Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences
Throughout our lives, we are faced with many different learning experiences. Some of these experiences have made a better impact than others. We can attribute this to our learning style.
A persons learning style is the method through which they gain information about their environment. Research is going on all over the world to help explain learning styles. As teachers, it is our
responsibility to learn about these different learning styles so that we can appeal to every type of learner in our classrooms. Howard Gardner has elaborated on the concept of learning style through what
he calls multiple intelligences (Gardner 3). Understanding these intelligences will help us to design our classrooms and curriculum in a way that will appeal to all of our students. We may even be able to
curb negative behavior by reaching students in a different way. If we implement activities that call upon the use of all these intelligences (Gardner 2) we will get the best out of all of our students
(Santrock 311). Their grades will improve and they will retain more information for a longer period of time. Learning styles can also help us to determine possible career paths so that we can help to steer
children in the right direction. Discovering our own learning styles can potentially maximize our own information processing and teaching techniques.
Howard Gardner is a professor at Harvard who has studied the idea of intelligence in a way that links research and personal experience (Traub 1). He began speaking about multiple
intelligences in 1983. Since then, he has won a MacArthur genius grant, he has written books which have been translated into twenty languages, and he gives about seventy-five speeches a year (Truab
1). His ideas have been backed and popularized by many groups seeking to reform the current educational system. The idea is that we know a child who scores well on tests is smart, but that doesnt
mean a child who does not score well is not getting the information or is incapable of getting it (Traub1). Gardners goal is to turn what we normally think of as intelligence into a mere aspect of a much
wider range of aptitudes (Traub 1).
Most of us believe that doing well in school requires a certain amount of intelligence. School work usually focuses on only two avenues of intelligence. Traditional teaching focuses on
verbal and mathematical skills. A person who is weak in both of these will probably do poorly in school. Gardner suggests that their is eight different aptitudes or intelligences (Gardner 3). Each
individual has the eight intelligences in various amounts. Our strengths and weaknesses in the intelligences influence how we learn (Gardner 5). They may even affect how successful we are in life.
Verbal- linguistic is the first of Gardners proposed intelligences (Gardner). A linguistic learner thinks in words. This person uses language to express and understand meaning
(Gardner 24) Linguistic learners are sensitive to the meaning of words, their order, and their inflection (Gardner 24) This type of person uses writing to express themselves, often through poetry, stories,
and letters. Verbal linguistic (Gardner 24) learners are usually very skilled readers. Speaking is another strength that they possess. Oral communication is used often for persuasion and memorization
(Gardner 133). They are often eloquent speakers and have wonderfully developed auditory skills. This type of intelligence tends to pick up foreign languages with ease.
Identifying a verbal linguistic (Gardner 24) learner in your classroom is not difficult. Because of their talents at expressing themselves their class work will stand out. They tend to do well
at expressing themselves through writing. The will often speak their mind and can easily explain an event that happened through words, both speaking and writing.
Planning lessons that appeal to the verbal linguistic (Gardner 24) learner is very easy. The traditional curriculum appeals best to this kind of learner. They are very good at reading and
writing which is already the main method of teaching in most classrooms. Some activities that appeal to this kind of learner are storytelling, writing essays, joking, debating, story problems, and crossword
searches. These activities will allow the student to use words to learn material and express what they have learned through words.
The visual spatial intelligence has the ability to think in pictures (Gardner 65). They perceive the visual world accurately and are able to think in three dimensional terms. According to
Gardner visual learners can easily recreate something that they have seen (Gardner 67). Art is usually a strong area for a student who learns this way. Constructing things is another activity that come
easily to this type of learner. They have a knack for turning ideas into concrete examples (Gardner 67). An example of this type of student is some one who can bring an architectural design from their
minds to paper and then into a model. A person strong in this type of intelligence (Gardner 133) has a keen awareness between space and objects.
The student who learns best visually will most often sit near the front of the class. They need to see the teachers body language and facial expressions to fully understand the content of a
lesson. This type of learner learns best from visual display. Diagrams, illustrated text books, videos, flipcharts, and handouts are crucial to the learning of this type of intelligence (Gardner 24) . Activities
that this type of learner will excel at include: creating collages and posters, storyboarding, painting, and photographing.
People who are strong in the visual spatial(Gardner 17) type of intelligence are indispensable when it comes to professions. We rely on them to be aware of the big picture with the
knowledge that each element relies on another. They seem to have an instinctual awareness of what is going on around them and are wonderful navigators, mechanics, engineers, architects, interior
designers, and inventors.
Body kinesthetic (Gardner 88) learners have the ability to control body movements and handle objects skillfully (Gardner 88). These learners express themselves through movement.
They have a good sense of balance and hand eye coordination. Interacting with the space around them is the way that the body kinesthetic(Gardner 144) learner processes information. This learning
style involves a sense of timing and coordination. Michael Jordan, for example would most likely have a well developed body kinesthetic intelligence (Gardner 144). His ability to move quickly across a
basketball court, while dribbling a ball, with a roaring crowd, while processing the whereabouts of five opponents and four teammates shows that there is a specific intelligence in his movement and
perception of the basketball courts layout (Santrock 292).
