The Multiple Intelligence's concepts
and VAK (or VARK or VACT) learning styles
models offer relatively simple and accessible methods to understand
and explain people's preferred ways to learn and develop. Occasionally
well-intentioned people will write that the use of such models and
tests is wrong because it 'pigeon-holes' people, and ignores the
point that we are all a mixture of styles and preferences, and not
just one single type, which is true. Please remember that over-reliance
on, or extreme interpretation of, any methodology or tool can be
In the case of the Multiple Intelligence's
model, and arguably to greater extent VAK (because VAK is such a
simple model), remember that these concepts and tools are aids
to understanding overall personality, preferences and strengths
- which will almost always be a mixture in each individual person.
Therefore, as with any methodology
or tool, use Multiple Intelligence's concepts, VAK and other learning
styles ideas with care and interpretation according to the needs
of the situation.
multiple Intelligence's theory
Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligence
Theory was first published in Howard Gardner's book, Frames Of Mind
(1983), and quickly became established as a classical model by which
to understand and teach many aspects of human intelligence, learning
style, personality and behavior - in education and industry. Howard
Gardner initially developed his ideas and theory on multiple Intelligence's
as a contribution to psychology, however Gardner's theory was soon
embraced by education, teaching and training communities, for whom
the appeal was immediate and irresistible - a sure sign that Gardner
had created a classic reference work and learning model.
Howard Gardner was born in Scranton,
Pennsylvania USA in 1943 to German Jewish immigrant parents, and
entered Harvard in 1961, where, after Gardner's shift from history
into social relations (which included psychology, sociology, and
anthropology) he met his early mentor Erik Erikson. Later Gardner
was also influenced by psychologists Jeane Piaget, Jerome Bruner,
and philosopher Nelson Goodman, with whom Gardner co-founded 'Project
Zero' in 1967 (focusing on studies of artistic thought and creativity).
Project Zero's 1970's 'Project on Human Potential', whose heady
aim was to address 'the state of scientific knowledge concerning
human potential and its realization', seems to have been the platform
from which Gardner's multiple Intelligence's ideas grew, and were
subsequently published in Gardner's Frames Of Mind 1983 book. A
wonderful example of 'thinking big' if ever there was one.
At time I write this summary (Apr
2005) Howard Gardner is the John H and Elisabeth A Hobbs Professor
of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education;
he serves as adjunct Professor at Harvard University, Boston University
School of Medicine, and remains senior director of Harvard Project
Zero. Gardner has received honorary degrees from at least twenty
foreign institutions, and has written over twenty highly regarded
books on the human mind, learning and behavior. How ironic then
that Gardner, who has contributed so much to the understanding of
people and behavior, was born (according to his brief auto-biographical
paper 'One Way To Make Social Scientist', 2003), cross-eyed, myopic,
color-blind and unable to recognize faces. There's hope for us all.
howard gardner's multiple Intelligence's
This simple grid diagram illustrates
Howard Gardner's model of the seven Multiple Intelligence's at a
words and language
logic and numbers
music, sound, rhythm
body movement control
images and space
other people's feelings
Gardner said that multiple Intelligence's
were not limited to the original seven, and he has since considered
the existence and definitions of other possible Intelligence's in
his later work. Despite this, Gardner seems to have stopped short
of adding to the seven (some might argue, with the exception of
Naturalist Intelligence) with any clearly and fully detailed additional
intelligence definitions. This is not because there are no more
Intelligence's - it is because of the difficulty of adequately and
satisfactorily defining them, since the additional Intelligence's
are rather more complex than those already evidenced and defined.
