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Teachers face an unending battle. Twenty students in a room, all learning and acting in mysterious ways. It is the teacher's war to gather their attention, hold it, and give a lesson compelling enough to teach them something. Right?
Perhaps not anymore.
Howard Gardner (1943-present) created the Multiple Intelligences Theory in 1999. Teachers have studied how students learn best based on actions. Using this information, the teacher can modify their methods to meet the students where they learn best. Gardner's theory has revolutionized the teaching profession, but how does it impact our day-to-day?
Every day, people interact, observing others in a variety of settings, learning more about the human psyche based on outward appearances. By knowing where you are most intelligent as well as others, interactions can run smoother. In other words, this theory can be applied outside the classroom.
The eight original intelligences are naturalist, musical, logical-mathematical, interpersonal, bodily-kinesthetic, linguistic, intrapersonal, and spatial. After the original publishing, Gardner also included existential. Theoretically, students can be categorize their highest to lowest intelligences using a test (which you can find online at the link below). These intelligences designate what students are apt at noticing, and thus assist teachers in knowing what kinds of lessons are effective for which students.
Let's go through them.
Naturalist intelligence refers to people who like being outside and learning about the great outdoors. They are sensitive to nature and enjoy learning about it.
Musical intelligence refers to people who are smart when it comes to music, beat, and rhythm. These kind of people think rhythmically and can analyze music. They're likely to have a song playing in their head or be humming something under their breath.
Interpersonal intelligence refers to the ability to connect and interact with others. The people understand how other people work and are good at accommodating for them.
Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence refers to the ability to move. These people are often athletes and know how their body works, as well as learning best when they move.
Linguistic intelligence refers to a way with words. These people can manipulate words to entrance the reader's attention and imagination.
Intrapersonal intelligence refers to knowing oneself. These people understand their inner working and know how to position themselves for success.
Spatial intelligence refers to a way with images. These people are attentive to color, shape, texture, etc. and learn best when in contact with visuals.
Existential intelligence refers to the ability to look far into the future. These people can make long-term plans, perhaps stretching to after their death.
Based on description, which do you think you are?
All these definitions are fine in theory, and teachers can easily see how to use them. With a simple assessment or observation, she can make note of the ways her students learn best. If the majority of her students are not linguistically intelligent, she can opt for less words and more images. If many of her students are existentially intelligent, she can take time to explain the purposes of the lesson, providing apt motivation.
Yes, in theory, this theory is helpful. But how is this applied to understanding our daily interactions?
Let's take the classic coffee shop AU example.
Let's say you're waiting in line for coffee, and there are nine people with all the levels of intelligence as their highest. All waiting for their coffee to be delivered. The musical person notices the nice Spotify playlist and identifies this coffee shop as a nice place. The logical-mathematical notices the lower price per ounce and makes a mental note that this place is cheaper than Starbucks. The interpersonal realizes all the other people have motivation for getting coffee quicker, and thus doesn't mind the wait.
The bodily-kinesthetic notices their still joints and decides the wait is too long. The linguistic catches a tiny misspelling on the menu. The intrapersonal is fully aware of all the work they need to get done and knows this waiting around isn't good for them (or the coffee, for that matter). The spatial notices that the dark orange floors aren't meshing with the forest green walls. The existential knows they're wasting time waiting.
Nine different people, nine different perspectives. One-third would come back to that coffeeshop.
See how this begins to tie in?
The coffeeshop can change some things in order to cater to the different intelligences. They might install a chalkboard with a daily question so the bodily kinesthetic can move around the shop while waiting. They could fix the spelling mistake so the linguistic doesn't think they're idiots. They can repaint the walls a nice ivory to keep the spatial happy. They can make the coffee better than any other joint to put their coffee above other personal priorities in the intrapersonal's mind. They can give the existential their coffee first.
Knowing what intelligences might be represented (and what kinds are more likely to be represented than others) can help in everyday interactions, especially with those you see often and everyday. It's easier to convey information, tell stories, and improve relationships.
So to close, with a little catchphrase: Your skills improve as you understand your audience.