Multiple Intelligences theory

Click on the image for the source
Click on the image for the source

Any educator knows that the mere scientific competence of a teacher offers no guarantee for his/her successful classroom activity. According to Gardner, the author of the Multiple Intelligences theory, the aim of education “should be to develop intelligences and to help people reach vocational and avocational goals that are appropriate to their particular spectrum of intelligences. People who are helped to do so, he believes, feel more engaged and competent and therefore more inclined to serve society in a constructive way.” The theory he proposed in his 1983 book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences differentiates intelligence into eight specific (primarily sensory) “modalities”: verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial-visual, bodily-kinesthetic, musical-rhythmic, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalistic, rather than seeing it as dominated by a single general ability.  While all these types are present in any person, one or several are dominant for each of us.  They are located in different parts of the brain and can work together, as well as independently. All of them can be improved throughout our life, provided we have a growth mindset, not a fixed one. This theory explains why some pupils remember best what they have seen, while others are good with words, or at building things, some are very creative but find it hard to remember formulas or work in formal Mathematics. In order to get the best results, a teacher has to meet the learning needs of the students to examine ways of accommodating these individual ways of learning in his/her teaching.

       The Multiple Intelligences  theory states that pupils will benefit more from a broader vision of education, that would drive teachers to use different methodologies, exercises and activities to reach all students, not just those who excel at linguistic and logical intelligence and challenge them to discover “ways that will work for this student learning this topic” According to Gardner’s theory, students have different types of dominant intelligence and they can be reached more effectively by using a wider array of approaches. “Pupil engagement is a multi-faceted construct that includes affective, behavioral and cognitive dimensions” (Fredricks, Blumenfeld and Paris , 2004) While the teacher can choose the approach used for presenting a certain notion or task, it’s important also that the student learn to understand and value their own approach to successful mathematics learning, to understand the conditions under which they learn best and to broaden their approach to learning. At the same time, this will help them learn to value their peers. Teachers can encourage students to reflect on how they grasp mathematical ideas the best, as well as understand that although students learn in different ways they can still be equally effective as learners and can learn the same ideas. Another important aspect is the students’ mindset, as a progress factor. A growth mindset, that is the understanding that the abilities and intelligence can be developed (as opposed to a fixed mindset, the idea that they are fixed and cannot be influenced) has been shown by researchers to have powerful effects on students’ motivation and learning.

One of the first activities of the project was a questionnaire for students aimed at finding out their strongest and weakest intelligence type. The overall results for all the participating students can be seen in this document.

And here are our conclusions after reflecting on the test results:

Italy: we found the statistics interesting and “real”. Our Comenius students were all there, with their different characteristics, learning styles and personalities. As for the Italian results, we can see that Naturalistic intelligence is not so strong, and, unfortunately, we have to admit that Italy is not paying the due attention to environment . Naturalistic education should be more present in schools since Nursery. On the other hand, Gardner himself was not discriminatory about intelligences, so let’s see this result positively: students can compensate this “deficit” with other qualities and skills and, possibly, they can develop a major naturalistic approach to knowledge thanks to a new awareness given by this project.

 the Netherlands: fascinating to see the differences between the countries and between the genders. To start with our own country: the musical and naturalistic intelligences are the ones that are the least developed amongst our students. One of the reasons for this can be that our students are mainly originated from foreign countries with cultures where music and nature don’t have a dominant position. An instrument is almost never played and they live primarily indoors. To see the logical-mathematical one as (one of the three) highest wasn’t a big surprise. In the Netherlands there is quite a lot of attention for math, from basic calculations at primary school to actual math at secondary school. To look at the results of all countries, the thing that is most easily noticed is that the naturalistic intelligence is the lowest in almost all countries, except for Spain, where it is the highest one! Southern countries like Greece and Italy have a strong interpersonal intelligence, maybe resulting from the cultural background as well. Interesting are the differences between the two genders: boys peak at the logical-mathematical and the bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, but the girls have the highest scores at the musical and interpersonal intelligences! Does this confirm a big prejudice that boys excel in sports and math?

