Multiple Intelligences in Schools: Benefits, Costs & Barriers

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Using the multiple intelligences in schools can be an important way to meet the needs of all learners. This lesson discusses some of the benefits, costs and barriers to applying the associated theory in schools.

The Importance of Multiple Intelligences

When Dianne was a child, she simply loved to draw. She struggled throughout her years in school, but she found herself in art and other extracurricular activities.

Now that Dianne teaches second grade, she is determined to make her school and classroom a place where children with a wide variety of strengths can thrive and feel at home.

This is because Dianne subscribes to multiple intelligence theory, the theory that there are many different ways a person can be smart, and each of them is as legitimate as the next.

Some of the most commonly referenced intelligences are visual and spatial intelligence, linguistic and verbal intelligence, and artistic intelligence. Dianne has also seen the importance of interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence, kinesthetic intelligence, natural intelligence, and spiritual intelligence. She works with others in her school to make it a welcoming place for children with all different strengths.

Role of the Teacher

Dianne knows that the teacher plays a significant role in making sure the school supports multiple intelligences. As a teachers, she tries to accomplish the following strategies:

  • Over the course of an instructional week, she ensures that there is at least one activity appealing to children whose greatest strength is in each of the intelligences.
  • Dianne talks openly with her students about their own strengths and struggles, so that they come to know themselves as intelligent people regardless of their specific strengths.
  • As often as possible, Dianne involves her students in long term projects that get at the same themes and content deeply from a variety of different vantage points and modalities.

Benefits

When Dianne starts focusing on the multiple intelligences in her classroom, she immediately sees some benefits. For example:

  • Children start to feel more confident, even when they do not have the strengths that have traditionally been valued most in schools.
  • Students show signs of knowing themselves well and being able to talk cogently about their own ways of learning.
  • Families feel more welcomed in the classroom, even if they have not historically felt comfortable in the school.
  • The classroom becomes a dynamic, vibrant place that shows art, resounds with music, and contains active learners.

Costs

At the same time, Dianne knows that there are some costs associated with teaching and planning according to the multiple intelligences. For instance:

  • She has to be very mindful during her planning, thinking extraordinarily careful about how she is going to meet each student's needs and strengths over the course of the week.
  • Some administrators and families find her methods untraditional and controversial, so Dianne must be constantly prepared to justify her methods.
  • As a result of working hard to diversify her instruction, Dianne does sometimes fall behind on the standardized curricula mandated by her district.

Barriers

Though Dianne remains steadfastly committed to the multiple intelligences, she recognizes that she has to work hard to overcome certain barriers associated with this way of thinking about teaching. For example:

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