Learning/Thinking Styles and Multiple Intelligences




One factor that brings about student diversity is thinking/learning styles. Individuals think and learn in distinct ways. In any group of learners there will always be different learning characteristics, particularly in the learners' manner of processing information. Some would absorb the lesson better when they work with their hands than when they just listen. Others would prefer to watch a video about a topic. Students, likewise, have preferred ways of expressing their thoughts, feelings and ideas. Some would prefer to write, others would draw or even dance and sing. These preferences involve thinking/learning styles and multiple intelligences.




The inventory you just answered reflects whether you are a viewed auditory and kinesthetic learner. This is only but one way of describing the variations of learning and teaching styles. A. Hilliard describes "learning style" as the sum of the patterns of how individuals develop habitual way of responding to experience. Howard Gardner identified nine kinds of intelligences that individuals may have.


Learning/Thinking Styles

-          refer to the preferred way an individual processes information. They describe a person's typical mode of thinking remembering or problem solving. Furthermore, styles are usually considered to be bipolar dimensions. For instance, your particular learning/thinking style would lie at a point in a continuum. Having a particular learning/thinking style simply denotes a tendency to behave in a certain manner. Your style usually described as a personality dimension which influences your attitude values and social interaction.


There are several perspectives about learning-thinking styles. We should focus on sensory preferences and the global-analytic continuum.


Sensory Preferences. Individuals tend to gravitate toward one or two types of sensory input and maintain a dominance in one of the follow types:


Visual Learners. These learners must see their teacher's actions a facial expressions to fully understand the content of a lesson. They tend to prefer sitting in front so no one would block the view. They may think in pictures and learn best from visual a including: diagrams, illustrated text books, overhead transparencies videos, flipcharts and hand-outs. During a lecture or classroom discussion, visual learners often prefer to take detailed notes absorb the information.


Ri Charde further breaks down visual learners into:


Visual-iconic. Those who prefer this form of input a more interested in visual imagery such as film, graphic display or pictures in order to solidify learning. They usually have goo "picture memory," a.k.a. iconic imagery and attend to pictorial detail. They would like to read a map better than to read a book.


Visual-symbolic. Those who prefer this form of input feeling comfortable with abstract symbolism such as mathematical formula or the written word. They would prefer to read a book than a map and would like to read about things than hear about them. They tend to be good abstract thinkers who do not require practical means for learning.


Auditory Learners. They learn best through verbal lecture discussions, talking things through and listening to what others have to say. Auditory learners interpret the underlying meanings speech through listening to tone of voice, pitch, speed and others nuances. Written information may have little meaning until it is heard. These learners often benefit from reading text aloud and using a tape recorder. They can attend aurally to details, translate the spoken word easily into the written word, and are not easily distracted in their listening ability.


Auditory learners also fall into two categories:


The "Listeners". This is the more common type. 'Listeners' most likely do well in school. Out of school too, they remember things said to them and make the information their own. They may even carry on mental conversations and figure out how to extend what they learned by reviewing in their heads what they heard others say.


The "Talkers". They are the ones who prefer to talk and discuss. They often find themselves talking to those around them. In a class setting when the instructor is not asking questions, auditory-verbal processors (talkers) tend to whisper comments to themselves. They are not trying to be disruptive and may not even realize that they need to talk.


Tactile/Kinesthetic Learners. Tactile/Kinesthetic persons benefit much from a hands-on approach, actively exploring the physical world around them. They may find it hard to sit still for long periods. They may not benefit so much from the discussion or the written materials, and may become distracted by their need for activity and exploration. Those preferring this form of input move toward active, sensorimotor learning. They tend to prefer "learning by doing," preferring the use of psychomotor skills to, say, abstract thinking skills. They tend to have good motor memory and motor coordination.


Global - Analytic Continuum


Analytic. Analytic thinkers tend toward the linear, step-by-step processes of learning. They tend to see finite elements of patterns rather than the whole; they are the "tree seers." They are more comfortable in a world of details and hierarchies of information.


Global. Global thinkers lean towards non-linear thought and tend to see the whole pattern rather than particle elements. They are the "forest seers" who give attention only to the overall structure and sometimes ignore details.


Several theorists have tied the global-analytic continuum to the left-brain/right-brain continuum. In accord with Roger Sperry's model, the left-brained dominant individual is portrayed as the linear (analytic), verbal, mathematical thinker while the right-brained person is one who is viewed as global, non-linear and holistic in thought preferences.


