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 

Intelligence and IQ – does it matter?

Yesterday Boris Johnson delivered the annual Margaret Thatcher lecture at the Centre for Policy Studies in London, in it he said:

Whatever you may think of the value of IQ tests, it is surely relevant to a conversation about equality that as many as 16 per cent of our species have an IQ below 85, while about 2 per cent have an IQ above 130.”

Mr Johnson (Boris) uses the measure of IQ to make the point that if we don’t have equality in intelligence then economic equality is not possible. Effectively he is saying we should accept that some animals are more equal than others, apologies for the Animal Farm digression…..

What is Intelligence?

Yet a large part of Boris’s argument hinges on the term intelligence and that it has some meaning or value, but what is intelligence? The word itself is derived from the Latin verb intelligere, to comprehend or perceive. A good start, but that’s all it is a start, here are a few more definitions:

  • Judgment, otherwise called “good sense,” “practical sense,” “initiative,” the faculty of adapting one’s self to circumstances  (Alfred Binet the creator of the IQ)
  • The ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations (Merriam-Webster dictionary)
  • To my mind, a human intellectual competence must entail a set of skills of problem solving, enabling the individual to resolve genuine problems or difficulties that he or she encounters. (Howard Gardner, Multiple Intelligence Theory)

The last of these is my personal favourite as it gives purpose to having intelligence, to solve problems. The bottom line, there is no one single definition and experts disagree on how it should be tested/measured. Interestingly the IQ (intelligent quotient) developed by Alfred Binet was only ever intended to be used to identify intellectual disability not to form the basis of an elitist club or for Boris to hijack for his Margaret Thatcher lecture.

Does it matter?

People often have a personal view of their own intelligence, this can sometimes be empowering when you find out “You’re a god Dammed Genius” or limiting if “you discover your IQ is only 75.” Just for the record, 91-110 is average, 80-90 is dull normal, 66-79 borderline and 65 and below, defective.

The very fact that you believe you are intelligent can be motivational, resulting in you putting in more effort. The self belief that you can solve any problem will often result in you solving most of them, and of course proving you are not only intelligent but a genius!

I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing.

Socrates

Contrast that with the behaviour of someone who believes they are not intelligent or maybe not as intelligent as others. Faced with a problem they will give up, believing the solution is beyond them, and of course proving that they were also right and not a genius.

But Does Boris have a point?

Boris uses IQ (The measure of intelligence) to illustrate the point that we are all different, something that most people would readily accept. What I find uncomfortable is the deterministic nature of his proposition, it implies having a high IQ predicts success and by the exclusion of the many other factors that contribute to success, suggests is the only thing that matters. The Telegraph headline made this point very strongly.

Boris Johnson: some people are too stupid to get on in life

Natural differences between human beings will always mean that some will succeed and others will fail, the Mayor of London says in a speech

Yet on the basis that there is little agreement as to what Intelligence is, the testing and what should be tested is subjective, it would appear a poor basis on which to hang his argument.

Lessons for learning

What I do agree with is that we are all different and that some of this is the function of genetics. (Research indicates that 60% of intelligence is genetic) yet on the basis that you can do very little about this, does it matter?

It is always better to work on what you can change rather than what you can’t. I am sure many of us know people who seem to grasp principles, concepts’ etc and solve problems pretty quick. If you compare yourself to them it’s easy to conclude that they are better and you will always be second rate, so stop trying. The simple answer is don’t compare yourself with them, compare only with yourself, are you getting better and if you are then your improving, and that’s a result.

So forget about measuring intelligence and whether your better than someone else and get on with trying hard and being the best you can.

More on intelligence

Human intelligence, BBC Horizon. An interesting programme that evaluates the intelligence of different high performers.

And the smartest man in the world is…...click here

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.