Greece: Actually the statistics had an impressively positive image. We saw differences and similarities between the students of the seven schools in the program. In these tables we can see the abilities of our students, the kinds of intelligence that they dominate or they are short of. First, the small percentage of naturalistic intelligence is remarkable. This fact should certainly set us thinking hard both as schools and countries . The contact of the children with nature and the environment is essential and we have probably neglected it! Secondly , the Greek students have an aptitude particularly for the interpersonal and musical intelligence. This seems natural since the Greek people live in the sunlight for a long time throughout the year and are open-hearted, cheerful and very sociable. As to the logical – mathematical intelligence, the rate is at a satisfactory level compared with other kinds of intelligence of our students. Mathematics is one of the main subjects taught at Greek schools. Thirdly , it is confirmed that boys particularly develop the kinesthetic intelligence whereas girls develop the musical and interpersonal one . The age of students rather justifies this result.

Romania: Since two of our groups are in the terminal year of the Secondary School, this was a good activity for their career hours, helping students in choosing where and how to continue their studies.  For us teachers, the results were a bit surprising. It was a big surprise to have the highest score among all countries in the musical intelligence and a very nice one to also have the highest one in the logical-mathematical type. A bit disappointing, the low score in the linguistic intelligence, but the biggest surprise was the very low one in the naturalistic one. In our school, environmental activities are very frequent, and maybe students are a bit bored of them, or maybe they have not been very motivating for these city-raised students. Maybe instead of planting trees and recycling, we should find more involving things to do in order to really develop environmental awareness and care. Anyway, in these circumstances, having chosen the naturalistic intelligence seems a very inspired choice, because hopefully it can make a change. We’ll do our best for that!

Poland: The multiple intelligences test for Polish students was not only a great fun but it was mainly the opportunity to discover their own predispositions and various abilities.       The students gained experience as some of them dealt with the Gardner’s philosophy for the first time and they all learnt more about themselves. The outcome of the test was surprising. Although the sample students don’t achieve the top marks in maths or science, the most of them are of logical – mathematical intelligence. On the other hand, the least of them are of  interpersonal intelligence. Such a result indicates that the students may have problems with building and sustaining interpersonal relationships as well as working together and helping one another in activities based on team work. The best solution to improve their interpersonal skills may be the participation in the Comenius project, during which they have the chance to meet a lot of new  people and communicate with them in English in order to complete the given task.

Spain: In order to obtain some objective conclusions, it was very positive the exchange of ideas, students‘ observation while doing acitivites in Charleville, different math teaching methodologies, facilities and specific materials.

Concerning the MI test results and despite the variety of ages and number of students who took the test in each country, we can see two important aspects. First, gender doesn´t seem to have any significative relation with the results in the different intelligences except with the interpersonal where girls really make the difference. Second, results show, in general, heterogeneity among the countries. The exceptions could, even, be linked with geography, weather or national lifestyles.

Considering Spanish results, the high scores in Naturalistic and Musical Intelligences can be due to the great amount of outdoor activities among our students and to the fact that many students live in rural areas where the contact with nature is constant and to the musical tradition in the country. Music is taught at primary and secondary school and there are a lot of local music schools where kids can go on learning how to play an instrument.

We were surprised to find out that our results in the Logical-Mathematical Intelligence are not as low as the ones in international reports, such as PISA. We must conclude that motivation, project-based activities, team work and practical objectives are key issues when trying to improve learning results.

France: In this survey, we can find interesting information about the different types of intelligence in the french class. First, we can point out the main place of the musical intelligence. Almost one student out of three is focusing his work mostly on the musical and artistic point of view. This might be  due to the education given by parents at home, who want their children to play instruments, or to take part in artistic activities. At school, they cannot be involved in musical or artistic lessons.

Otherwise, the logical intelligence involving maths-oriented skills is coming just after, balancing the result. As this class is made up with students who have mostly strong math skills, it is rather logical to find a high rate of logical/math intelligence. These two types of intelligence are leading in this group of students.

Moreover, if we have a glance at the number of points given by students to each intelligence, we notice that the 3rd and 4th ranks are quite the same. The interpersonal and the kinesthesic intelligence are following, before the linguistic and spatial ones.  In France, students used to meet huge problems with the learning of languages, especially foreign ones, and this appears through this study.

Finally, the last type of intelligence is the naturalistic one. Such a slight percentage is probably due to a lack of awareness about the nature and environment, even if our high school is labeled “ecologic school”.

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