How Do I Learn?

Over the past couple of years there has been a strong push in our education system to differentiate instruction. With No Child Left Behind and now Common Core Standards legislation lawmakers and educators alike are attempting to develop a set of standards that will afford each student the best chance to succeed in school. While this is a lofty goal and may be somewhat difficult to achieve it’s encouraging to see top officials in the country making the attempt to provide high quality education that meets each student’s needs.

While I am a strong supporter of differentiated instruction I believe it needs to be paired with an understanding of Multiple Intelligence.

For decades educators were generally made aware of three learning styles: Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic. We presented most of the standard curriculum using visual and auditory means, other than the arts. Kinesthetic learners were generally relegated to the “shop” classes or struggled through school until they were old enough to drop out and hopefully find a job that didn’t make them feel defective.

In 1991 Howard Gardner for Harvard University identified seven distinct intelligences: Visual-Spatial, Bodily/Kinesthetic, Musical/Rhythmic, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Linguistic/Verbal, Logical/Mathematical. Eighth and ninth intelligences were later identified, Existential and Naturalist, although not by Gardener.

The discovery of these nine different intelligences or learning styles should have sparked an educational revolution. After all, Gardener had more or less provided a blueprint on how each individual best comprehends and absorbs information. One would think that higher education teacher training programs would have immediately retooled their curriculum to not only explore Gardener’s learning styles theory, but spend numerous hours training teachers how to take this information and use it in the classroom.

Unfortunately, while applauded by the intellectual community it barely made a ripple in the K-12 system. In fact if you asked most practicing teachers who Howard Gardener is they would most likely have no idea. Likewise if you asked them to list the types of intelligences that have been discovered the vast majority would list the basic three having never heard of the remaining six.

Since an awareness of nine intelligence styles has been around for over two decades and educators have made few changes to incorporate these into curriculum and teaching strategies hopefully more focus and effort will be placed on differentiated instruction. Developing a differentiated classroom would go a long way towards meeting the learning needs of more students.

If you are curious how you learn best this links provides a short, fun multiple intelligence quiz: