Many kinds of smart a study of learning styles and multiple intelligences
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Many kinds of smart a study of learning styles and multiple intelligences

Many Kinds of Smart: A Study of Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences


If you are anything like me, when I am about to learn something new, I want to know how it will relate to me, why it’s important to me. So, before I dive into my topic-at-hand (Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences), please allow me to explain why I felt it deserved a closer look.

I first heard about Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences in the 1990’s. The concept intrigued me even then… the idea that people could be “smart in different ways.” As a learner and teacher, I have felt the frustration of feeling “stupid” in school, and have seen some of my students struggle with the same worry at times. Schools traditionally value those whose strengths fall in the 3 R’s. However, as I have learned as a parent (and sensed innately long before that) people have valuable abilities and giftedness that lie outside these 3 areas.

What cinched it for me when choosing a research topic was this: I had a student this year who struggled in math. Some boys decided to berate him about his troubles in this area, and it really hurt him. He started to believe what they would secretly whisper to him, and he started to generalize this belief into all school work. While his math struggles needed to be addressed, I realized that he needed to find his own “smart.” In his case, it was “people smart;” he had amazing conversational skills and rapport with diverse groups of people. When I discussed this with him, I could literally see him stand up a bit straighter! From that day on, he would frequently remind me that, while he may have trouble with math, he sure was good with people! I hope this sense of empowerment follows him into the future.

Quality Teaching and Learning Environments

Some essentials

to remember:

To start my research, I decided that I’d better establish some guidelines for what is considered to be an optimal learning environment. From there, I could use these as a sort of litmus test for any theories I would come across regarding learning styles.

Most important needs for adolescents:

1. Competence

2. Autonomy

3. Fun

4. Relationships

5. See relevance in


Reflect on how you feel about this statement: Confidence in oneself is a must before learning can occur. Self-esteem is closely tied to academic performance. (Ciaccio, 2004)


One of the essentials to an optimal learning environment that kept coming up over and over again was differentiation. Whether it was literature about GT students, students with special needs, or the average learner, differentiation was key to meeting their needs.

University of South Hampton’s site states that there are 9 ways to differentiate. I think all of them are worth mentioning; notice that Learning Styles falls into a category… here is one way thatLearning Styles have stayed relevant even into the 21st Century of Education.

Reflect on which of these methods you use currently, or could try this school year. Have you found that some are preferred over others? Why/why not?

Good teaching incorporates differentiation daily.

Learning Styles

Orey defines Learning styles as: “how each learner receives and processes new information through their senses” (p.13). Every person depends upon his/her senses to take in, process, and store information, but some people tend to have a preferred sense that they use more than the others. Synonyms for learning styles include: perceptual styles, learning modalities, and learning preferences (Orey, 2001). Some learning style models:

What commonalities do you notice between the theories? At a glance, is there a theory that makes more sense to you than others? How so?

Dunns’ Theory

is Right On

Drs. Kenneth and Rita Dunn researched how people learn and their learning styles throughout

their prestigious careers. They created a theory about these concepts that I

felt was extremely practical (it’s certainly what I’ve seen as a teacher) and all-

encompassing. Once I read more about their theory, I was intrigued. Basically,

they assert that there are 5 aspects to how a learner takes in information:

As I reflected on this

model, I found myself

comparing this to my years of teaching. From

what I’ve experienced, learners are (sometimes significantly) affected by

these stimuli.

5 areas of

Every learner is affected by these

stimuli differently & has unique preferences related to them .

Respond to this quote: Students are doing “the best they can, at any given moment, to satisfy one or more of their basic needs” (Ciaccio, 2004, p. 1).

The Theory of Multiple Intelligences

After you have taken the information in through your senses, you need to process and organize it. This too is different for every person; he/she has natural preferences for how to do this. That’s where Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences can come into play.

Intelligence TypeCapability and Perception

Linguistic words and language

Logical- logic and numbers


Musical music, sound, rhythm

Bodily-Kinesthetic  body movement control

Spatial-Visual images and space

Interpersonal other people's feelings

Intrapersonal self-awareness

Naturalist* natural environment

Spiritual/Existential** religion and 'ultimate issues’

Moral** ethics, humanity, value of


Click here for an overview of Gardner's Multiple

Intelligences Theory

Click here for descriptions of learner behaviors for each

of the Intelligences

Gardner added the “Naturalist”

Intelligence in 1999. The last 2 that

are listed, “Spiritual” and “Moral,” have been debated over as to whether they are valid Intelligences. What are your thoughts on these last three? Are they true Intelligences? Explain your thoughts.


What exactly constitutes “smart” or “intelligent?” It seems that politicians and the like try to put a number on it, pinpointing with standardized testing or the like. However, isn’t there more book smarts? Not to diminish the value of the 3 R’s, but there is more to being human than just these.

Howard Gardner, whom we will learn more about on future slides, defines intelligence as:

a set of skills for problem solving through life

a set of skills for creating

an ability to create a new product or offer a service valued to society

we are all intelligent in areas, but in varying amounts

areas of intelligence can be strengthened, but varies from individual to


each person has a different intellectual composition

intelligence is a person’s way(s) of interacting with the world

it is culturally-dependent (each culture assigns a value to what makes a

person intelligent)

all areas interact together; it’s basically impossible to separate them

Reflect on how you feel about this statement by Reid: “[Intelligences] are moderately strong habits rather than intractable biological attributes” (Groat & Montgomery, 1998, p.8).

