Yentily – Learning need not be a struggle, When parents & teachers approach the Multiple Intelligence Approach

Power of eight

ISSUE Did you know that every child has multiple intelligences? If
parents and teachers recognised this, it could help simplify the
learning process, says HEMA VIJAY

LEARNING NEED NOT BE A STRUGGLEWhen parents and teachers adopt the
multiple intelligence approach
“How many times have I explained it to you? Don’t you listen at all?”
Ever experienced this frustration when your child or student doesn’t
assimilate what you are teaching him? Well, actually, the fault might
lie in the teaching approach, rather than in the child. To understand
this, it is crucial to understand the theory of Multiple Intelligences
(MI) put forward by Howard Gardner, an American developmental
psychologist, after extensive brain research, interviews and tests on
hundreds of individuals. The MI approach could help every child
maximise his achievement, even those with disabilities.

The fact is intelligence is not a general intellectual commodity
measurable only in a particular way. “It is not that a child has low
or high IQ; just that he has a particular type of IQ,” elaborates Usha
Ramakrishnan, chairperson, Vidya Sagar, which is doing pioneering work
in using MI in inclusive education, and has organisational links with
the Multiple Intelligences Institute, Boston.

Eight intelligence types

Each of us is different in our receptiveness to information,
understanding and assimilation of knowledge, depending on the type of
intelligence we have; Gardner lists eight intelligence types. In some
kids, the use of pictures and diagrams facilitates learning, while
repeated verbal communication may not be of any use. In others, the
use of interpersonal modes of learning such as discussions and group
work helps. “A good teacher, with a little planning, can incorporate
all the eight approaches, even within a 30-40 minute teaching
session,” says Usha.

For instance, a teacher can appeal to a child’s linguistic
intelligence by using new words, interesting phrases, quotes, and
through oral and written assignments; to logical intelligence through
puzzles, organising and sequencing data, making predictions using
theories and computer programmes; to musical intelligence by speaking
with different intonations, humming a melody and tapping the time; to
bodily-kinesthetic intelligence through role-play and building models;
to spatial intelligence by using visual metaphors, graphs, maps,
diagrams and pictures; to interpersonal intelligence through group
projects, discussions and club activity; to intrapersonal intelligence
by encouraging reflection and through analogies; and to naturalistic
intelligence through field trips that hone observation skills and

Different parts of the brain control different functions and may have
different levels of development. “So, even in children with
intellectual disability, while so much has been lost, so much ability
is still intact and waiting to be tapped,” says V. Murugan, Senior
Consultant Paediatric Neurologist, Fortis Malar Hospital. The focus
should be on what a child can do, rather than what he can’t.

As Howard Gardner puts it, ‘It is not how smart you are, it is how you
are smart.’ For instance, seven-year-old A. Vishal is autistic and
unable to speak, but when he is given a computer and a keyboard, he
converses prolifically and perceptively. “He found writing difficult,
but took to keying in various subjects on the computer easily. For
other kids, a chart and crayons might work. Try all the ways; the
child might be yearning for your understanding,” says Vishal’s mother,
Vidya Anand. Incidentally, Vishal is now creating gaming software
focussing on moral values, among other things!

The gift of self-esteem

How does one understand a child’s intelligence type? For parents, the
crucial thing to do is to observe the child. “If you watch, you will
find that the child’s reflexes are faster when it comes to some
activities rather than others. The child would be enjoying the
activity he is engaged in,” emphasises Usha.

Find out what the child likes doing and what comes easily to him.
“Most often, it coincides. Children automatically veer towards what
they like and what they are good at,” says Usha. At the same time, do
not label kids. Multiple intelligences are not an either/or
occurrence; each child has a varying degree of these intelligences.

It makes sense to invest time and effort and engage the child in
activities which stimulate the intelligences that are strongest. If
these intelligences are nurtured and strengthened, the result could be
a successful career or an engrossing hobby. Most important, it can
build in the child a reservoir of self-esteem, even if his career path
turns out to be different. If a child does what he is good at it
enhances his self-esteem, and building up a child’s self-esteem is the
gift of a lifetime.


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