How to Study Smarter by Understanding Multiple Intelligences

About a month ago, I wrote a blog post on Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset and talked about how it’s important for students to believe that they can learn something before they try to learn it.  However, it’s very easy for students to become pigeon-holed in school as either a “smart kid,” or “dumb kid,” and develop a very fixed mindset in terms of school.  In my opinion, a good way to combat this issue would be to teach your kids about the theory of multiple intelligences.

What are multiple intelligences and why do they matter?

In 1983, Harvard Psychologist Howard Gardner published a theory in his book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences.  His theory basically said that instead of just thinking of people as being either smart or not, there are actually many ways to be intelligent, described as modalities.  Each individual has different levels of intelligence in each modality, and those levels can be changed throughout an individual’s lifetime.

The modalities are as follows: of this theory feel as though there isn’t enough evidence to prove anything at this point, or that not everything has been covered in this model.  However, I do think that regardless of how proven it is, multiple intelligence theory serves as a useful starting point for helping your children develop a positive self-image through identifying their strengths and seeing the value of diversity.   They can also develop a growth mindset by understanding that everyone has different levels of each intelligence type that can change through hard work and perseverance.  It is also useful for your child to know where his or her strengths lie, because he or she can then leverage those strengths to improve in other areas.  Here are some ideas for studying and learning according to type of intelligence.

Linguistic: People with high linguistic intelligence are great at speaking and listening.  They tend to remember things in words and respond well to lecture-style teaching.  Books on tape, podcasts, and recordings of lectures are a great way for these types to learn other things.

Logical: People with high levels of logical intelligence tend to be strong students in math.  They do well with reasoning and calculating, and recognize patterns easily.  These individuals learn well through problem-solving, games, investigations, and mysteries.  They need to learn and form concepts before they are able to process details.

Visual: Students with strong visual-spatial intelligence are great at remembering charts, graphs, color coding, and are very aware of their environments.  These are the students who benefit from having the Periodic Table of Elements or a map of Europe on the wall.  A great technique for individuals with high visual intelligence is to have them draw pictures in their notes.

Musical: Individuals with high musical intelligence show sensitivity to sounds and rhythms.  They love music, but are strongly affected by sounds their environments.   Because of this, they should study in quiet environments, or have soft instrumental music playing in the background.  A great way for these students to study is to set information to a song, write music about the content, or speak formulas and definitions out in rhythm.

Intrapersonal:  These learners tend to work best independently and can be introverted.  They are in touch with their inner feelings and have well-developed opinions and senses of purpose and motivation.  They can be taught through independent study and reflections, and do best studying alone.  They also do well with reading, writing, and reflection, and need a lot of privacy.

Kinesthetic: People who are naturally athletic, can dance well, or have great fine motor skills have high kinesthetic/bodily intelligence.  They have a keen sense of where their body is in space and interact well with the physical world.  They learn best through movement, making things, role playing, and handling objects.  These abilities are not always associated with intelligence in school, but that is frequently because they are not well accommodated in the traditional classroom.  People who primarily have kinesthetic intelligence can be at a disadvantage in the classroom, but they possess a multitude of skills that allow them to elegantly interact with their environments.

Interpersonal: This intelligence is frequently undervalued in school, but can end up being vital in adult and professional life.  People who possess good interpersonal intelligence have excellent social skills and the ability to relate well to others.  They learn well through discussion and interaction, and they do well studying with other students, interacting with their class, and participating in group projects.

Naturalistic: Individuals with naturalistic intelligence relate well to nature and tend to love animals.  The best way to incorporate this into learning strategies is to have them study outside and relate content to things that they like.

Of course, if a student is praised too often for one thing, he or she can begin to rely on that ability too much and stop developing their other abilities, especially if they are challenged in that area.  That’s why it’s important to show student how they can use one intelligence modality  to develop the others, and to maintain a growth mindset about everything so that can become well-rounded, adaptable, and versatile.