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Multiple Intelligences In The Classroom

Updated on September 4, 2015

Each child is like the other child. At the same time each child is unlike other child as well. This is because everyone is endowed with unique and diverse gifts and talents. Each has a unique individual personality and a gift of intelligence. It is, therefore, necessary to nurture these natural gifts in a harmonious manner thereby enriching them in the process and also saving them from possible premature death. The education system should devise ways and means to educate the whole child instead of doing so in a fragmented manner. This would require establishing a generic connection among separate and distinct subject areas in the curriculum. An integration of closely related knowledge will not only present the subject matter in a holistic perspective to the child but also go to lessen the curriculum load. In other words the content should be thematically organized. It should be purposively integrated in a meaningful manner and illustrated through interactive activities in all content areas to take care of the diverse needs of all students. As the content and its presentation becomes more interactive students start processing the information by utilizing the active learning opportunities.

All students can and will learn and it is the school’s responsibility to see that they do (Teele, 1996). The need is to enable all students to achieve at their own pace and in their own style. The moot question is how to make the teaching-learning a personalized experience for all students with due respect to their diverse talents and intelligences. The ethos of the school has to be so contrived that a positive, reinforcing and supportive climate pervades all through. It must provide encouragement for innovation, reward excellence and promote creative problem solving by encouraging student achievement from understanding to analysis, synthesis and evaluation of information. The idea is to build upon each individual’s strengths but at the same time respecting the unique differences. Traditionally almost total attention of schools is on mastery of language along with consolidating logical and mathematical abilities. As a matter of fact apart from verbal and computational intelligence students can express their giftedness in a variety of other ways.

Education For All
Education For All

Changing Concept of Intelligence

Intelligence has been defined in a variety of ways. It is the ability to carry on abstract thinking. It is essentially the perception of relations, especially the perception of difficult or subtle relations (Spearman). Intelligence is the aggregate or global capacity of the individual to act purposefully, to think rationally and to deal effectively with his environment (Wechsler, 1958). From many definitions of intelligence

Freeman has identified three aspects namely adjustment or adaptation of the individual to his total environment; ability to learn; and ability to carry on abstract thinking. R.B.Cattell states that the ‘general factor’ which emerges from the correlations between batteries of varied tests is an amalgam of two components of Gf and Ge. Gf is the fluid intelligence (influence of biological factors) and Ge is the crystallized intelligence (influence of cultural factors) (Dutt, 2005). The functional definitions of intelligence gave way to a study of the ‘Structure of Intelligence’. We come across theories of intelligence like Monarchic or unifactor theory and Oligarchic or faculty theory which were offered much before scientific or statistical approach to understand the structure of intelligence came into being. Later based on experimental and statistical approach a number of theories came forward like the multifactor theory by Thorndike, the diarchic theory by Spearman, The group factor theory by Thurstone, Hierarchic theory by Vernon and the Structure of Intellect Model by Guilford. Piaget’s theory too is relevant in this context which gives a schematic road map of cognitive development. Among these Thurstone was the first to suggest that the human organism was far too complex for intellectual activity to be determined solely by a single human factor (Morgan, 2004). He through his multivariate analyses identified a set of abilities viz. verbal ability, deductive reasoning, spatial ability and perceptual speeding his theory of intelligence. Thurstone published his test battery of primary mental abilities in 1938.

Emotional Intelligence

Intelligence is an innate as well as acquired intellectual potential. It grows and develops with the help of maturity and experiences. Until recently it was believed that general intelligence measured as IQ is the greatest predictor of success. Consequently IQ scores were used for selection, classification and promotion in various courses and job placements. But 1990 onwards over dominance of IQ has been challenged by researchers. Emotional intelligence and its measure Emotional Quotient (E.Q.) has been found to be a greater predictor of success than I.Q. Mayer and Salovey (1990) have defined Emotional Intelligence as ‘the capacity to reason with emotion in four areas: to perceive emotion, to integrate it in thought, to understand it and to manage it. According to Goleman Emotional Intelligence is as powerful, and at times more powerful than I.Q. While I.Q. contributes about 20% of success in life, the other forces contribute the rest.