The body kinesthetic (Gardner 2) learner can often be a handful in the classroom. As a student it may be difficult for this person to sit still. This learner will do best if they are able to
work while moving around or standing. This type of learner will do well with activities that involve acting out skits, directing movement, and playing charades. They will often excel in physical education
and delight at becoming involved with sports.
Logical mathematical intelligence(Gardner 6) is another intelligence that is already heavily implemented in our current school system. It involves the ability to use numbers, logic, and
reason . These learners think conceptually, in logic and number patterns (Gardner 112). They are often able to perform complex mathematical problems. This type of intelligence involves deductive and
inductive reasoning skills, as well as critical and creative problem solving (Gardner 122).
Children who use logic and mathematics as a primary way of learning tend to be obvious in the classroom. This child will ask a lot of questions and enjoys doing experiments. They will
often excel in mathematics and science. Finding ways to help this person succeed in language arts and social studies can often be a challenge. This person will do well if we help them to focus on
categorizing information. Grouping concepts together and then finding a relationship between them will help this type of intelligence to understand concepts not related to math or science. Helping a child
master these techniques will no doubt help them tackle issues in their everyday life.
Musical Rhythmic (Gardner 121) learners have the ability to produce and appreciate music. These musically inclined learners think in rhythms, sounds, and patterns. They immediately
respond to music either appreciating or criticizing what they hear. Many of these learners are extremely sensitive to environmental sounds such as; crickets, dripping, bells, and trains (Santrock 345). They
are also very sensitive to patterns and pitch in sound. Musical rhythmic (Garnder 121) learners are able to recognize, create, and recreate sound using their voice or instruments (Gardner 125). An
understanding of the connection between music and emotions is prevalent in these types of learners (Gardner 125).
Identifying a person who is a musical learner can be tricky. They often play an instrument and are involved in some kind of extracurricular activity involving music. This type of learner will
recreate a sound by tapping on their desk or humming the tune.
Accommodating this type of leaner in the classroom can be challenging for teachers. This person will benefit from being able to bring music in to their lessons. Their homework may include writing songs
about periods of history and literary events. Musical learners may need to create songs in order to memorize operations and sequences. They should be encouraged to make up songs to help them
memorize things like planets and mathematical formulas.
Gardner is especially interested in the musical intelligence (Santrock 354). Gardner himself had been a serious pianist and a composition student (Traub 2). His interests in the musical
intelligence (Gardner 121) particularly focused on childhood (Santrock 354). Preschool children have the ability to learn musical patterns easily, and they rarely forget them. (Gardner 77). He points out
that many adults can still remember tunes from when they were very young. (Gardner 78).
Intrapersonal intelligence (Gardner 129) are learners who are very introverted. They are aware of their own strengths and weaknesses. These types of learners use self knowledge to
guide decision making (Gardner 129). They have the ability to monitor ones self in interpersonal relationships and act with personal efficacy (Gardner 128). They are aware of their feelings and are able
to regulate their moods and emotional responses. (Gardner 110).
I believe that I have a strong intrapersonal intelligence (Gardner 129). I have always been a very quiet person, but only on the outside. There is a whole lot of things going on inside my
head. I plan my actions ahead of time, then act them out the way that I had planned. Being intrapersonal, I have always been very selfish in a way. When I think of an struggle or issue I always decide
what I would do, rather than put myself in someone elses shoes. Having discovered this side of me I try to be more conscious of it and not let it rule my personality.
A student who is an intrapersonal learner in the classroom will often keep to themselves. (Gardner). They will enjoy thinking and meditating on ideas. These types of people are
planners. Activities that will stimulate this type of intelligence include journal writing, fiction writing, and self assessments. They are very comfortable with their own feelings on subjects and think things out
Interpersonal or social intelligence (Gardner 138) identifies themselves through their relationship with other people (Gardner 138). These people see things from other peoples point of
view in order to understand how they think and feel (Santrock 293). They often have the ability to sense feelings, intentions, and motivations. Organization is a key strength, although they sometimes resort
to manipulation in order to make things run smoothly. This type of intelligence (Gardner 139) is a born group leader and encourages cooperation. Their strengths lie in both verbal and non-verbal
language to open communication channels with people. (Gardner 139). This type of person is often a great listener and practices empathy for other people.
The interpersonal learners (Gardner 140) are the leaders of the classroom. Problem solving is an attribute that will come in handy when communicating with your classroom. These
learners are able to understand your role as the teacher as well as the plights of the students. They will do best working in groups or with partners. Activities such as reporting, interviewing, teaching, and
choreographing are things that the interpersonal learner will excel in.
