At FasTracKids®, we believe in developing the WHOLE child. It’s not IF your child is smart; it’s HOW your child is smart!
This simple statement guides everything we do at FasTracKids, but we can’t take credit for the idea. Our approach to learning has been influenced in significant ways by Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences.
Uncovering Alternative Intelligences
In the 1983s, Gardner – a professor of education at Harvard University – took issue with our culture’s acceptance of IQ as the measuring stick of intelligence. He challenged the widely-held notion that intelligence is a single capacity and believed it could instead be reflected in a number of intelligences that ultimately yield a unique cognitive profile for each person. The resulting “Multiple Intelligences Theory” embraces a broader range of human potential in children and adults than inflexible measures like IQ. It rejects the limiting idea that something as dynamic as intelligence can be captured by a single standardized test – and so do we.
The Basics of MI Theory
Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences is a new model of human intelligence that goes beyond the idea that there’s just one kind, and that it can be measured by standardized tests. In a 2013 article, Gardner conceptualized this idea by saying that, instead of a single, all-purpose computer that determines how we perform in every sector of life, we have a number of relatively autonomous computers. The original MI model included seven distinct intelligences, later grew to include an eighth, and is still open to the addition to those yet to be discovered. Every individual possesses these modes of intelligences to draw from to help learn, solve problems and communicate. You can think of the eight intelligences as eight different potential pathways to learning.
Interpersonal Intelligence – What we call People Smart refers to the ability to interact effectively with others. It includes sensitivity to others’ moods, feelings, temperaments, and motivations.
Naturalist Intelligence – Nature Smart refers to 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.
Intrapersonal Intelligence – Being Self Smart involves sensitivity to one’s own feelings, goals, and anxieties, and the capacity to plan and act in light of one’s own traits.
Visual Spatial Intelligence – Picture Smart is denoted by the ability to conceptualize and manipulate large-scale spatial arrays (like an airplane pilot or a sailor), or more local forms of space (like an architect or chess player).
Musical Rhythmic Intelligence – We call this Music Smart, and it’s all about sensitivity to rhythm, pitch, meter, tone, melody, and timbre. This may include the ability to sing, play musical instruments, and/or compose music
Bodily Kinesthetic Intelligence – When you’re Body Smart, you use your whole body, or parts of the body (like the hands or the mouth), to solve problems or create products.
Verbal Linguistic Intelligence – Word Smart is sensitivity to the meaning of words, the order among words, and the sound, rhythms, inflections, and meter of words.
Logical Mathematical Intelligence – Logic Smart is the capacity to conceptualize the logical relations among actions or symbols.
It’s not hard to see how Multiple Intelligences goes beyond our traditional understanding of intelligence. It provides a helpful model for understanding not just whether your child is smart, but the different ways your child is smart.
The problem addressed by Dr. Gardner lies in the narrow definition of “intelligence” as proficiency in a few types of performance. He pointed out that our schools focus most of their attention on linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligence, and that we hold articulate or logical people in high esteem. Gardner argued that people who are smart in other ways – the artists, architects, musicians, naturalists, designers, dancers, therapists, and entrepreneurs among us — enrich the world in which we live as well. While popular measures like IQ do an adequate job of measuring those linguistic and logical areas of skill, they fail to consider non-logical strengths like musical ability, interpersonal skills, and ecological awareness. A Multiple Intelligences approach to human potential and education honors, identifies, and seeks to build upon this broader range of abilities. It doesn’t discount the linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences; it simply balances them with other areas of ability to achieve well-rounded development of the whole child. If you believe in Multiple Intelligences, the old way of doing things adds up to a whole lot of wasted potential.
The Challenge: Changing Education
The theory of multiple intelligences proposes a major transformation in the way our schools are run. It suggests that teachers be trained to present their lessons in a wide variety of ways using music, cooperative learning, art activities, role play, multimedia, field trips, inner reflection, and much more. In the various editions of his book, Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom, Armstrong has provided teachers with everything they need to apply MI theory to curriculum development, lesson planning, assessment, special education, cognitive skills, career development, educational policy, and more. Despite widespread interest in and acceptance of MI theory by teachers, school districts, and education leaders, however, access to whole-child education remains limited. Thousands of schools continue to resist change and stick with the old, lecture-style, logic-and-mathematics-focused approach. Even where MI theory is embraced, educators struggle with limited time and resources.
Why MI Matters for Kids
How Einstein put it: Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.
How Gardner put it: We all have the multiple intelligences. But we single out, as a strong intelligence, an area where the person has considerable computational power.
We think Multiple Intelligences Theory puts it pretty plainly: the way we’ve been thinking about intelligence is limiting, and it’s bad for all of us – especially kids working toward a well-rounded education. All children can learn and grow in all their many areas of intelligence. Their unique ways of thinking and learning aren’t addressed by our traditional heavily linguistic or logical-mathematical classrooms. Also, when kids are defined by standardized tests, or labeled “gifted” (or not), the individual gets lost. Labeling creates limits, and it’s important to avoid restricting how we define student potential. MI theory provides perspective on the whole child and empowers teachers with ways to reach students who do not respond to traditional approaches. It builds under-taught skills like communication, teamwork, and self-awareness. When children are reinforced in their strengths and supported in weaker areas, they access a trajectory toward realizing their full potential.
