Everyone really can learn, but not in the same way. Traditionally, intelligence was rated using an IQ test which focused on only one way of thinking. But not everyone’s brains are wired in the same way. As our understanding of the brain improves, scientists are learning that there are many ways to be intelligent.
Think of athletes, chess champions or musicians; all of these people have a special kind of intelligence that simply isn’t reflected in their scores on an IQ test. Instead, a theory by Howard Gardner postulates that we have eight different kinds of intelligences. Everyone possesses all eight of the intelligences in varying degrees of aptitude.
- Verbal-linguistic intelligence
- Logical-mathematical intelligence
- Visual-spatial intelligence
- Musical intelligence
- Naturalistic intelligence
- Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence
- Interpersonal intelligence
- Intrapersonal intelligence
No educator can be expected to cover all the intelligences in a lesson nor do they have the time to develop these in each of their students. The theory was originally intended to challenge the linear way of thinking about intelligence in the psychological sphere. Instead, it has been educators who have championed this cause.
Perhaps it’s because, when working one-to-one with their students, educators can see that while students may not have strong language skills have an aptitude for numbers or music. They see that there are different types of intelligence that slips through the cracks of an IQ test.
Scott Seider, from Boston University: “The IQ test and the SAT, two assessments unquestionably correlated with an individual’s class status and schooling opportunities, have been utilized to declare some children intrinsically “smarter” than others and more deserving of seats in gifted-and-talented programs, magnet schools, and elite universities. Particularly in urban schools, the pressure from testing has narrowed the curriculum to focus on those subjects on which graduation and accreditation rest — at the expense of art, music, theater, physical education, foreign language, and even science and social studies.”
While further research is necessary to better understand the different types of intelligences, it does help teachers and tutors to understand that students learn differently and to present information in class or in one-to-one tutoring sessions in a variety of ways so that everyone can understand.
Students should also be encouraged to develop all aspects of their brains so that they are well-rounded instead of focusing on those areas which lead to high IQ scores.
As a society, we also have to start recognizing different types of intelligences so that we broaden our idea of what ‘smart’ is to include people with intelligences that aren’t based on reading and math skills.