Intelligence defined – Inspiring learning leaders – Howard Gardner

Intelligence is a term that is often used to define people, David is “clever” or “bright” maybe even “smart” but it can also be a way in which you define yourself. The problem is that accepting this identity can have a very limiting effect on motivation, for example if someone believes they are not very clever, how hard will they try, effort would be futile. And yet it is that very effort that can make all the difference. See brain plasticity.
I wrote about an inspiring learning leader back in April this year following the death of Tony Buzan, the creator of mind maps. I want to continue the theme with Howard Gardner (Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education) who I would guess many have never heard of but for me is an inspirational educator.

Multiple Intelligence Theory (MIT)
Now in fairness Howard Gardner is himself not especially inspiring but his idea is. Gardner is famous for his theory that the traditional notion of intelligence, based on I.Q. is far too limited. Instead, he argues that there are in fact eight different intelligences. He first presented the theory in 1983, in the book Frames of Mind – The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. 

This might also be a good point to clarify exactly how Gardner defines intelligence.

Intelligence – ‘the capacity to solve problems or to fashion products that are valued in one or more cultural setting’ (Gardner & Hatch, 1989).

Multiple intelligences

  1. SPATIAL – The ability to conceptualise and manipulate large-scale spatial arrays e.g. airplane pilot, sailor
  2. BODILY-KINESTHETIC – The ability to use one’s whole body, or parts of the body to solve problems or create products e.g. dancer
  3. MUSICAL – Sensitivity to rhythm, pitch, meter, tone, melody and timbre. May entail the ability to sing, play musical instruments, and/or compose music e.g. musical conductor
  4. LINGUISTIC – Sensitivity to the meaning of words, the order among words, and the sound, rhythms, inflections, and meter of words e.g. poet
  5. LOGICAL-MATHEMATICAL – The capacity to conceptualise the logical relations among actions or symbols e.g. mathematicians, scientists
  6. INTERPERSONAL – The ability to interact effectively with others. Sensitivity to others’ moods, feelings, temperaments and motivations e.g. negotiator
  7. INTRAPERSONAL- Sensitivity to one’s own feelings, goals, and anxieties, and the capacity to plan and act in light of one’s own traits.
  8. NATURALISTIC – The ability to make consequential distinctions in the world of nature as, for example, between one plant and another, or one cloud formation and another e.g. taxonomist

I have taken the definitions for the intelligences direct from the MI oasis website.

It’s an interesting exercise to identify which ones you might favour but be careful, these are not learning styles, they are simply cognitive or intellectual strengths. For example, if someone has higher levels of linguistic intelligence, it doesn’t necessarily mean they prefer to learn through lectures alone.

You might also want to take this a stage further by having a go at this simple test. Please note this is for your personal use, its main purpose is to increase your understanding of the intelligences.

Implications – motivation and self-esteem
Gardner used his theory to highlight the fact that schools largely focused their attention on linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligence and rewarded those who excelled in these areas. The implication being that if you were more physically intelligent the school would not consider you naturally gifted, not “clever” as they might if you were good at maths. The advice might be that you should consider a more manual job. I wonder how that works where someone with high levels of physical and spacial intelligence may well find themselves playing for Manchester United earning over £100,000 a week!

But for students this theory can really help build self-esteem and motivate when a subject or topic is proving hard to grasp. No longer do you have to say “I don’t understand this, I am just not clever enough”. Change the words to “I don’t understand this yet, I find some of these mathematical questions challenging, after all, its not my strongest intelligence”. “I know I have to work harder in this area but when we get to the written aspects of the subject it will become easier”.

This for me this is what make Gardner’s MIT so powerful it’s not a question of how intelligent you are but which intelligence(s) you work best in.

“Discover your difference, the asynchrony with which you have been blessed or cursed and make the most of it.” Howard Gardner

As mentioned earlier Howard Gardner is not the most inspirational figure and here is an interview to prove it, but his theory can help you better understand yourself and others, and that might just change your perception of who you are and what you’re capable of – now that’s inspiring!