Not surprisingly, commentators and theorists continually
debate and interpret potential additions to the model, and this
is why you might see more than seven Intelligence's listed in recent
interpretations of Gardner's model. As mentioned above, Naturalist
Intelligence seems most popularly considered worthy of inclusion
of the potential additional 'Gardner' Intelligence's
gardner's suggested possible additional
religion and 'ultimate issues'
ethics, humanity, value of life
If you think about the items above it's easy
to see why Gardner and his followers have found it quite difficult
to augment the original seven Intelligence's The original seven
are relatively cut and dried; the seven Intelligence's are measurable,
we know what they are, what they mean, and we can evidence or illustrate
However the potential additional human capabilities,
perceptions and attunements, are highly subjective and complex,
and arguably contain many overlapping aspects. Also, the fact that
these additional Intelligence's could be deemed a measure of good
or bad poses extra questions as to their inclusion in what is otherwise
a model which has hitherto made no such judgment (good or bad, that
is - it's a long sentence...).
gardner's multiple Intelligence's
The more detailed diagram below
expands the detail for the original seven Intelligence's shown above,
and also suggests ideas for applying the model and underpinning
theories, so as to optimize learning and training, design accelerated
learning methods, and to assess training and learning suitability
related tasks, activities or tests
preferred learning style clues
words and language, written
and spoken; retention, interpretation and explanation of ideas
and information via language, understands relationship between
communication and meaning
writers, lawyers, journalists, speakers,
trainers, copy-writers, english teachers, poets, editors, linguists,
translators, PR consultants, media consultants, TV and radio
presenters, voice-over artistes
write a set of instructions; speak
on a subject; edit a written piece or work; write a speech;
commentate on an event; apply positive or negative 'spin' to
words and language
detecting patterns, scientific reasoning and deduction; analyses
problems, perform mathematical calculations, understands relationship
between cause and effect towards a tangible outcome or result
perform a mental arithmetic
calculation; create a process to measure something difficult;
analyze how a machine works; create a process; devise a strategy
to achieve an aim; assess the value of a business or a proposition
numbers and logic
musical ability, awareness,
appreciation and use of sound; recognition of tonal and rhythmic
patterns, understands relationship between sound and feeling
musicians, singers, composers, DJ's,
music producers, piano tuners, acoustic engineers, entertainers,
party-planners, environment and noise advisors, voice coaches
perform a musical piece; sing a
song; review a musical work; coach someone to play a musical
instrument; specify mood music for telephone systems and receptions
music, sounds, rhythm
body movement control, manual
dexterity, physical agility and balance; eye and body coordination
design a costume; interpret a painting;
create a room layout; create a corporate logo; design a building;
pack a suitcase or the boot of a car
pictures, shapes, images, 3D space
perception of other people's feelings;
ability to relate to others; interpretation of behavior and
communications; understands the relationships between people
and their situations, including other people
therapists, HR professionals, mediators,
leaders, counselors, politicians, educators, sales-people, clergy,
psychologists, teachers, doctors, healers, organizers, careers,
advertising professionals, coaches and mentors; (there is clear
association between this type of intelligence and what is now
termed 'Emotional Intelligence' or EQ)
interpret moods from facial expressions;
demonstrate feelings through body language; affect the feelings
of others in a planned way; coach or counsel another person
human contact, communications, cooperation,
self-awareness, personal cognizance,
personal objectivity, the capability to understand oneself,
one's relationship to others and the world, and one's own need
for, and reaction to change
arguably anyone (see note below)
who is self-aware and involved in the process of changing personal
thoughts, beliefs and behavior in relation to their situation,
other people, their purpose and aims - in this respect there
is a similarity to Maslow's Self-Actualisation
level, and again there is clear association between this type
of intelligence and what is now termed 'Emotional
Intelligence' or EQ
consider and decide one's own aims
and personal changes required to achieve them (not necessarily
reveal this to others); consider one's own 'Johari
Window', and decide options for development; consider and
decide one's own position in relation to the Emotional
Roles and Intra personal intelligence:
Given that a 'role' tends to imply external style/skills, engagement,
etc., the Intra personal ability is less liable to define or suggest
a certain role or range of roles than any of the other characteristics.
That said, there is a clear correlation between Intra personal ability/potential
and introverted non-judgmental roles/working styles. Intra personal
capability might also be seen as the opposite of ego and self-projection.
Self-awareness is a prerequisite for self-discipline and self-improvement.
Intra personal capacity enables an emotionally mature ('grown-up')
response to external and internal stimuli.
