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Monday, November 15, 2021

What Are Multiple Intelligences And How Should Teachers Address Them?

Why do some children perform poorly at school? From blaming unskilled teachers to accusing children of being forgetful – there are several explanations. It’s estimated that 5-15 percent of American educators are incompetent. Their incorrect teaching approaches have contributed to today’s situation where 95% of what students learn is forgotten within three days. It isn’t because our children aren’t capable of learning. In conventional classroom settings, every child has different inclinations and preferences. 

Thus, the American psychologist Howard Gardner introduced the concept of “multiple intelligences” to define a child’s learning abilities. So, here we’ll explain how teachers can use this theory in the classroom.

Ten different modalities of intelligence

In 1983, Gardner published his classification of people’s intelligence into eight modalities. So, this theory states that there are many ways a person can be intelligent. We all have one of these modalities acting as the dominant intelligence. Since a student’s intelligence differs from others, it’s the teacher’s job to address that intelligence to improve learning abilities. Focusing on that child’s dominant intelligence, they can acquire/retain information effectively. These many modalities are:

  • Words (Verbal)
  • Pictures (Visual)
  • Music (Harmonic)
  • Numbers (Mathematical)
  • Self-reflection (Intrapersonal)
  • Social experiences (Interpersonal)
  • Physical movements (Bodily-Kinesthetic)
  • Naturalistic 
  • Spiritual/Existential 
  • Additional modalities (Humor and cooking)

Unfortunately, schools only focus on growing linguistic/mathematical modalities. Thus, children with bodily/musical inclinations aren’t considered “smart” in the traditional sense. Gardner has proposed that teachers should apply MI in the classroom appropriately. So, after earning their college professor qualifications, educators must insist on addressing students individually. Though we can’t alter the entire education system, it’s possible to manage a child’s exclusive intelligence by applying MI on your students:

Addressing these modalities of intelligence

Though heavily contested among psychologists, this theory can enable teachers to boost the classroom’s performance. We suggest that you observe your pupils and take notes on their behavioral differences. Thus, musical ones won’t stop humming, and kinesthetic ones won’t quit running around. Likewise, intrapersonal ones won’t speak in a group discussion. You will have to diversify your lessons and dedicate one day to a specific modality of intelligence. Students ascribing to that intelligence will perform brilliantly on that day. 

We also recommend teachers focus on a student’s modality and teach them in a manner that suits the child’s preferences. Here’s how you may educate a student belonging to the first eight modalities:

  • Verbal

These students have a literary mindset, so they prefer word games and reading/writing. So, you can have them perform exercises that require penmanship. Teachers often ask such students to create a manual, produce brochures, or write essays on various subjects. You must bring them computers and typewriters to help them learn. Moreover, storytelling and crossword puzzles boost linguistic children’s academic potential. They enjoy not just reading but also writing novels/stories.

  • Visual

We call them “picture-smart” students since they learn visually. They prefer drawing, illustrating, painting, and other activities that involve pictures. If they struggle with usual note-taking methods, you can help them use colors/symbols to record lectures effectively. In higher education, you should encourage these students to give PowerPoint presentations. 

  • Harmonic

These children are influenced by music, so teachers can exploit this harmonical inclination to bolster their educational performance. Use songs and rapping to help them learn their lessons better. Use musical instruments to increase their academic expertise. These students are prone to create songs to explain complex concepts while participating in dance numbers. The High School Musical genre is based on this modality of intelligence. So, make musical activities a facilitator in learning processes.

  • Mathematical

These students prefer thinking about everything logically and are well-apt in problem-solving ways. So, they can understand better when lessons are depicted through charts, graphs, and surveys. You can bring them some math games while using quantification to educate them properly. Logical students aren’t necessarily good at math; instead, they’re critical thinkers who like to rationalize their problems.  So, mental calculations and number games can easily win their favor.

  • Intrapersonal

These students prefer listening to people’s conversations while self-reflecting. They need to be left alone with their thoughts. Sometimes, you may catch such pupils daydreaming, compelled by their desire to have some space. You must give them individualized instructions and help them build their self-esteem. Give them assignments, thereby encouraging them to make connections with personal affairs. Don’t forget to share your experiences with them as well and tolerate their reclusive nature.

  • Interpersonal

You may have guessed that interpersonal means “introverted.” But interpersonal children are extroverted. They’re prone to engage others in conversations and are chatty enough to resolve any classroom conflict. So, you can ask them to teach the class to work on group projects. These students are cooperative, prefer being involved in the community, and love collaborating with their classmates. Arranging a little school party seems like an excellent assignment for interpersonal kids.

  • Bodily-Kinesthetic

These children are movement enthusiasts and prefer expressing themselves through skits, dancing, and gesturing. So, you can ask them to create models for the next science fair in school. These kids have their bodies and minds well-connected to each other. They’re good at games such as Twister and can act out scenes in dramas/musicals and become excellent athletes in the future. Teachers should apply a “hands-on” learning approach to educate them, to use their motion in their academic favor.

  • Naturalistic

These children love the environment and interacting with nature. They seem to “come alive” when taken on a field trip since they empathize with natural creatures. Teachers can conduct lessons on the ground or bring birds, insects, or animals to the classroom to please these students’ desire for natural interaction. Even writing poems about the sky, rocks, and flowers can motivate naturalistic students to perform better at their studies and show outstanding academic outcomes.


A BBC report states that 60% of students globally don’t learn anything from school. In the ‘80s, Gardner created a theory called “multiple intelligences” to explain what’s wrong with our academic concepts. He proposes that intelligence can be divided into different modalities, and every student prefers a particular modality while learning. Some kids learn better by doing things the usual way, while others require musical instruments to perform better at school. We all possess these modalities, but one of them will become dominant. So, teachers should address the dominant modality to help children excel in their studies. By applying MI in the classroom, educators can achieve more effective educational outcomes.

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Daniyel Carlson
Daniyel Carlson is a Young Researcher in the field of Data Science & Analytics having research experience of more than 8 years. He has a Masters in Computer Engineering and currently serves as an Editorial Assistant in IGI Global, United States of America. Daniyel also holds honorary positions in the Associate Member of Institute of Research Engineers and Doctors, International Association of Computer Science and Information Technology, International Association of Engineers, Society of Digital Information and Wireless Communications.

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