By Rima Amacha, Ahliah School

Teaching is one of the most difficult things to do because it is all about dealing with human minds. Human minds receive information in different ways according to different backgrounds and experiences. From here comes the importance of studying the different kinds of intelligences through which a human being receives, decodes, understands, applies, and analyzes information. In order to be successful in teaching, a teacher has to improve their abilities to address all students’ thinking as different as they may be.

What is the Multiple Intelligences Theory?

“The theory of multiple intelligences differentiates intelligence into specific (primarily sensory) ‘modalities’, rather than seeing intelligence as dominated by a single general ability. Howard Gardner proposed this model in his 1983 book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. According to Gardner, an intelligence must fulfill eight criteria: potential for brain isolation by brain damage, place in evolutionary history, presence of core operations, susceptibility to encoding (symbolic expression), a distinct developmental progression, the existence of savants, prodigies and other exceptional people, and support from experimental psychology and psychometric findings. Gardner chose eight abilities that he held to meet these criteria: musical-rhythmic, visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic.”

Educational Benefits of Applying Multiple Intelligences Theory

What makes the Multiple Intelligences Theory strong and useful in a classroom is the fact that it can be used for any subject and at any level. Each student comes to a classroom as an individual who has developed a different type of intelligence. This means that each student has their own intelligence superiorities and weaknesses. Called a learning style, these intelligence domains determine how easily or difficultly a student can learn through a specific teaching method.

There can be more than one learning style present in a classroom. To balance learning styles and subject matter, a teacher should show students how to understand a subject which addresses one of their weak intelligence domains by applying their most developed intelligence domain. For instance, a student who has highly-developed musical intelligence can be asked to learn about a war and what happened during that war by making up a song about it (Temur, 2007).

Moreover, students who apply their strong fields of intelligences in learning activities can learn a subject that they used to hate with joy and without pressure. As another example, mathematics is considered to be a tough subject for many students due to the abstract concepts they have to learn. However, when such concepts are explained through a learning activity that implements students’ intelligences, students will find it more interesting and more fun because it is given as something they love to do. Students can learn mathematics by drawing, dancing, blogging, and much more. A whole curriculum can be created with activities based on multiple intelligences in a way that develops different fields of intelligences for each student; such curriculum will be more student-centered. Students will then discover the best ways by which they’re able to receive information.

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Challenges of Multiple Intelligences Theory

However, not all the intelligences included in the theory can be targeted easily when preparing a learning activity. Our challenge is to target the maximum number of intelligences in one session to ensure the engagement of all students in a classroom especially in classrooms in which the number of students is considerably large. Teachers should also be careful that addressing a specific type of intelligence doesn’t mean ignoring other types because our aim is to reach students’ minds as well as developing all their skills.

Multiple Intelligences Theory in Action

I’ve been using this theory in my teaching for three years. I am a high school mathematics educator, and, for me, it is a challenge to find a suitable activity for my lessons by which I reach all my students. It was a huge step forward in my teaching when I used this theory. It helped me a lot in reaching all learners without putting pressure on them. I used these learning activities with classes of different levels (elementary, intermediate, and high school) and I noticed that students were achieving better with less pressure, which is a great success for them. Students were enjoying such activities as well as discovering their own strong fields of intelligence and developing the fields that were less strong. Students were more confident to express their ideas in their preferred ways all moving toward good achievements that were tested in many assessments.

There are many challenges and details to be taken into consideration such as the number of students in a classroom, the classroom equipment, and the number of units to be finished during a scholastic year. For me, I managed to use activities based on the multiple intelligences theory even when I taught classes with large numbers of students and in classrooms that were not fully equipped. It was more challenging and it took more preparation and research, but it turned out to be better for my students as seen in their results.

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Contributing Author

Rima Amacha, Born in 1991 from Lebanon, has a BA degree in pure mathematics and a Master’s degree in math education, taught mathematics in several schools in Beirut and now works as a high school mathematics teacher at Ahliah School/downtown Beirut. In addition to teaching, Rima attended and presented several sessions in mathematics education and teaching strategies in local conferences.

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