Multiple Intelligences

Then a major development on similar lines happened in the field of theory of intelligence which has far reaching implications in educational field. Gardner (1983) in his book, Frames of Mind: The theory of Multiple Intelligences proposed eight different intelligences to account for a broader range of human potential, instead of the traditional notion of intelligence based on I.Q. testing. Gardner defined intelligence as the “capacity to solve problems or to fashion products that are valued in one or more cultural settings” (Gardner & Hatch, 1989).

Gardner while proposing his theory of multiple intelligences clearly suggests that the traditional notion of I.Q. test score based intelligence is a far too limited concept and that cognitive competence can be better described in terms of a set of abilities or talents. Individuals possess these mental skills in varied proportions. They may however, differ in the nature of their combination and the degree of skill possessed by each. Gardner has termed these as intelligences and named them as Linguistic Intelligence involving ability to effectively manipulate language, Logical-mathematical Intelligence related to the ability to detect patterns, think logically and reason deductively, Spatial Intelligence i.e. the ability to manipulate and create mental images, Bodily-kinesthetic Intelligence consisting of the ability to use one’s mental skills for coordinating own body movements, Musical Intelligence encompassing the capability to recognize the musical pitch, rhythm and tone, Interpersonal Intelligence showing the ability to work cooperatively with others, Intra personal Intelligence involving the ability to understand one’s own feelings and motivations and Naturalist Intelligence relating to the ability to discern, appreciate and understand the natural world.

Gardner points out to the fact that our educational system values and promotes mainly those who are logical and critical. There is hardly any attention being paid to many others who are intelligent or talented in other ways like those who aspire to become dancers, architects, designers, interpreters, entrepreneurs, musicians, and in other different fields that enrich and enhance our culture and raise the quality of our life. In the present day schools children are joining from all sections of population due to stress on universal elementary and secondary education consequently there are all kinds of talents with all kinds of aspirations. Fortunately in a developing economy there are a variety of opportunities to which these children can be channelized to unfold and actualize their dominant intelligences. Unfortunately the present curriculum in the schools is selective rather than inclusive. Instead of labeling children average or under achievers of even failures the need is to identify their dominant intelligences which may be musical, social, naturalist or spatial and nurture these to give them much needed self esteem. The children who have gifts other than logical-mathematical need to receive reinforcement in their areas of strength so that they can excel and serve the society in a variety of capacities adding quality to his/her own life and to the job they accomplish. Students who know themselves well can maximize their strengths and turn out to be good counselors, therapists or managers and religious preachers. Similarly those who are efficient in interpersonal relationship excel in social matters and become best social reformers or political leaders or even very good sales person or a skilful negotiator. There are others who are skilled at manipulation, dexterity or survival skills will be daring and risk taking thus developing into good stunt men, experts in adventure games, showing bravery and mastery in military skills, good instrumentalist and so on. Needless to emphasize therefore that intelligences in these non-traditional areas are becoming critical in this age of terrorism, space adventures and global competition

Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom

There are many ways to incorporate Multiple Intelligences theory into the curriculum, and there is no set method by which to incorporate the theory. Some teachers set up learning centers with resources and materials that promote involving the different intelligences. Careful planning during the lesson design process will help to ensure quality instruction and valuable student experiences in the classroom. Other instructional models, such as project-based and collaborative learning may be easily integrated into lessons with Multiple Intelligences. Collaborative learning allows students to explore their interpersonal intelligence, while project-based learning may help structure activities designed to cultivate the nine intelligences

It is important for teachers to carefully select activities that not only teach to the intelligences, but also realistically mesh with the subject matter of the lesson or unit. Multiple Intelligences theory should enhance, not detract from what is being taught. So it becomes duty of teacher to maximize student’s strength rather than focusing on students weakness. It is rightly said if we focus on strengths, we can overcome weaknesses automatically. Teacher need to plan the chapter that student enjoys it and is able to make connections with real life situations. That clearly indicate we need to create student centered lesson plan. Steps to implement a student-centered lesson or unit:

  • Carefully identify instructional goals, objectives, and instructional outcomes.
  • Consider activities that you can integrate into the lesson or unit that teach to the different intelligences. Teachers need not incorporate all nine intelligences into one lesson.
  • When gathering resources and materials, consider those which will allow students to explore their multiple intelligences.
  • Specify a timeframe for the lesson or unit.
  • Allow for considerable element of student choice when designing activities and tasks for the intelligences
  • Design activities that are student-centered, using inquiry-based models of instruction.
  • Provide a rubric for student activities. You might consider having students help create rubrics.
  • Incorporate assessment into the learning process.