MI Oasis – The Official Authoritative Site of Multiple Intelligences 

Blended – taking responsibility for your own learning

Taking responsibilityBlended course programmes are here to stay. The idea that studying comprises of both time in the classroom with others and time learning on your own using online or even traditional learning materials is certainly not new. Of course the purist will argue that blended learning has to or exclusively use online materials rather than a text book – no matter.

This blog is not about blended learning, more the implications of what studying on blended programmes means i.e. you have to study on your own and as a result take responsibility for how you learn.

Instructor led – easier

In a traditional classroom the teacher (instructor) stands at the front of the classroom and leads the learning. They tell you what to learn, when to learn, even how to learn.  They also dictate the pace and mood of the delivery. There is of course nothing wrong with this and many students really value it, in fact it’s their preferred method of learning. Of course its far from perfect, not everyone learns at the same pace or in the same way, but let’s put that debate, or blog aside for another day.

With a blended programme the student has to leave the security of the classroom and enter the world of self managed learning (SML).

Student led (SML) -harder but more effective

Self managed learning gives the student great power, they can study what they want, perhaps not the subject matter but certainly the order, when they want, how they want etc. However as Spiderman* once said, with great power comes great responsibility. You now have to take responsibility for the result. This means if something doesn’t make sense it’s not the teacher’s fault it’s yours!

Its perhaps even more basic than that, you are also responsible for how long you spend studying, you don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to. You can study on a Monday or Wednesday, or just the weekend. You can study for one hour or for 20 minutes. And there lies the problem, when it’s up to the individual a lot of people take the easy way out, the route of least resistance and put it off for another day.

However when you do take responsibility, the quality of the learning is significantly improved. Listening to the teacher is easy but not always that effective. The SMLearner has to set goals, monitor their performance and finally reflect, how well did they do compared with how well they thought they would? It is partly this process that makes the learning so good, but it will feel harder.

How to be a SML

These may all be worth covering in more detail in another blog but for now think of this as a check list.

  • Use a timetable – Google calendar is great for this. Put in all your key dates including exactly what you will do e.g. read chapters one to three – make notes – answer question 2,3 and 4.
  • Have a place to learn. This might seem obvious but you need somewhere that is quiet, plenty of space, good lighting, with little distraction. Perhaps most important is that you know that when you are in this room you feel ready to study.
  • Read carefully, I have written on this before. Underline key points as you go. Don’t just read, you have to think as well.
  • Make notes, even if you have pre- prepared ones. Once again I have written on the best way to do this. If you are following an e learning module make notes as you work through the online guidance.
  • Listen to your internal dialogue. When you are working alone just make sure that what you are saying to yourself is positive. Remember this is not about telling yourself everything will be fine, it’s about moving forward e.g. I just don’t understand this, what I need to do is read it again perhaps from another book.

Taking responsibility

Want to find out more about taking responsibility for learning – watch video 1video 2video 3. They are all less than three minutes long and well worth it.

PS *Of course Spiderman can’t really talk it was Stan Lee the writer of Spiderman, although Franklin D Roosevelt and others have also been quoted as saying this or something similar.

 

A beautiful mind or just a different one – Personalised learning

My Daughter is sitting her mock exams at the moment, my wife is taking her to school just in case the train breaks down! And I have just finished teaching revision; only the dog seems unaffected by this November/December exams season.

Watching my Daughter study was interesting, she has discovered that you don’t need a white board to make notes, and just like John Nash (A beautiful Mind) has been writing on our dining room windows with a marker pen.  She also created a game where the answer was under a flap of paper and found that she learned more effectively when teaching someone else, me. Go on ask me a question about respiration or stem cells…..

I have written on the merits of learning styles before,”learning styles don’t work or do they,” but in that blog I focused more on how you process information rather than using differing methods to learn. For example making notes using mind maps rather than in a linear format or writing on the window rather than on paper…..  Different people learn in different ways and at different speeds. This is why there is a big push in education to personalise learning, to make it sufficiently flexible for each individual to learn in their own way.