Both sides of the brain can reason but through different strategies in an individual, one side may be more dominant than the other. The left brain is regarded as analytic in approach while the right is described as holistic or global. A successive processor (left brain) prefers to learn in a step-by-step sequential format, beginning with details leading to a conceptual understanding of a skill. A simultaneous processor (right brain) prefers to learn beginning with the general concept and then going on to specifics. See the comparison on next page:


LEFT BRAIN (Analytic)


Successive Hemispheric Style

Simultaneous Hemispheric Style

1. Verbal

1. Visual

2. Responds to word meaning

2. Responds to tone of voice

3. Sequential

3. Random

4. Processes information linearly

4. Processes information in varied order

5. Responds to logic

5. Responds to emotion

6. Plans ahead

6. Impulsive

7. Recalls people's names

7. Recalls people's faces

8. Speaks with few gestures

8. Gestures when speaking

9. Punctual

9. Less punctual

10. Prefers formal study design

10. Prefers sound/music background while study

11. Prefers bright lights while studying

11. Prefers frequent mobility while studying


Multiple Intelligences


The theory of multiple intelligences (MI) was first described by Howard Gardner in Frames of Mind (1983). Gardner defines intelligence as " ability or set of abilities that allows a person to solve a problem or fashion a product that is valued in one or more cultures". Gardner believes that different intelligences may be independent abilities a person can be low in one domain area but high in another. All of us possess the intelligences but in varying degrees of strength.

His most current research indicates that there are nine distinct forms of "T intelligences. In order to facilitate learning effectively, teachers should use strategies that match these kinds of intelligences. The nine kinds are:


Visual/Spatial Intelligence (Picture Smart) - learning visually and organizing ideas spatially. Seeing concepts in action in order to understand them. The ability to "see" things in one's mind in planning to create a product or solve a problem.


Verbal/Linguistic (Word Smart) - learning through the spoken and written word. This intelligence is always valued in the traditional classroom and in traditional assessments of intelligence and achievement.


Mathematical/Logical (Number Smart/Logic Smart) - learning through reasoning and problem solving. Also highly valued in the traditional classroom where students are asked to adapt to logically sequenced delivery of instruction.


Bodily/Kinesthetic (Body Smart) - learning through interaction with one's environment. This intelligence is the domain of "overly active" learners. It promotes understanding through concrete experience.


Musical (Music Smart) - learning through patterns, rhythms and music This includes not only auditory learning but also the identification of patterns through all the senses.


Intrapersonal (Self Smart) - learning through feelings, values and attitudes. This is a decidedly affective component of learning through which students place value on what they learn and take ownership for their learning.


Interpersonal (People Smart) - learning through interaction with others. Not the domain of children who are simply "talkative" or "overly social." This intelligence promotes collaboration and working cooperatively with others.


Naturalist (Nature Smart) - learning through classification, categories and hierarchies. The naturalist intelligence picks up on subtle differences in meaning. It is not simply the study of nature; it can be used in all areas of study.


Existential (Spirit Smart) - learning by seeing the "big picture": "Why are we here?" "What is my role in the world?" "What is my place in my family, school and community?" This intelligence seeks connections to real world understanding and application of new learning.


It is important for teachers to use their knowledge about thinking/ learning style and multiple intelligences in planning activities to help their students learn effectively.


While researches on these typologies continue, it is clear that the teachers can no longer just teach the text book. It is a sensible practice to teach each child according to his/her thinking/learning styles and multiple intelligence.


Teaching Strategies guided by Thinking/Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligence


1.       Use questions of all types to stimulate various levels of thinking from recalling factual information to drawing implications and making value judgments.


2.       Provide a general overview of material to be learned, i.e., structured overviews, advance organizers, etc., so that students' past experiences will be associated with the new ideas.


3.       Allow sufficient time for information to be processed and then integrate using both the right-and left-brain hemispheres.


4.       Set clear purposes before any listening, viewing or reading experience.


5.       Warm up before the lesson development by using brainstorming, set induction, etc.


6.       Use multisensory means for both processing and retrieving information. (Write directions on the board and give them orally.)


7.       Use a variety of review and reflection strategies to bring closure to learning (writing summaries, creating opinion surveys, etc.).


8.       Use descriptive feedback rather than simply praising ("The example you've provided is an excellent one to point to the concept of ..."). (From Cornett, C. E. (1983). What you should know about teaching and learning styles. Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation).



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