Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

May 23, 2016

How Do Your Students Learn?

This interesting cartoon provides some food-for-thought on assessing the way students learn. You might ask yourself:

  • What is your first reaction on viewing this cartoon?
  • In what ways do you regularly encounter students who learn in different ways?
  • How can you more fairly assess students based on their different learning styles?
  • What type of resources (e.g., different styles of tests, assignment rubrics, etc.) do you need to more fairly address this issue?

You may also wish to share this cartoon with your colleagues and students themselves in order to gain their insights.

Multiple Intelligences

Additionally, you may wish to review the classical multiple intelligences that describe the ways that people learn. Developed by Howard Gardner, a professor at the Harvard School of Education, the multiple intelligences explain eight particular ways that students learn.

Though people learn using all different styles, each person usually has preferred ways of acquiring and processing information. The best learning takes places when teaching methods offer processes, assignments, and projects for all eight intelligences. This provides opportunities for students to access their preferred intelligence and to proceed from their chosen strengths.

What follows is a brief description of Gardner’s eight multiple intelligences and information about which methods students prefer.

Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligence

Bodily/Kinesthetic intelligence involves the capacity to use one’s whole body to express ideas and feelings. It specifically involves using one’s hands to create things or to skillfully manipulate objects. A concrete way to think of people learning in this style is that they are active and engaged in a “learning-by-doing” assignment or project. Methods include:

  • developing and performing role plays
  • participating in a theater arts performance
  • creating and/or demonstrating the use of a relevant tool, instrument, or utensil
  • exercising or competing in athletics

Interpersonal/Relational Intelligence

      This intelligence requires the ability to perceive and appreciate the feelings, moods, intentions, and motivations of other people. Those who prefer this type of learning flourish working in groups, teams, or with a partner. Learning methods include:

  • brainstorming ideas
  • playing cooperative games
  • dialoguing with others
  • working on a group project

Intrapersonal/Introspective Intelligence

      The Intrapersonal/Introspective intelligence requires the ability to base one’s actions on self-understanding. Being in touch with one’s dreams, feelings, moods, intentions, motivations, and spirituality is a key aspect of this intelligence. People who learn best in this style usually prefer to work alone on self-directed assignments. Examples of the intrapersonal/introspective intelligence are:

  • writing reports or research papers
  • keeping a journal
  • explaining the personal connection of some given information
  • identifying with characters in a story

Logical/Mathematical Intelligence

The Logical/Mathematical intelligence requires the skill to work well with numbers and to use reason to solve problems. Persons who learn well in this style are adept, for example, at categorizing and exploring relationships within a set of data. They tend to find it difficult to function in an environment that is chaotic or one in which the goals are not clearly defined. Methods that complement this intelligence are:

  • categorizing names, places, and events
  • outlining bodies of material
  • exploring patterns and relationships
  • problem solving

Musical/Rhythmic Intelligence

Distinguishing rhythm, pitch, and melody is a characteristic of this intelligence. People who prefer to learn in this style often express themselves in musical forms. They enjoy being surrounded by sound and rhythm and understand these as learning tools. Some methods that are successful for this style are:

  • making and playing instruments
  • setting stories to music
  • creating or performing in a musical
  • writing new lyrics for familiar tunes

Naturalist Intelligence

A person who prefers a Naturalist intelligence is at home in the natural environment. He or she appreciates the joys of nature and is comfortable raising and caring for plants and animals. This person also often enjoys camping, hiking, and many other outdoor activities. Methods that are consistent with the Naturalist Intelligence intelligence are:

  • experimenting in a lab setting
  • classifying elements in the natural world
  • "digging” or any simulation of an archaeological experience
  • demonstrating proper procedure and care for gardens or animals

Verbal/Linguistic Intelligence

The Verbal/Linguistic intelligence involves use of the spoken and written word. A person who learns best with this intelligence appreciates being able to see things in print, hear spoken words, and say things aloud. Memorization is also a key learning method. Other methods consistent with this intelligence are:

  • debating
  • reading and summarizing the material
  • memorizing and repeating multiple facts
  • writing essays

Visual/Spatial Intelligence

      This intelligence appeals to people who like to learn by visualizing and dreaming about concepts and ideas. Learners in this style incorporate both sight and mental images. Whereas the written word may frustrate these learners, visuals in the form of charts, pictures, graphs, and maps help them to grasp a topic. Other methods that fit into this intelligence include:

  • drawing, painting, and sculpting
  • creating collages, posters, and murals
  • designing maps and graphs
  • producing videos

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