Schools known as Multiple Intelligence (MI) Schools are the schools that have adopted the pedagogy and curricular methodologies influenced by the Theory of Multiple Intelligences propounded by Dr. Howard Gardner, a Harvard educational psychologist. The ground breaking theory postulates that intelligence is not a monolithic ability but covers an entire spectrum of cognitive capacities termed “intelligences”.
There are at least 7 identified intelligences which include Logical Mathematical and Linguistic intelligences; Visual-Spatial intelligence, Bodily –Kinesthetic intelligence, Musical intelligence and Inter-personal, Intra-personal intelligence. There are other candidate intelligences including Naturalistic and Existential intelligences. An ability qualifies as a specific intelligence only if it is located in a specific anatomical region of the brain and individual differences in its manifestation can be quantified.
The point of diversion of the theory of Multiple Intelligences from the concept of singular intelligence or “IQ” is its inclusiveness. The IQ tests which quantify intelligence emphasize, exclusively, logical-mathematical and linguistic ability. It, due to this exclusive character, tends to discount the other significant cerebral competencies. Due to this bias the education and pedagogy shifted, in the course of centuries, to aid the development of Mathematical, logical and linguistic capacities insofar as the inculcation of these capacities became synonymous with education. The multiple intelligence schools are most proactive agencies that tend to modify this. Although the pedagogical methods developed in 20th century, notably Montessori and Waldorf, have elements that are coherent with the idea of multiple intelligences but Gardner’s has been the only definitive theoretical framework to define individual learning and delivering capacities and multiple intelligence schools have inherited that.
The challenge before the multiple intelligence schools is to rival the deeply embedded IQ centric education system which has spawned every existing curriculum around the globe and have informed pedagogical standards.
There are certain MI schools that have the membership of Council of International Schools and they follow a curriculum that covers all major disciplines complemented with extra- curricular activities. The practices that have informed education in the 21st century like ‘Developmentally Appropriate Practices’ have been incorporated into the teaching and learning practices with the syllabuses.
So what happens when a student studies the syllabus based on Multiple Intelligence Theory? Does he/she study only what he/she is inclined towards? Is there a special test to know what one’s dominant intelligences are? Does the MI school suggest student to read what they think will suit their specific intelligences to the exclusion of others?
We have tried to answer these questions. First of all, there is no instantaneous or progressive test that is executed from outside for determining one’s intelligence. The realization is always there but the ways of conventional education encourages some intelligences at the cost of others. The MI institutions, junior and senior schools both, offer every subject that is appropriate for the student’s age and do not deprive the student knowledge of anything on the presumption of dominant intelligence. There are no presumptions. The student excels in the subject by applying ones set of natural intelligences. There are ways to teach a particular subject as diverse as Mathematics and History that suits every group of intelligences. Teaching aids are invariably employed to teach every subject. Co-curricular activities are more education oriented and not a “break” from education. In fact, students studying through Multiple Intelligence based Curriculum do not require a break from studies as they are truly involved. There are no top down suggestions from teachers to students about their specific intelligences, the discovery of intelligences and actualization of potential is left to the students with teachers left to build the educational environment and asses the students’ interaction with the created educational ecosystem.
At any rate, principles of multiple intelligences are gaining ground world-wide and conventional education system is also applying interactive education channels for imparting knowledge. International education programs like International Baccalaureate and Indian Program like Chrysalis employ MI even more candidly.
It must be said that Multiple Intelligence education programmes suit the need of the day and age as they are paving the way for inclusive education.
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Vinod Kakumanu heads a team of school services professionals and is an independent commentator on Indian school education scenario. Vinod has assisted school promoters establish 35+ schools besides providing ancillary services to over 1000 schools across India. He envisions a future where quality education is made available to every child of the country. The focus he places on the quality of the deliverables and customer satisfaction has made him renowned in the field of K-12 school education.