What are some implications for us as learners ourselves if this is true?

More on the


Not only was I interested in learning about how learners process new info, I

was also interested in how they can grow to their full potential, to show their

intelligence/abilities. Traditional school settings have seemed to value

student abilities and growth in the areas of math and language arts. The

theory of Multiple Intelligences is not necessarily new, but it has intrigued me

from the moment I heard about it. It states that there is not just one way to be smart, not one test or definition of smart. There are many factors that contribute to making “smart.”

Dr. Howard Gardner rocketed the theory into the mainstream of education in the 1980s and 1990s. When I chose to look at this topic, I needed to make sure

that it would still be current, relevant, and beneficial to my students. After learning more about the Intelligences, I still feel that they are highly relevant to today’s educational arena.

After viewing the video on Gardner’s theory,

what questions do you have? How can you apply the theory into your own teaching?

Click here to see an interview with Howard Gardner!

Take an MI Survey

I found that there were many surveys out there for finding out yourstrengths. Of course, these surveys are just meant to be thought-provoking and informative, not the be-all-end-all. In the end, no matter what survey one chooses to take, it’s a glimpse into how you prefer to process and utilize information.

An interesting graph, showing the prominent Intelligences used by various professionals. Of course, this is not representative of every person within these professions…. just a general trend.

Click here to take the

5 minute survey!

After taking the survey online, and receiving graphed feedback, did you find anything surprising about the data? Do you feel it’s an accurate picture of you as a learner? Why or why not?

Classroom Benefits

There are so many benefits, they’re going to be hard to list here! Multiple sources consistently esteemed the teaching approach of using a student’s MI strengths/preferences to learn new material. However, they stop short of saying to teach to only that preference. We all have a unique combination of all the MI’s. Here are some of the main points to consider:

There are those who disagree...

Click here to watch an argument against Learning Styles and their outcomes

After watching

the video clip

and reflecting on the chart, what are your feelings about this? Do you see value in teaching using learning style preferences and/or Multiple Intelligences?

Differentiation & Learning Styles: Good for Learners

By previous


By gender

By ability

By social


By learning style

Social Learning





Information Processing


Multi-dimensional/Instructional Theories

Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences

VARK Theory

Where do you feel that Dunn and Dunn’s Theory fits in this


Differentiation Using MI in the Classroom

Click on the Word document below to read suggested teaching strategies.

Multiple Intelligences “should enhance, not detract from, what is being taught”(Orey, 2001, p. 9).

Two examples:

Cylinder song... my class loved this!

Fractions taught using music & movement

(Statewide Parent Advocacy Network, 2000, p. 9-11)

Compare the “Multiple Intelligences way” of teaching to the experiences you had growing up in a traditional classroom setting.


The sources listed here are what were directly used to create this PowerPoint.

Ciaccio, Joseph. (2004). Totally Positive Teaching: a Five-stage Approach to Energizing Students and Teachers. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Retrieved May 15, 2011, from


Center for Instructional Technology & Training. (2011). Theory of Multiple Intelligences: what are the educational uses and benefits? Retrieved from

Creative Learning Systems.(2011). Learning styles analysis benefits. Retrieved on May 15, 2011, from

Fogarty, R., & Bellanca, J. (Eds.). (1995). Multiple intelligences: a collection. Palatine, Ill.: IRI/Skylight Publishing

Fogarty, R. & Stoehr, J.. (2008). Integrating curricula with multiple intelligences: teams, themes, & threads (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press

Gardner, H. (1993). Frames of mind: the theory of multiple intelligences (2nd ed.). New York: Basic Books

Groat, L., & Montgomery, S. (1998). Student learning styles and their implications for teaching. CRLT Occasional Papers. Retrieved June 1, 2011, from

Hampton, R. Multiple intelligences. Retrieved on May 15, 2011 from

Lankard Brown, B. (2003). Teaching style vs.learning style. Myths and realities, 26. Retrieved June 1, 2011, from

McKenzie, J. (2004, September). Quality teaching from theory to practice. The Question Mark. Retrieved May 15, 2011, from

Orey, M.(Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved May 15, 2011, from

Statewide Parent Advocacy Network. (2000). APPENDIX B: Multiple Intelligences. Retrieved on May 15, 2011 from

Wisconsin Education Association Council. (2011). Although Some Voice Doubts, Advocates Say Differentiated Instruction Can Raise the Bar for All Learners

University of South Hampton. (1999, April 21). Differentiation. Retrieved May 15, 2011, from

Zhenhui, R. (2001, July). Matching Teaching Styles with Learning Styles in East Asian Contexts. The Internet TESL Journal. Retrieved on May 15, 2011, from

4Teachers. (2009). Using Multiple Intelligences. Retrieved on May 15, 2011, from

" We are all so different largely because we have different combinations of intelligences. If we recognize this, we will have a better chance of dealing appropriately with the many problems that we face in the world. " ~Howard Gardner