Howard Gardner: ‘Multiple intelligences’ are not ‘learning styles’

Howard Gardner: ‘Multiple intelligences’ are not ‘learning styles’

He does a really clear breakdown of what the terms intelligences, learning styles, and senses mean–and what they don’t mean. The whole thing is well worth reading.

As someone who learned the concepts of multiple intelligences and learning styles as if they were one and the same thing (or at the very least, a Venn diagram with lots of overlap), I found this fascinating.

While multiple intelligences always made some sort of intuitive sense to me, I struggled with the idea of learning styles. We all have our own learning style, and different areas of strength and weakness, but so so often I’ve seen the idea of learning styles used in a reductive way–by teachers and students.  I see the concept of a learning style used by teachers to pigeonhole students, or for students to pigeonhole themselves.

I think it’s really important not only to have students think about how they learn (and wow do I wish the word “metacognition” wasn’t being overused–and misused–into meaninglessness, but that’s for another day), but to help students have an understanding of learning as a complex process–a process which involves not only relying on areas of strength, but building up areas of weakness.

The recommendations Garnder makes at the end of his article are things that many teachers will be familiar with–and already do. Individualizing and pluralizing our teaching can be hard work, and it’s good to be reminded of why that hard work is so important.


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