The interpersonal (Gardner 140) person will do best with careers that involve working with people. They are easily able to empathize with situations and find the best solutions to
problems. They are also manipulators who can persuade people in a different ways. Their skills in communicating and understanding needs and motivation of people help them to become wonderful
teachers, counselors, salespeople, politicians, and businessmen.
The naturalist (Gardner 150) is the eighth and newest declared learning style. The naturalist (Gardner 150) has an understanding of the natural world. This persons interest and
understanding lies in plants, animals, and scientific studies (Gardner 155). They are able to recognize and classify individuals, species, and ecological relationships (Gardner 155). Interacting with living
creatures comes easily to the naturalist. Gardner says that these types of learners have a certain skill for understanding animal behavior, their needs, and characteristics. The naturalist intelligence
(Gardner 156) will tend to have a green thumb and are able to grow plants with ease.
In the classroom the naturalist learner (Gardner 156) will often be an observer. They will enjoy field trips to places like the zoo and to farms. They will often have collections of insects
and rocks which they could share with the class. They will benefit from activities such as collecting leaves, growing plants, doing experiments, and participating in field studies. Cooking and home
economic related activities can also be a strength for the naturalist (Gardner 156).
One of the first interventions that can be used by the classroom teacher to accommodate individual learning style of students is changes in the classroom design. Many classrooms are
formal in design with all students facing front…in rows…in desks. For the students whose preference is informal this often is a hindrance to learning. Offering optional seating in groups, pairs, and on
couches can accommodate individual learning preferences and increase student success.
Gardner believes that each of the intelligences can be destroyed by brain damage. According to Traubs article, Gardner studied brain damaged patients at Bostons Veterans
Administration Hospital (Traub2). He found that patients who had profound damage to a main intellectual function, leaving them barely able to speak, could still recognize a metaphor or even tell a joke
(Traub 2). I recently saw a news segment on the actor Dudley Moore who has a disease that is deteriorating his brain. He reported that he can no longer play the piano: I can not bring the sounds from
my head out through the piano (ABC News). This is perhaps an example of how brain damage or neurological diseases can affect intelligence.
Each of the intelligences involve unique cognitive skills and shows up in exaggerated fashion in both the gifted and idiot savants (Gardner 168). Studies are being done concerning autism
and learning styles. It appears that people with autism are more likely to rely on only one style of learning. Having worked with autistic children, I am able to say that each autistic child has his or her own
way of interacting with the world. This can easily be translated into their primary learning style and can be very helpful for those who work with autistic children. By observing the autistic person, one may
be able to determine his or her primary learning style. For example , if an autistic child enjoys looking at books, watching television, and tends to look carefully at people and objects, then he or she may
be a visual learner (Santrock 433). Once a persons learning style is determined, then relying on this modality to teach can greatly increase the likelihood that the person will learn and possibly
Some people have problems with Gardners theories about intelligence (Traub 3). Many say that there is no concrete research behind Gardners ideas (Traub 5). The problem may lie in
the term intelligence (Traub 3). Intelligence is not often viewed as a concept, but as a measurement, a term of value. (Traub 3). Gardner says that his use of the word intelligence (Traub 3) is
intentional. He chose to challenge the traditional view of the concept of intelligence.
There are many different avenues available to help people discover their own learning style and assess their intelligence. Mainly there are questionnaires to help assess the way that people
process information. Looking through a few of the assessment which can be found easily online, I found that they are pretty standard. They call for you to check statements that you find are true about
yourself. These statements are then put into their appropriate intelligence (Traub 3) category. The category with the most true statements is ranked as your strongest intelligence. Each of the other
intelligences are put in order accordingly.
As teachers, we can quickly assess our students at the beginning of the school year by performing a similar inventory. We can take the statements and re word them so that they appeal to
a younger audience. We can also assign activities and let our children choose how they are going to present them. A fun activity that is often used is What I did over summer vacation. The children are
asked to present what they did over summer vacation. They are able to present this any way they like and are given suggestions such as Write a song about your summer vacation for the musical learner;
perform a skit about your Summer vacation for the body kinesthetic (Gardner 12) learner; and tell us what you learned about yourself over your Summer vacation for the intrapersonal learner.
Getting to know the learning styles of the children in your classroom at the beginning of the year will help you to plan your curriculum effectively for the rest of the year.
Knowing about learning styles and multiple intelligence is helpful for everyone, especially for people with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder. Although there is not concrete
research to back up Gardners theories; we know that using learning styles in the classrooms is working. Knowing your own learning style and the learning styles of your students will help to develop
coping strategies, compensate for weaknesses, and capitalize strengths. It is every teachers duty to make the learning process a pleasurable one for all students; becoming familiar with the different
learning styles will help us to do just that.
Gardner, Howard. Frames of Mind. New York: Basic Books, 1988
Santrock, John. Child Development. McGraw-Hill, 1998
Special Report on Dudley Moore. Channel Seven News, ABC Network. Nov. 1999
Traub, James. Multiple Intelligence Disorder. The New Republic (1998). 5 pgs. 24 November 1999