The Intra personal characteristic might therefore
be found among (but most definitely not extending to all) counselors,
helpers, translators, teachers, actors, poets, writers, musicians,
artists, and also any other role to which people can bring emotional
maturity, which commonly manifests as adaptability, flexibility,
facilitation, reflection, and other 'grown-up' behaviors. There
are also associations between Intra personal capacity and Erikson's
'generative' perspective, and to an extent Maslow's self-actualization, that is to say: both
of these 'life-stages' surely demand a reasonably strong level of
self-awareness, without which adapting one's personal life, outlook
and responses to one's environment is not easy at all.
gardner's multiple Intelligence's
- principles and interpretation
Howard Gardner asserts certain principles relating
to his multiple intelligence theory, which are explained and interpreted
here, along with implications and examples:
The multiple Intelligence's theory represented/represents
a definition of human nature, from a cognitive perspective, ie.,
how we perceive; how we are aware of things.
This provides absolutely pivotal and inescapable
indication as to people's preferred learning styles, as well as
their behavioral and working styles, and their natural strengths.
The types of intelligence that a person possesses (Gardner suggests
most of us are strong in three types) indicates not only a persons
capabilities, but also the manner or method in which they prefer
to learn and develop their strengths - and also to develop their
So for example:
A person who is strong musically and weak numerically
will be more likely to develop numerical and logical skills through
music, and not by being bombarded by numbers alone.
A person who is weak spatially and strong numerically,
will be more likely to develop spatial ability if it is explained
and developed by using numbers and logic, and not by asking them
to pack a suitcase in front of an audience.
A person who is weak bodily and physically and
strong numerically might best be encouraged to increase their
physical activity by encouraging them to learn about the mathematical
and scientific relationships between exercise, diet and health,
rather than forcing them to box or play rugby.
The pressure of possible failure and being forced
to act and think unnaturally, have a significant negative influence
on learning effectiveness. Happy relaxed people learn more
readily than unhappy stressful people.
A person's strength is also a learning channel.
A person's weakness is not a great learning channel. Simple huh?
When you add in what we know about personal belief
and confidence it all begins to make even more sense. Develop people
through their strengths and we not only stimulate their development
- we also make them happy (because everyone enjoys working in their
strength areas) - and we also grow their confidence and lift their
belief (because they see they are doing well, and they get told
they are doing well too).
Developing a person's strengths will increase their
response to the learning experience, which helps them to develop
their weaknesses as well as their strengths.
Having illustrated that sensible use of a person's
natural strengths and types of intelligence is a good thing it's
important to point out that intelligence in itself is not a measure
of good or bad, nor of happy or sad.
The different Intelligence's - in Gardner's context
(and normally in most other interpretations and definitions of the
term) - are not a measure or reflection of emotion type. Intelligence's
are emotionally neutral. No type of intelligence is in itself an
expression of happiness or sadness; nor an expression of feeling
good or good or bad.
In the same way, the multiple Intelligence's are
morally neutral too. No type of intelligence is intrinsically right
or wrong. In other words Intelligence's are amoral, that is, neither
moral nor immoral - irrespective of a person's blend of Intelligence's
Intelligence's are separate to the good or bad
purposes to which people apply whatever Intelligence's they possess
and use. Intelligence's are not in themselves good or bad.
The types of Intelligence's that a person possesses
are in themselves no indication or reflection - whatsoever - of
whether the person is good or bad; happy or sad, right or wrong.
People possess a set of Intelligence's - not just
one type and level of intelligence. This was a primary driver of
Gardner's thinking; the fact, or assertion, that intelligence is
not a single scalable aspect of a person's style and capability.
Historically, and amazingly a perception
that still persists among many people and institutions and systems
today, intelligence was/is thought to be measurable on a single
scale: a person could be judged - supposedly - to have a high or
low or average intelligence; or a person would be considered 'intelligent
or 'unintelligent'. Gardener has demonstrated that this notion is
Intelligence is a mixture of several abilities (Gardner
explains seven Intelligence's, and alludes to others) that are all
of great value in life. But nobody's good at them all. In life we
need people who collectively are good at different things. A well-balanced
world, and well-balanced organizations and teams, are necessarily
comprised of people who possess different mixtures of Intelligence's
This gives the group a fuller collective capability than a group
of identically able specialists.
