Multiple Intelligence Learning Styles and Tutoring

Dr. Howard Gardner of Harvard University first proposed his theory of Multiple Intelligence in 1983. Gardner’s original theory was based on studies of a wide variety of exceptional populations, the breakdown of cognition due to brain damage, psychometric studies, etc. Gardner’s original theory included 7 types of intelligence. Namely: Musical Intelligence; Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence; Logical Mathematical Intelligence; Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence; Spatial Intelligence; Interpersonal Intelligence; and Intrapersonal Intelligence. His 2006 update in his book titled Multiple Intelligence: New Horizons on Theory and Practice is recommended for those who would like to know more.

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Gardner’s theory suggests that IQ tests only measure Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence and Math-Logical Intelligence. He indicates that every individual has some amount of every type of intelligence. Some people have laser profiles being very strong in one or two intelligences while others have spotlight type profiles that are roughly equal in three or more intelligences.

The most important aspect of this theory to understand is that Gardner believes that the majority of individuals can master almost any subject if taught in a manner that takes advantage of their strengths. The obvious question becomes, is it possible to develop lesson plans that take advantage of each type of intelligence.

Silliman University is a leading University in the Philippines. Located in Dumaguete City, it is one of 4 universities in the Philippines that are accredited in the US. Unlike the US where standardized tests (the SAT and the ACT) are used for college admission, universities in the Philippines have their own admission exams. The admission exams at Silliman University are in English and have a language arts component and a mathematics component.

Data showed that over several years many students scored low on the math component. In recognition of this problem, a remedial math course was developed and students were given a one-time chance to take and pass the course. If the student passed the course he or she could be admitted to the school.

Over a two year period students taking this remedial math course were evaluated using a Multiple Intelligence assessment similar to one available at http://www.literacyworks.org/mi/assessment/findyourstrengths.html. A very strong trend was evident. The assessments indicated the many of the students ranked high in Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence and Musical Intelligence but ranked low in Math-Logical Intelligence. It is very interesting to note that this was true even though assessments were in English, which is a second language for these students.

In July of 2009, my Master’s degree thesis studied three sections of students taking the remedial math course. One section received Traditional instruction and was the control group. A second group received instruction with a Verbal-Linguistic emphasis and a third received Traditional instruction with Music added.

Verbal-Linguistic instruction involved putting mathematical concepts into step by step written instructions. Adding music to Traditional instruction involved adding background music during periods when students were doing in class work.

A test was developed to cover six weeks of material. Since the course was remedial, the students were given the test on the first day. They were told that the test did not count towards their grades and the tests were not returned. The three sections were taught for the six week time period and then took the same test. The statistical analysis is based on the differences between students first and second scores.

Based on statistical analysis, the group that received the Verbal-Linguistic instruction significantly outperformed the other two groups. This essentially proved that Gardner’s theory is correct and a good method to help students with Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence was developed. The method for using Music in instruction will require a different approach.

In the fall of 2010, three sections of students taking Pre-Algebra at Scotland County High School in Laurinburg, NC took the Multiple Intelligence assessment at http://www.literacyworks.org/mi/assessment/findyourstrengths.html. At first the finding that majority of the students rated high in terms of Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence was a surprise. However it made more sense when I learned many of them were athletes.

In order to take advantage of these student’s strengths they were encouraged to move around as much as possible in class without being disruptive. The most common approach was to have volunteers work out problems on a white board or using an overhead projector.

Based on a statistical analysis of standardized test scores, these students also improved significantly over a six week period. This result again suggests the validity of Gardner’s theory.

A Multiple Intelligence assessment was done on three sections of students taking Geometry in the spring of 2012. Unfortunately, a wide range of intellectual profiles were found and it was impossible to generalize lesson plans for these classes.

With one on one tutoring there is one Intelligence profile. This means that a tutor can assess this profile of a student and then design presentation specifically for this student. This is something that simply cannot be duplicated in the classroom. If a student is having difficulty in the classroom environment, a tutor who understands learning styles is the answer.


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