You know that we have several words to denote “intelligent” in English. Clever, bright, outstanding, brilliant… However, how would you define intelligence? We still have a pretty limited idea of what this means and is mainly associated with academic and school excellence.
“She was excellent at maths at school”, “John has two first-class honours degrees”. When we hear such accolades, we immediately conclude that they must be intelligent. Nobody would doubt this, but what about someone who is good at repairing engines, playing the piano or doing crosswords puzzles? Intelligence isn’t usually defined in these ways even though we have vocabulary to talk about “skilful engineers”, “brilliant pianists” and “adept crossword puzzlers”.
Only quite recently have we begun to consider what intelligence really is. Howard Gardner, back in the early 1980s put forward the theory of Multiple Intelligences in his book “Frames of Mind”. He challenged the validity of IQ as the basis for assessment. It had a resounding effect in educational and psychological circles, raised staunch opposition and was very slow in being applied in schools and other institutions. Today, few question the validity of his theory even though there is still resistance to apply it in certain educational establishments.
Gardner says that there are various qualities which can be termed “intelligences” and that these can grow and develop. He adds that these are an indicator of someone’s overall potential. He says that what we traditionally assume to be “talents” (“He’s good at dancing”, “She’s a natural skier”,etc.) ought to be valued in the same way as academic learning.
He states that MI theory is a scientific theory, and could have viable classroom applications . It has two major implications :
- We should know as much as possible about each person so that they can learn and demonstrate their learning in ways which are comfortable to them.
- How anyone teaches and what they do in the classroom should be based on their values and what is paramount for them.
It is well known that people learn in different ways and that this doesn’t depend on their intelligence. It is not about testing or assessing someone’s skills and abilities. MI considers much more who people are and the things they are good at.
Gardner’s original seven intelligences were:
* Intrapersonal (knowledge of self)
* Interpersonal (awareness of others)
Other intelligences were added later (Naturalist, Existential, Spiritual…).
Although Gardner’s theory is still questioned to this day, in some established academic circles, it is now taught and applied in numerous educational institutions, schools, universities and teacher-training colleges.
There are opposing and complementary theories around (we will consider these in a later article), but his ideas today are standard reference and applicable in almost any learning environment. More coming soon…
Happy English learning!!