The argument is that in the last century education was delivered in a style needed to prepare people to work in factories. It required little in the way of individual thought just the ability to perform simple repetitive tasks, the same as everyone else. As a result pupils were all taught in the same way, sat in rows, repeating the same thing over and over again, and dressing alike. Okay a bit Orwellian and not entirely true, there have always been great teachers, but you get the point.

But now we live in a world that is constantly changing, problem solving is highly praised and keeping up to date with the latest information or developments is essential. So learning needs to change.

Different ways to learn

There are of course many ways to learn, but below are a few tips and hints.

  •  Making notes – writing something down is an incredibly powerful method of learning. Some people like mind maps, others prefer lists or bullet points and why not try Concept Mapping. The key point, just write it down.
  • Cards – reducing down what you have to learn and put it onto small cards. This is great for individuals who like to rearrange information, putting the most important first or eliminating what has been mastered.
  • Get a learning habit – make a routine out of what you do so that you perform a task without thinking. Learn one new fact before you go to bed, always have a book to hand or have notes on your mobile so that when you are on the train everyday you can study for 20/30 minutes.
  • Talk out loud – okay people may think you are a bit strange but listening to your own voice can really help.

Of course not all of the above will work for everyone that’s why you are you, an individual, the secret is not to give up if one method does not work.

Ps other great films about learning

Good will Hunting and the best of all Dead Poets Society

Let me know your favourites?

Not fast food – fast learning

Last week I presented a live on-line lecture to about 250 students who had registered to attend the course, the subject How to learn faster. 

So I thought it might be interesting to devote this blog to a summary of the key points from that presentation.

 

Accelerated or fast learning

Accelerated leaaning is a collective term for a series of practical approaches to learning. In many ways it is simply an explanation of the way in which you learn, the logic being that if you understand how information gets into your head you will be able to speed up individual parts of that process and so learn faster. Let’s have a look at what is involved in the accelerated learning process.

How we learn – or at least one version

Take a look at the picture on the right, focus on the information arrow. This represents what you are trying to learn, you receive that information either Visually, Auditory or Kinaesthetically (smell touch taste) see July blog.

Learning tip 1 – Use all of your senses. When learning think about the best way of processing information, if it doesn’t make sense having read it a few times, then why not draw a picture?

One of the big problems with learning is motivation and the secret to motivation is to set goals and have Outcomes. Before you start learning think what your objectives are both short and long term then write them down.

Learning tip 2 – Write down your learning goals but make them positive and within your power. It is no good writing down I want to pass an exam when you cannot control that. Better to write that you will practice 4 questions tonight, now you can do that.

Next focus on the Practice arrows – Practice is vital. You can’t get away from the fact that the more you practice the better you get, see August blog on deliberate practice.

Learning tip 3 – Practice practice, practice….and practice again

Now look at the first of the 3 pink bubbles, MIT. MIT stands for Multiple Intelligence Theory – Don’t ask how intelligent you are, ask which intelligence you have. Howard Gardner suggested that there were 8 different intelligences, ranging from musical to logical to interpersonal.

Learning tip 4 – Don’t get hung up about intelligence, it doesn’t help, chances are your average. There are lots of types of intelligences and you may not like maths/logical subjects and are better at the written/linguistic papers. If you’re not good at maths just work harder at it, but have confidence that you are good at many other things. Intelligence is not one thing that you either have or don’t, it is more complicated.

Second of the pink bubbles is – State. State is another word for frame of mind. If you are not in the right frame of mind then you won’t learn quickly.

Learning tip 5 – If you don’t feel in the right mood for learning, then change your mood. Get up walk around, make a coffee or remind yourself you have the exam in only two weeks time. That normally works! 

Memory is the third of the bubbles – Memory is not the same as intelligence, you can improve the speed at which you learn by using memory techniques.

