Current research on the brain, learning and human intelligence from a variety of disciplines, including medicine, cognitive sciences, and education has provided information with profound implications to education. This research is challenging and stretches the traditional approaches to education and teaching, particularly about the ability to learn, human intelligence, and how efficient learning occurs.
Intelligence—what is it?
The traditional theory of intelligence has two fundamental assumptions:
that human cognition is unitary; and
that individuals can be adequately described as having a single, quantifiable intelligence.
The traditional theory of intelligence has helped create a mindset or paradigm as to what "smart" or "intelligent" is, who has potential or ability to be smart, and how we can or cannot become smart. This has influenced current educational practices. It is still a common educational practice to use the score from standardised intelligence tests to qualify children for various special programs. It is assumed these tests measure intelligence accurately and meaningfully.
Current research indicates that the only limit to one's intelligence is what the individual believes is possible and how his or her behaviours either foster or limit his or her intelligence. Research also indicates that intelligence is not a static structure that can be measured and meaningfully quantified, but an open, dynamic system that can continue to develop throughout life. Through his work and studies, Reuven Feuerstein, an Israeli psychologist and educator, has developed a theory of the "Modifiability of Intelligence." He has linked the importance of how teachers, through facilitating learning experiences, impact the quality of learning and influence the potential intelligence of each student.
The Theory of Multiple Intelligences
Supporting the new paradigm of intelligence, Howard Gardner of Project Zero at Harvard University has determined that intelligence is a pluralistic phenomenon, rather than a static structure with a single type of intelligence. Gardner defines intelligence as:
1. The ability to solve problems that one encounters in real life;
2. The ability to generate new problems to solve;
3. the ability to make something or offer a service that is valued within one's culture. In his cross-cultural exploration of how people are intelligent, he has identified nine distinct types of intelligence:
According to Gardner's theory, one form of intelligence is not better than another; they are equally valuable and viable. Yet, he discovered that different cultures are biased towards and against certain types of intelligence. Our Indian culture, for instance, favours verbal/linguistic and logical/mathematical intelligence and tends to undervalue others, such as body/kinesthetic intelligence. These biases, added to the traditional theory of intelligence, have limited our development of curricula, instructional strategies, and current methods of assessment-including how we measure intelligence.
Recent brain/mind research and new theories of human intelligence redirect our attention to three specific areas:
on the environmental conditions and messages we provide children;
on the kind of support and relationships we develop between caregivers, educators, and children; and
on the need to match what we know about the ways kids are intelligent and learn with teaching strategies designed to maximize the full development of each child.
A Useful Model
Gardner's Multiple Intelligences theory is a very useful model for developing a systematic approach to nurturing and teaching children and honouring their individual needs and strengths within a classroom setting. The theory of Multiple Intelligences includes the notion that each person is smart in all nine types of intelligence. Every person is smart to varying degrees of expertise in each of the intelligences, stronger in some ways and less developed in others. Heredity and genetics influence the way the brain is neurologically "wired" before birth and are contributing factors that determine the strongest and/or most favoured types of intelligence. This is often seen in children with very strong and overt talents demonstrated at very young ages, such as Mozart, who had started to play and compose music by age five.
Because research now shows that we can become more intelligent in more ways, both students and teachers can become more adept in all nine intelligences. This is possible by providing a planned cycle of experiences and opportunities which foster each and every intelligence, and by making these opportunities available to every child in our classrooms. By broadening our view of intelligence, and valuing and nurturing abilities other than mathematics and reading, we can open doors by using the strengths of children as a means of complementing their less developed areas.
Characteristics of Multiple Intelligences
The following descriptions can be helpful to identify basic personal characteristics, traits, behaviours, and preferences for each of the seven intelligences. Remember, we are all intelligent to varying degrees in all nine ways. Each person has a unique profile. A child may be very strong in one or two intelligences, medium in a few, and perhaps weak or empty (not yet filled) in one or two. Consequently, a child may have four or five intelligences that are equally developed and two that are less developed. The important thing is to identify and build on one's strengths to modify and increase the less developed intelligences in ourselves and in children.
Reflect on and identify your own strengths and intelligences which are less developed. Identify the strengths and "empties" of the children, too. You may begin to notice patterns and correlations between the strengths you enjoy or are less comfortable with in the children and your own strengths and empties. Are the children's strengths the same as yours or are they most intelligent in a way you are least intelligent? We naturally rely on and use teaching strategies that match our strongest intelligences. Our strengths, therefore, create unconscious teaching biases. When we identify our own less developed intelligences, we may notice that we are untrained in or have avoided using the teaching strategies best designed for developing that intelligence in children. Therefore, it becomes our responsibility first to identify our own strengths and weaknesses and then to stretch and continue our lifelong learning process by developing our own intelligences. Only then can we incorporate teaching strategies which support all nine intelligences and meet the needs of all children.
Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences honours and promotes the development of all nine avenues of intelligence in young children. This approach provides a framework to identify how children learn; to build on their strongest assets; to help them become more intelligent by exposing them to a variety of ways of learning; to better individualize for their interests and needs; and to use teaching strategies that make learning more efficient, successful, and enjoyable for all children. We can foster meaningful learning experiences by using multiple teaching tools and strategies and by building positive, supportive relationships with children. Through environments that offer a variety of stimulating, hands-on materials that children individually select, and by creating learning centres that provide natural opportunities to move, be active, and fully engaged in either solo or small group experiences, we better serve and meet the needs of more children.
This is exciting information for parents and can light up the creative side of your parenting. You have already noticed your baby is unique, and now you can acknowledge her individual strengths and interests and her way of learning. Now you know that when you follow her lead you are keying into her nature. As her primary nurturer, you can feel confident that you are doing your very best to ensure your baby’s success. Gardner suggests that over the first three years you will see three primary intelligences emerge (see above) while the remainder will continue to develop, support and strengthen your baby’s performance.
Your baby is born with unlimited possibilities. The science of early development is clear: babies are born learning. When nature (biology) and nurture connect there is transformation. That’s you and your baby.
From birth to age 5, children rapidly develop foundational capabilities on which subsequent development builds. In addition to their remarkable linguistic and cognitive gains, they exhibit dramatic progress in their emotional, social, regulatory, and moralcapacities. All of these critical dimensions of early development are intertwined, andeach requires focused attention.
Learning styles are an individual's natural pattern of acquiring information. Based on Neil Fleming's VARK model children's learning preferences are identified as: Visual, Aural, Reading- Writing and Kinesthetic Learners.
Discovering a child's learning styles and areas of intelligence gives a clue on what activities they should spend more time, as children are curious and can absorb more knowledge. To remove the 'trial and error' method when parents try to make their child learn something without knowing whether the child will be able to understand the way they want.
For details and Dermatoglyphics report of your child contact your local Career Advisor.