Opinion

Multiple intelligences
in the classroom

One of the greatest challenges teachers face is how to encourage and accommodate each students' individual needs while pushing for the high achievement of all students in the classroom.

In Indonesia, there are about 40-50 students in one class and each child learns and approaches things in a different way.

What steps should teachers take to ensure each student learns to their full potential? Understanding the students' learning styles might help teachers plan learning activities to best suit their particular classroom environment.

In his 1983 book Frames of Mind, H. Gardner presented his Theory of Multiple Intelligences to reinforce his cross-cultural perspective of human cognition. Each individual has raw biological potential and it will change, develop and expand as the person grows. Multiple Intelligences are tools for learning, problem solving and creating throughout our lives. Gardner identified seven original intelligences and has since added an eighth, with more possibly to come. They are linguistic, logical, visual, kinesthetic, interpersonal, intra-personal, musical and naturalistic intelligences.

Linguistic intelligence is the ability to use words effectively both orally and in writing. This intelligence includes the ability to remember information, to convince others to help, and to talk about language itself.

Logical, or mathematical intelligence is the ability to use numbers effectively and reason well. It includes understanding the basic properties of numbers, developing the ability to analyze data, understanding the principle of cause and effect, and being able to use simple machines. Visual, or spatial intelligence is the ability to have sensitivity to form, space, color, line, and shape. It includes the ability to graphically represent visual or spatial ideas.

Bodily, or kinesthetic intelligence is the ability to use the body to express ideas and feelings, and to solve problems. This includes such physical skills as coordination, flexibility, speed, and balance.

Interpersonal intelligence is the ability to understand another person's moods, feelings, motivations, and intentions. This includes such skills as responding effectively to others in some pragmatic way, such as getting students or colleagues to participate in a project.

Intra-personal intelligence is the ability to understand yourself, your strength, weakness, moods, desires, and intentions. This includes such skills as understanding how you are similar to or different from others, reminding yourself to do something, knowing about yourself as a language, and knowing how to handle your feelings such as what to do and how to behave when you are angry or sad.

Musical intelligence is the ability to have sensitivity to rhythm and pitch. It includes such skills as the ability to recognize simple songs and the ability to vary speed, tempo, and rhythm in simple melodies.

Naturalistic intelligence is the ability to find patterns and recognize and classify plants, minerals, and animals, including rocks and all varieties of flora and fauna. It is also the ability to recognize cultural artifacts like cars or sneakers.

Students demonstrate a vast range of different individual strengths and skills. Understanding each student will help teachers prepare effective and efficient learning activities that do not discriminate against a certain intelligence grouping. Grouping students based on their usage of a certain intelligence is not only impossible but will also block their opportunities to encounter other ways of thinking.

On the other hand, it is also understandable that teachers tend to teach using the styles they are comfortable with. For example, if the teacher has a strong musical intelligence, they will tend to teach using a lot of musical activities. So, mastering the knowledge of multiple intelligences will help teachers plan the learning activities to cater to all the different intelligence strengths of the students' in the class. It will also help teachers to explore the students' other intelligences and strengthen them in the effort of equipping them to face the unpredictable aspects of the real world.

With a strong understanding of the benefits of applying multiple intelligences in the classroom teachers should be better prepared to incorporate different teaching techniques.

Not all students however are alike and no one can be neatly pigeon-holed into a certain cognitive type. Each is unique and so need to be treated uniquely. Understanding students' intelligences is only part of making learning more efficient and effective. An awareness of the factors will help teachers to be able to provide the best possible opportunities for learning, so each student in their big classes may learn to their utmost best.

The writer is a teacher trainer.

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