one central, all-purpose computer—and it determines how well we perform in every sector of life. In contrast, a belief in multiple intelligences assumes that we have a number of relatively autonomous computers—one that computes linguistic information, another spatial information, another musical information, another information about other people, and so on. I estimate that human beings have 7 to 10 distinct intelligences (see www.multipleintelligencesoasis.org).”
So how do we best make use of these multiple intelligences? Here’s what Gardner himself recommends to educators, but it can certainly apply to parents as well:
1. Individualize your teaching as much as possible. Instead of “one size fits all,” learn as much as you can about each student, and teach each person in ways that they find comfortable and learn effectively. Of course this is easier to accomplish with smaller classes. But ‘apps’ make it possible to individualize for everyone.
2. Pluralize your teaching. Teach important materials in several ways, not just one (e.g. through stories, works of art, diagrams, role play). In this way you can reach students who learn in different ways. Also, by presenting materials in various ways, you convey what it means to understand something well. If you can only teach in one way, your own understanding is likely to be thin.
So, as a fun example, if your child’s musical intelligence is exceptionally strong but he or she struggles in math, try teaching math in song! Or if they’re more linguistic than mathematical, use storytelling instead. Learning new concepts boosts children’s confidence, encouraging them to want to learn more. Leveraging their stronger intelligences to support them in other areas will help them become more adept, more confident, learners and more successful in both areas of intelligence.
Visit MI Oasis, the official site of Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence theory for more information, or a quick summary of each intelligence.
You can also watch Dr. Gardner explain his Multiple Intelligence theory in this 8-minute video: