Guest Interview

Multiple Intelligence with Dr Thomas Armstrong

Dr Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D., is the Executive Director of the American Institute for Learning and Human Development, and an award-winning author and speaker. He has authored 16 books that have been translated to 28 languages, including 7 Kinds of Smart: Identifying and Developing Your Multiple Intelligences and Neurodiversity in the Classroom.

This was originally a two-part series (combined into a single post), live coverage of Dr Thomas Armstrong’s workshop in Rise and Shine Expo, Singapore. His workshop was titled 8 ways of teaching: How to teach practically anything using multiple intelligences.

Multiple Intelligences

The theory of multiple intelligences was first developed in 1983 by Dr. Howard Gardner, professor of education at Harvard University. He took a broader interpretation of intelligence other than just linguistic and logic/mathematical intelligence that still remain as the main focus in schools today. A society requires more than word smart and number smart people, for instance, professions such as designers, artists, musicians, dancers play an important role. The concern of a narrow definition of intelligence is that children who are actually intelligent in other ways become labelled as “learning disabled”. Furthermore, teaching the same concept in different ways allow not word or number inclined children to learn the concepts and also reinforces learning for children who are.

8 Multiple Intelligences

Linguistic Intelligence

Linguistic intelligence (“word smart”) – This intelligence refers to being good with words, and children who are word smart may love reading books, telling stories, good at spellings and taking tests and good at writing. Parents can help these word smart children by bringing spoken/written words into learning.

Logical-Mathematical Intelligence

Logical-mathematical intelligence (“number/reasoning smart”) – This means being good at numbers and logic/reasoning. Children who have more of this intelligence are typically good in science, mental calculation, patterns and taking number-related tests. Parents can help number smart children by thinking of ways to use numbers or patterns into learning.

Spatial Intelligence

Spatial intelligence (“picture smart”) – This means being good with pictures and images. Children who have more of spatial intelligence are usually creative, loves arts, doodles, legos and video games. Parents can help these children by using visual aids, colour, art and metaphors.

Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence

Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence (“body smart”) – This refers to being good with the body and hands, such as children who are hands-on, loves to act, moves, sculpts and athletic. Learning for these children can be aided by involving the whole body and hands-on experiences.

Musical Intelligence

Musical intelligence (“music smart”) – This refers to being good with tone, rhythm and timbre and such children are often good in instruments, singing, rhythm and remembering music. Parents can help these music smart kids learn better by including music and rhythm into the learning experience.

Interpersonal Intelligence

Interpersonal intelligence (“people smart”) – This intelligence deals with being good at social interactions and these people smart children are natural leaders, street smart, good at mediating or persuasion. Learning for these children can be aided in peer to peer sharing, co-operative learning or large group simulation.

Intrapersonal Intelligence

Intrapersonal intelligence (“self smart”/ personal reflection) – This refers to being good at knowing oneself and these children are independent learners, confident, good at setting goals for themselves and reflecting. These self smart kids learn well when they are given choices or from forming associations with their personal experience.

Naturalist Intelligence

Naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”) This intelligence is for children who learn best using nature, who loves animals, have a green thumb or loves outdoors. Bringing learning for these children to nature or relating to nature can help their understanding of concepts.

For parents who want to assess which areas their children (or themselves!) are the strongest in, see this slideshare by Dr Thomas for the multiple intelligence inventory listing.

Identifying Multiple Intelligences in your Child

Dr Thomas shared that there are many ways parents can gather which intelligence their child is better at, and the best is by observation. Trips to art exhibits, zoos, parks, museums, libraries, music events and different environments can help parents to know what their child is interested to explore. Parents can document their observation using a scrapbook and observe over time what their child is better at. They can also go to the child’s school, ask the teachers and review the work done during school. A sparkle in the child’s eyes is the best indication!

Parents’ Questions on Discovering Child’s Multiple Intelligences

Q1: What if the parent is not strong in the intelligence that the child is good at? How can the parent then help the child to learn using this area of intelligence?

Dr Thomas: Parents can take the effort to learn and strengthen the intelligence in the particular area, and turn to other parents/tutors/technology to learn (both for themselves and for their children). One point to note is that every child is good at an area, it is not possible that a child is not intelligent in any area.

Q2: How to build a child’s intelligence and know that they have improved in it?

Dr Thomas: Parents should worry less about testing and think more about creating stimulating environments as a family, for instance, playing games, reading, stories, taking walks and visiting new places. Avenues to learn are already embedded in everyday life – for instance, questioning about why nature is as such, get them thinking instead of opting for an intensive learning program. Flash cards are not recommended as even if the child can get it right, flash cards do not encourage deeper understanding – some parents do it to feel good about themselves!

Multiple Intelligences/ Learning for an Eczema Child

I can’t resist the urge to sneak a question in for an eczema child. A child with eczema suffers from poor sleep, may lack concentration from lack of sleep or the itch be taking much of their mind. Dr Thomas, I wonder if there are certain areas to help these children in class (apart from treating the eczema so that the child can get proper sleep and not feel like scratching in class).

For instance, will it be even more important for parents to figure out other ways to help the eczema child learn apart from linguistic and logic as these require more sitting (leading to chances to scratch)?

My baby started learning her words using sign language, which helps as she has to sign and not scratch (her experience).

Dr Thomas:  I think any activity that involves hands-on learning would be good for the same reason as sign language:  the student’s hands will be involved in learning and not scratching.  Some examples of hands-on learning include:  fingerpainting, building with legos, working with math blocks, playing with clay, making a collage, creating a diorama (a three-dimensional model of a scene from a book, for example), and woodworking.  These, of course, are excellent for all children, but have this added benefit for children suffering from eczema.

Thank you so much Dr Thomas Armstrong for helping with the questions above and offering a very enlightening workshop for parents during the Rise and Shine Expo.

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