A Modern Take on MI Theory
In a recent webinar, Thomas Armstrong, Executive Director of the American Institute for Learning & Human Development and outspoken champion of MI theory in education, underscored the ongoing relevance of a Multiple Intelligences approach for modern educators. In addition to addressing the most common challenges to the theory, Armstrong conveyed the tremendous potential for MI Theory to increase the educational impact of emerging technologies. For both kids and teachers, it’s an amazing moment for multiple intelligences in the classroom.
Some exciting areas of opportunity include:
Virtual Reality – Students can safely experience the world using more of their intelligences. VR also makes Bodily Kinesthetics part of the learning experience.
Augmented Reality – Like Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality creates 3D experiences and presents new ways for Picture Smart kids to interact with educational content.
Collaborative Learning Tools – Teamwork is being reinvented for a new generation, and these new methods of Collaboration will enhance People Smarts.
Robotics – The growing emphasis on and accessibility of robotics extend to kids a new and exciting realm of Coding and Logic, which can be used to build Number Smarts.
The Maker Movement – Hands-on playgrounds for the imagination encompass the whole realm of intelligences with opportunities related to programming, design, robotics, building, spatial reasoning, coding, and more.
Thanks to technology advancements like these, the many intelligences have new ways to be expressed in the world and the classroom.
Empowering a New Era
Thomas Armstrong, who continues to adapt his MI-related texts for a rapidly changing reality, provides a model for applying multiple intelligences theory in our critical consideration of emerging trends in education. Updates to Multiple Intelligences Theory further extend the applicability of the approach and help us to find better answers for the future of learning.
Personalized Learning – Armstrong points out that, while tech behemoths claim to offer cusomized learning experiences, teaching driven by algorithms rarely achieves true personalization. Meaningfully personalized learning can be realized through expansion into all the intelligences, allowing students to create not just the product, but also the process. These are the type of experiences we strive to offer at FasTracKids.
Neurodiversity – In an era of explosive diagnosis, education solutions for students with special needs have lagged behind. In his book, Neurodiversity in the Classroom, Armstrong applies MI Theory to emphasize strengths over deficits. Multiple Intelligences allow educators to identify and leverage the strengths of students who have deficiencies in other intelligences. An MI approach gives us refreshing and empowering ways to work around ADHD, dyslexia, and autism to provide kids novel and compelling learning experiences, as well as hope for the future.
State Standards – Given the emphasis on standardized testing and the Common Core, educators can take a Multiple Intelligences approach to help more students succeed. MI Theory holds that the same material can be taught using eight different pathways, so an awareness of these pathways on the part of teachers empowers them to teach Common Core competencies in a variety of ways.
Armstrong’s work is just one stunning example showing how the Theory of Multiple can influence myriad issues in education to improve experiences and outcomes for students. He leverages MI to achieve optimal engagement and practical use of technology in the pursuit of well-rounded learning and the realization of kids’ true potential.
MI Theory & the FasTracKids Curriculum
At FasTracKids, we agree that a child’s educational journey is best served by teaching in ways the child can learn best. We’ve used MI Theory to develop a multi-media, interactive platform that fully engages children and exposes them to 12 different subject areas using a multisensory approach. FasTracKids strives to facilitate the learning process for each child, and Multiple Intelligences Theory gives us a roadmap for helping children find their unique gifts and talents. We believe that understanding how your child is smart is critical – for them, for their teachers, and for you the parent. Our curriculum transcends the linguistic/logical-mathematical model and complements preschool, homeschool, kindergarten, and first-grade programs by taking a whole-child approach to education.
Well-Rounded from Start to Finish
If you’re just getting to know FasTracKids, it won’t be long before you see MI Theory reflected in the way we work. Our FasTrack Learning Potential Assessment uses Multiple Intelligences to help us pinpoint your child’s learning preferences and discover how he or she learns best. This fun and easy assessment identifies how your child is predisposed to excel so that you – and your child’s teachers – understand how to tap into your child’s tremendous learning potential. Even the makeup of our classrooms reflects a multiple intelligences perspective.
Some of the tools we use to engage students in learning include:
- SMART Boards
- Hands-On Labs
- Video-Recorded Classroom Activities
- Role-Playing Exercises
FasTracKids takes both Gardners’s and Armstrong’s insights to heart by individualizing and pluralizing our teaching as much as possible. With us, leveraging your child’s strongest areas of intelligence won’t happen at the expense of others. We believe that learning is fluid and should not be restricted by labeling a child as a specific type of learner. Rather, we play to your child’s existing strengths while also seeking to develop and build all eight intelligences. We believe that every child has potential in every area of intelligence, and by considering the whole picture, we strive for well-rounded growth.
If your traditional school isn’t helping you understand the ways your child learns best, leveraging those strengths, and achieving a whole-child approach, a program like those offered by FasTracKids could help prevent missed opportunities.