Incredibly many schools, teachers, and entire education
systems, persist in the view that a child is either intelligent
or not, and moreover that the 'intelligent' kids are 'good' and
the 'unintelligent' kids are 'bad'. Worse still many children grow
up being told that they are not intelligent and are therefore not
of great worth; (the "you'll never amount to anything" syndrome
Schools aren't the only organizations which, despite
all that Gardner has taught us, commonly still apply their own criteria
(for example IQ - 'Intelligence Quotient' - tests) to judge 'intelligence',
and then label the candidate either worthy or not. Adult people
in work in organizations and business are routinely judged by inappropriate
criteria, and then written off as being worthless by the employer.
This type of faulty assessment is common during recruitment, ongoing
management, and matters of career development and performance review.
The fact is that we are all intelligent
in different ways.
The most brilliant scientific professor may well
have exceptional intelligence in a number of areas (probably Logical-Mathematical,
and one or two others) but will also be less able in other Intelligence's,
and could well be inept in some.
By the same token a person who struggles with language
and numbers might easily be an excellent sportsman, or musician,
A hopeless academic, who is tone-deaf and can't
add up, could easily possess remarkable interpersonal skills.
Many very successful business-people were judged
to be failures at school. They were of course judged according to
a very narrow definition of what constitutes intelligence.
Many very successful and fulfilled people in life
were also judged to be failures at school - brilliant scientists,
leaders, writers, entertainers, sports-people, soldiers, humanitarians,
healers, religious and political leaders - all sorts of happy, fulfilled
remarkable people - they too were judged according to a very narrow
definition of what constitutes intelligence.
Each one of us has a unique and different
mix of intelligence types, and commonly the people with the least
'conventional' intelligence (as measured using old-fashioned narrow
criteria), actually possess enormous talent - often under-valued,
unknown and under-developed.
Gardner, and others of course, pointed out that
managing people and organizing a unique mixture of intelligence
types is a hugely challenging affair.
It starts however with the recognition that
people have abilities and potential that extend far beyond traditional
methods of assessment, and actually far beyond Gardner's seven Intelligence's,
which after all are only a starting point.
Gardner was one of the first to teach us
that we should not judge and develop people (especially children,
young people, and people at the beginnings of their careers) according
to an arbitrary and narrow definition of intelligence. We must instead
rediscover and promote the vast range of capabilities that have
a value in life and organizations, and then set about valuing people
for who they are, what they can be, and helping them to grow and
fulfil their potential.
Gardner said from the beginning that there could
be additional Intelligence's worthy of inclusion within the model,
and I certainly agree. Notably Gardner discussed Naturalist Intelligence
(perception of and relationship with the natural environment); Spiritual
or Existential Intelligence (as would concern one's relationship
with the universe or God, depending on one's personal philosophy);
and Moral Intelligence (one's relationship with other living things
and their well-being).
Thus the model is extendable to modern ideas beyond
those listed in the seven basic Intelligence's As already discussed,
defining additional Intelligence's is not easy. But they do exist,
and people do possess capabilities, potential and values far beyond
the seven original 'multiple Intelligence's
The seven Intelligence's are a good first step towards
valuing and developing people in a more compassionate and constructive
way than conventional IQ testing models.
The VAK (or
VARK or VACT) learning styles model and related VAK -VARK -VACT
tests (and for that matter the Multiple Intelligence's concepts)
offer reasonably simple and accessible methods to understand and
explain people's preferred ways to learn. Occasionally well-intentioned
people will write that the use of such models and tests can be problematical.
This is true of course of any tool if undue reliance is placed on
the methodology, or if the results of tests are treated as absolute
and exclusive of other styles and considerations in the overall
mix of a person's personality and needs.
As with any methodology or tool, use VAK and other
learning styles concepts with care. The concepts are an aid, not
a dogma to be followed and applied rigidly.