Learning tip 6 – Learn and begin to use some simple memory techniques, mind mapping, acronyms and acrostics are a good start.

And finally in the white bubble – Reflection. No learning process is complete without thinking back over what you have learned. What might you do differently next time, can you explain what you have learned to others?

Learning tip 7 – Keep a learning log or at least take some time out of your day to think back on what you have learned.

It’s not magic but it will work

Accelerated or fast learning is not a magic built or a pill that you can take that will require no effort from you, but it is an explanation
of learning, that stops you thinking of learning as something that happens sometimes. It is just a process and the more you understand about that process the
faster you can learn.

As they say learning is not a spectator sport…..

 

I have just discovered twitter. You can follow me by clicking on the panel to the right. My initial thoughts were that it was a waste of time but I have found it very demanding to make your point in 140 characters and have picked up lots of new information from others, see everyone is learning.

Learning styles – don’t work or do they?

Much has been written about learning styles and in the world of education the very idea that there might be one “good way” to learn remains controversial.

The term which refers to the many ways in which we learn is often used interchangeably with ‘thinking styles’, ‘cognitive styles’ and ‘learning modalities’.

 

 

However, a number of researchers have attempted to break down the concepts and processes that underlie the term into three inter-related elements:

  • How you process Information – How you perceive, store and organise information, for example, VAK, visually, auditory, kinaesthetic.
  • The environment in which you learn – Your preference towards learning in a certain way, perhaps with others or on your own or in a certain setting or at a particular time of day.
  • Learning Strategies – Your use of differing methods to learn specific subject matter in a particular way. For example making notes using mind maps rather than in a linear format.

In this blog I want to concentrate on the first of these, how we process information, in particular VAK, however the observations are just as relevant to other learning styles.

 VAK – a preferred learning style

The argument is simple, everything you have learned at some point has come to you through your senses, but have you got a preference, is there one method that you as an individual are more receptive to than another? Do you for example prefer to look at pictures and diagrams  (visual) rather than listen to someone explain how it might work (auditory) or would you like to do something rather than talk about it (kinaesthetic).

Find out your learning style by taking this simple test

Learning style How we learn Learning tip
Visual seeing and reading Use mind maps and colours
Auditory listening and speaking Make an audio of your notes
Kinaesthetic touching and doing Practice questions.Build it….fix it….

But do learning styles work?

Watch this clip as Professor Daniel Willingham describes research showing that learning styles are a myth and that learning styles dont exist.

Baroness Susan Greenfield, Professor of Pharmacology at Lincoln College, Oxford University and ex Director of the Royal Institution has even been brought into the debate.

Writing in the Times Educational Supplement Magazine (29th July 2007), Susan Greenfield said that “from a neuroscientific point of view is nonsense” (the learning style approach to teaching) was nonsense. Humans evolved to build a picture of the world through our senses working in unison , exploiting the immense interconnectivity that exists in the brain, It is when the senses are activated together that brain cells fire more strongly than when the stimuli are received apart.” Abridged

Its learning about learning that matters

So, given this lack of consensus amongst researchers, why bother to consider learning styles at all?

The reason I would suggest that knowing about learning styles is helpful is not so that you can label yourself an “auditory learner” “theoretical learner” etc, this can narrow your ability to learn and even provide an excuse for poor performance, “I did not do very well at that because I am not that theoretical”. No it is to broaden your horizons and give you alternative ways of learning should you get stuck when trying to understand something.

Understanding more about how you (might) learn can really help. Imagine you are sat there at night reading and re reading a chapter in a book, clearly getting nowhere, becoming more frustrated at your own abilities. What if you stopped reading to yourself and begin reading out loud, thus changing a visual internal auditory style to a visual external auditory one. Susan Greenfield is right, we learn best when we stimulate the brain with all our senses and not just one of them. Understanding about learning styles is about creating more choice and flexibility, if one method isn’t working then change to another.