Multiple Intelligences and learning styles

Multiple Intelligences are not the same as learning styles

Learning styles are how we approach different tasks, whereas Multiple Intelligences are a representation of different intellectual abilities.

We process information in a variety of different ways – visual (see), auditory (hear) and kinaesthetic (touch) and reflective (think), etc. However, learning experiences do not have to relate directly to your strongest area of intelligence. e.g. someone with a more linguistic leaning does not have to learn primarily through lectures. Often the easiest path to understanding is through multiple avenues. Limiting learning to a single avenue can be counter-productive. Our brains are complex, we learn different skills in different ways. Sometimes it is easier to fully understand a concept by using multiple avenues. e.g. Seeing, hearing and interacting with a concept to embed understanding. Think playing monopoly to help understand the intricacies of finances. learning styles and multiple intelligences

Emotional Intelligence is essentially an extension of the theory of multiple intelligences proposed in 1983 by Dr. Howard Gardner, professor of education at Harvard University. He suggests that the traditional idea of IQ was too limited. Instead Gardner proposed his theory to account for a broader range of human potential in children and adults. These include:

  1. Linguistic/verbal (“word smart”)
  2. Logical-mathematical (“number/reasoning smart”)
  3. Musical (“music smart”)
  4. Spatial (“picture smart”)
  5. Body-Kinesthetic (“body smart”)
  6. Interpersonal (“people smart”)
  7. Intrapersonal (“self smart”)
  8. Naturalist (“nature smart”)
  9. Spiritual/Existential (“religion and ‘ultimate issues”)

the theory of multiple intelligences multiple intelligence relating to learning styles

The core ideas arising from Gardner’s research are:

  • We each born with a unique mix of all the intelligences.
  • They combine in complex ways.
  • There are a variety of ways each intelligence manifests.
  • We can each develop each intelligence to an basic level of competency.
  • School education tends to focus more on the linguistic and logical/mathematical skills than the others.
  • Education and training should take into account the different learning styles in order to develop a wider range of intelligences.

Implications for learning

As the research by Carol Dweck has shown, our attitudes to success strongly impact our self-motivation, and our willingness to persevere when learning gets tough. When we think our success (or lack of) is due to a fixed level of intelligence we tend to give up easier. Realising that we all have different paths to more efficiently learning (and understanding) that can help us feel more positive (and optimistic) about learning. Understanding the difference between learning styles and Multiple Intelligences can help us find the most effective avenues for us to develop our skills and capabilities.


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Richard Riche

Change Communication and Employee Engagement specialist at One Clear Message Consulting
Richard specialises in helping you build real human communication skills. Employee Engagement / Experience, Emotional Intelligence skills, building high performance teams and a great place you want to work. TED style speaking and presentation skills. Training, consulting and coaching.
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