Teaching to Gardner’s Intelligence Levels

Everybody’s Beautiful in Their Own Way…….

by Barbara Baptiste


Howard Gardner’s definition of intelligence is the ability to solve a problem or create a product that matters to society. Everyone possesses his/her own gift, talent. To enrich life in the classroom, the trick is for the educator to find out what, exactly, that specific talent may be for each child—no easy feat! A skilled teacher will use the philosophical and psychological approaches to ascertain the best (and worst) each child has to offer, capitalizing on the positive.  This would be following B.F. Skinner’s “operant conditioning,” positive reinforcement. Praise is the most effective means of bringing anyone’s focus to the positive—what they CAN do, not what they cannot do.  In Skinner’s words: “It is the teacher’s role to decide what behavior and knowledge the student should have, present it clearly, and provide much positive reinforcement for the student who adopts the knowledge, ideas, or actions.”  

A well-versed teacher will be familiar with Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence , utilizing them for interpreting every individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

These intelligences are:

  • Linguistic intelligence (“word smart”)
  • Logical-mathematical intelligence (“number/reasoning smart”)
  • Spatial intelligence (“picture smart”)
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence (“body smart”)
  • Musical intelligence (“music smart”)
  • Interpersonal intelligence (“people smart”)
  • Intrapersonal intelligence (“self smart”)
  • Naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”)

Dr. Gardner advocates that while mathematics and linguistics are important, equal attention should be given to individuals who show gifts in other intelligences:  The artist, musician, dancers, naturalists, etc. This will serve to how best teach a class of diverse levels of intelligence and natural abilities.  Without a teacher possessing this experience and knowledge, a child may be categorized as having a learning disorder.  In reality, they may just possess one of the less-focused-on abilities and learn in a different way.  Everyone is different and beautiful in their own way.

I was very fortunate to have had a beyond-excellent Psych I professor, Dr. Robert Palmer. The formal text used was miles long. Doctor Palmer covered all the material within his class lectures in an interesting style.  He very cleverly discovered each student by having an open, but also respectful class. There were those who always had a lot to contribute, but by the end of the semester, everyone felt comfortable and participated. This was professionally accomplished through his humor, openness, and, occasionally a game or two. We all learned a great deal about the subject, as well as, about ourselves. So, is it important for a teacher to know about the philosophers and the subject matter?  Most definitely. Sometimes, it is the unspoken knowledge a professor possesses which gives him credence that his/her students instinctively come to trust and respect; thereby, interest and the desire to learn follows.

One of the important points stressed in this Psychology class was that the obvious attributes are not always the identifiers in which category a personality truly lies.  Dr. Palmer’s outgoing manner, he explained, would appear to exemplify an extrovert, but he was not. “You have to think about the things that add to you and the things that deplete you.”  Using himself as an example, Dr. Palmer said that after three hours of class (which he did enjoy), he was exhausted.  However, after spending hours in research and alone time, he was pumped up. Therefore, no matter his fantastic personality and teaching style, he was not the apparent extrovert, but rather an introvert. Through skillful instruction, the class learned many self-awareness lessons, of which we had had no idea! 

The question begged, “Is it important for teachers to be very knowledgeable, and passionate about their work?” Most definitely! It is what makes them interesting. It is what gains the student’s respect and attention.  It is the recipe for teaching and learning.

2 Teach is
2 Touch lives
4 Ever
~Author Unknown

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