Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences
Brief history – Why?
Benjamin Franklin summarised the essence of this field pretty succinctly;
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
Since the 1960, educationalists and psychologists have been grappling with the question of how we learn. It’s one of those BIG questions! The aim seems simple – if we can work out how we learn, we can ensure that everybody does learn. The potential application of these discoveries is complex and reaches outside our schools and academic institutions.
Teachers have always known that different methods of explaining the same concept were essential to imparting knowledge and developing skills. It’s just common sense. If people are all different, then why would everybody arrive at school with the same tools for learning? Over time, experts in a variety of fields have attempted to achieve a clear, scientific explanation that can be usefully applied to educational settings. The concepts of multiple intelligences and learning styles emerged from multiple sources of research and developed separately.
Which kind of box do you keep all of your learning tools in? Organised, haphazard, overflowing, limited to essentials?
Do you consciously select the strategies that maximise your communication and information input?
In 1983 the psychologist Howard Gardner defined intelligence as being an entity with multiple facets rather than a singular form. His work produced a way of identifying these different, and largely autonomous, multiple intelligences.
The 7 intelligence types he defined are; linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, bodily-kinaesthetic, spatial-visual, interpersonal and intrapersonal. He even posed the addition of 3 other possible types as; naturalist, spiritual-existential and moral.
This is a structured theory that identifies humans by how they perceive the world. The greatest difficulty with Gardner’s work is its application. Even assessments that have been more recently developed from his theory remain very complex, hard to measure and therefore difficult to apply in learning contexts. Do you feel like your intelligence type is within one particular segment? Spread across a couple? I’m sure you can identify which intelligence is not your type with complete certainty! What is particularly positive about this theory is his basic belief that; “It’s not about how smart you are; it’s about HOW you are smart.”
Generally people take ‘learning styles’ to mean the idea that people prefer different ways of learning and those with similar preferences can be grouped together. Most people have one or two dominant learning styles and everyone uses a mixture of different styles in order to interact successfully with the world. Some people may use one style in one situation and another in a different set of circumstances. Learning styles are fluid within individuals and there is no moral judgement placed on one being better or worse.
Where we are now
Neuroscience, cognitive psychology and other fields have provided a mass of research into how our brains actually learn, how they are different, how we can support learning. We have arrived at a point where some strategies have proven success over time and the research from different fields has become more integrated. The conclusions of which bring our current western education systems into serious question…
This guide is based on the two systems which are most usefully applied to your field of content creation; VARK and 4MAT. The aim is to empower you with some background knowledge about the systems, yourself as a learner and their application to your work.