All kinds of jobs fulfill a purpose in the community. Yet people are treated differently based on their employment. Intellectual professions are respected, while manual labor is treated with pity or disdain.
As early as 1983, Howard Gardner told us it shouldn’t be so. His theory of multiple intelligences recognized that aside from high test scores, there are other ways we can be considered smart and skillful. It’s a theory people talked about, but so often, they didn’t practice what they preach.
We are just a little late, but the ‘woke’ culture is gradually putting Gardner’s theory to use on a macro level. While math and sciences remain significant, equal importance is now given to talents such as acting and dancing. More parents are enrolling their kids in performing arts schools. Likewise, teachers are trying to cater to all types of intelligence.
Nonetheless, there’s still room for improvement.
What are Multiple Intelligences?
For centuries, intelligence has been tested through standardized IQ tests. However, these tests are usually limiting. Focusing only on certain areas of knowledge, such as math and history, IQ tests will inevitably be biased towards people who are skilled in these areas.
Aside from a wide knowledge of math and history, Howard Gardner proposed other manifestations of intelligence, in his book “Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences.”
He postulated that there are eight main kinds.
1. Verbal-linguistic: information analysis and creation of oral and written works
2. Logical-mathematical: formulation of equations and proofs, abstract problem-solving skills
3. Visual-spatial: comprehension of maps and other graphical information
4. Musical: recognizing notes and musical signatures as well as the ability to create any kind of music
5. Naturalistic: identification of types of plants, animals, and other components of the natural world
6. Bodily-kinesthetic: using one’s own body to create works or solve problems
7. Interpersonal: recognition of other people’s moods and intentions
8. Intrapersonal: understanding one’s deeper emotions and motivations
Gardner also noted that there is a possible ninth kind called “existential intelligence,” an ability to intuition and meta-cognition to answer deep questions about our existence.
Multiple Intelligence Does Not Mean Learning Style
Gardner’s theory is not the same as another popular theory which it is often mistaken for.
The other popular theory refers to the “learning style,” which supposedly determines whether a person is a visual or aural learner.
Multiple intelligences pertain to differences in intellectual abilities, whereas learning styles are manners by which an individual approaches a range of tasks. Some proposed categories of learning styles are visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and right-brain dominance.
Thus, some teachers have tried to formulate and personalize a learning style for each student based on their strongest area of intelligence. But the problem with this method is that not all learning experiences can be related to a person’s type of intelligence. A skilled painter doesn’t necessarily mean he’s someone who can learn best from visual aids. He may prefer lectures and notes.
Furthermore, the theory of learning styles has been debunked by various studies.
Professor Polly Husmann of Indiana University tested the accuracy of the VARK questionnaire, which has been used by institutions to determine learning styles. VARK stands for ‘Visual, Aural, Read/Write, and Kinesthetic,” supposedly the types of learners.
Husmann and her colleagues had hundreds of students take the VARK questionnaire and then prescribed them study strategies as determined by the test. However, some students couldn’t break their own study habits and failed to study in these prescribed styles, while those that didn’t do any better on their exams.
Multiple Intelligence in the Classroom
Gardner’s theory hasn’t been fully put to work because it is currently misapplied. It is directed to the student, who is left to do the work. The student is asked to determine his kind of intelligence. Once he does, he has to squeeze through molds so his uniqueness will fit.
But the action should start with the institutions and instructors. It would be more helpful if the schools made the effort to apply the theory in their practice, expanding curricula and offering more diverse courses.
Multiple Intelligences in the Workplace
There’s no such thing as a well-rounded employee. What you can have is a well-rounded team.
By scouting members with diverse levels of intelligence and backgrounds, brainstorming sessions will have more perspectives, leading to better, creative solutions.
Educators and employers should realize that Gardner’s test merely determines a person’s strongest intelligence, not his only kind of intelligence. Thus, it’s focused on finding potential — an area of expertise where a person would most likely find growth. It is not meant to limit that person within that area; rather, it is only a prescribed starting point.