Example of student centered Lesson Plan:

Skill: Communication and Cooperation with Visually Impaired Children (V.I.C.)

Target Audience: M.Ed students with optional paper Special education.

Intelligences: spatial, Bodily kinesthetic and personal intelligences.

Description: In a discussion with students about V.I.C, it was clear to me they are not clear about the problems faced by V.I.C. Knowledge was at surface and they were sympathetic about V.I.C .They were not clear how to cooperate with them. So it was a challenge for me to make this topic clear to them in a way they are able to learn themselves.

Visit to V.I. school located in Gurgaon, India. Different activities were planned for the day.

First activity was to describe a statue: Three students were identified for this activity on the basis of their choice and their spatial intelligence. One was V.I.C, second was normally vision but eyes were covered with handkerchief, third one who can see normally. This activity was hit with all the students and responses of all three students were amazing and very different. First student explained the statue in such way that each one of us felt that he could see that statue. Second student was not able to explain properly while third student explained the aesthetic beauty of the statue.

Second activity was to perform a folk dance; Students of M.Ed performed on the Haryanvi dance (Haryana state dance).While V.I.C performed Mizo dance which needed very high coordination. This dance is bamboo dance. Bamboo dance is a participatory action performed by both men and women, dressed in traditional attire. The dance involves a gentle jump over bamboo sticks, placed horizontally in parallel spacing over the vertically placed bamboo sticks to form interface. Two people sit on either side of the ground and slide the sticks over the vertically placed bamboo sticks. The dance is followed with a rhythmic music as 'hih-hoh with the help of which dancer adjust their steps. The sliding of the bamboo stripes jig the whole environment and gives a picture-perfect scene. This dance clearly outlined the strength of coordination and movement of students. Their body posture, facial expression, calm, poise, variation demonstrated their control on senses and emotions.

Scaffolding Bridge Point: How do we help the visually challenged? How to treat them? Are they able to see better than us? What are the communication barriers? How do you feel after meeting them? After this students expressed the concern of V.I.C.

Destination point: Each student described their activity to explain how they will work with students. Important was the sensitivity with which they created their activity. The outline, outcome and detailing was really encouraging.

Result: Student was able to understand V.I.C in a better way. They were able to understand that how these students without vision are more clearer in vision never treat them with pity. It is very important that they are socially accepted to get over their deep rooted feeling of insecurity and inferiority. They could understand the role of family, teacher and peer group in life of V.I.C.

Student’s expression was so intense that my eyes were filled with tears of joy. The expression of student before we started this activity- virtual and at the end of the activity –reality. Clarity, communication and cooperation increased leaps and bounds. Their will to work with them was noticeable.

Role of Teacher: Facilitator

Role of Questions; helped them in achieving target

After these two activities students went to their classes and understood how they read, tools used for teaching. They went along with them to hostel and spend time with them to understand what they do after their classes. They discussed with them on current topics to understand their viewpoints.

After this activity students and faculty had such a lasting impact and has allowed them to think more critically about other teaching tools. This wasn't just a classroom lesson; it was also a life lesson!

Conclusion: As a teacher and learner we realize that there are many ways to be "smart “It is very important to understand how are you smart rather than how smart are you. All forms of intelligence are equally celebrated. A sense of increased self-worth may be seen as students build on their strengths and work towards becoming an expert in certain areas multiple intelligences in classroom help stronger bonding between student and teacher. Students may develop strong problem solving skills that they can use real life situations .M.I in classroom open gateways for so many students, who were not allowed in the classes earlier.


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