The explanation and understanding of Gardner's Seven
Intelligence's can be further illuminated and illustrated by looking
at another classical intelligence and learning styles model, known
as the Visual-Auditory-Kinesthetic (or Kinesthetic - either
is correct) learning styles model or 'inventory', usually abbreviated
to VAK. Alternatively the model is referred to as Visual-Auditory-Physical,
The VAK concept, theories and methods (initially
also referred to as VAKT, for Visual-Auditory-Kinesthetic-Tactile)
were first developed by psychologists and teaching specialists such
as Fernald, Keller, Orton, Gillingham, Stillman and Montessori,
beginning in the 1920's. The VAK multi-sensory approach to learning
and teaching was originally concerned with the teaching of dyslexic
children and other learners for whom conventional teaching methods
were not effective. The early VAK specialists recognized that people
learn in different ways: as a very simple example, a child who could
not easily learn words and letters by reading (visually) might for
instance learn more easily by tracing letter shapes with their finger
(kinesthetic). The VAK theory is a favorite of the accelerated learning
community, and continues to feature - although not nearly as strongly
as it should do - in the teaching and education of young people.
The Visual-Auditory-Kinesthetic learning styles model does not overlay
Gardner's multiple Intelligence's; rather the VAK model provides
a different perspective for understanding and explaining a person's
preferred or dominant thinking and learning style, and strengths.
Gardner's theory is one way of looking at thinking styles; VAK is
seeing and reading
listening and speaking
touching and doing
According to the VAK model, most people possess
a dominant or preferred learning style, however some people have
a mixed and evenly balanced blend of the three styles.
A person's learning style is a reflection of their
mix of Intelligence's It is also a reflection of their brain type
and dominance, for which a wonderful perspective is provided by
brain dominance model.
The VAK learning styles model provides a very easy
and quick reference inventory by which to assess people's preferred
learning styles, and then most importantly, to design learning methods
and experiences that match people's preferences:
Visual: learning style involves
the use of seen or observed things, including pictures, diagrams,
demonstrations, displays, handouts, films, flip-chart, etc.
Auditory: learning style involves
the transfer of information through listening: to the spoken word,
of self or others, of sounds and noises.
The word 'kinesthetic' describes the sense of using
muscular movement - physical sense in other words. Kinesthesia and
kinesthesis are root words, derived from the Greek kineo, meaning
move, and aesthesis, meaning sensation. Kinesthetic therefore describes
a learning style which involves the stimulation of nerves in the
body's muscles, joints and tendons. This relates to the colloquial
It is easy to begin to assess your own or another
person's learning style within the Visual-Auditory-Kinesthetic model.
Here are some common indicators, which can be converted into a
questionnaire very easily. Ask the person to score each statement
and then total each column to indicate learning style dominance.
There are no right and wrong answers.
operate new equipment
listen to explanation
have a go
look at a map
ask for spoken directions
follow your nose and maybe use
cook a new dish
follow a recipe
call a friend for explanation
follow your instinct, tasting as
teach someone something
demonstrate and let them have a
I see what you mean
I hear what you are saying
I know how you feel
let me try
watch how I do it
listen to me explain
you have a go
write a letter
send or take it back to the store
museums and galleries
music and conversation
playing sport or DIY
tools and gadgets
look and imagine
discuss with shop staff
try on and test
choose a holiday
read the brochures
listen to recommendations
imagine the experience
choose a new car
read the reviews
discuss with friends
test-drive what you fancy
You can use this grid as a simple learning style
indicator questionnaire - for example score each box out of five
or ten and then put the total for each column in the boxes below.
The totals will indicate your relative learning style preference
and mix. There are no right or wrong answers.
This has been done by the
addition of R for 'Reading'.
Or by the addition of T for
Accordingly you may see the
VAK model represented in this elongated VARK or VACT forms. You
might even see it expressed as VARKT, combining the two variations.
I leave it to you to decide
whether it's worth introducing these fourth and/or fifth elements
to what is otherwise an adequate and nicely balanced model, in which
the Visual style arguably (and many would suggest, certainly) covers
a person's preference towards absorbing via the written or printed
word, which is obviously a visual sensory activity, and in
which the Kinesthetic style arguably encompasses a preference for
tactile experiences (touching and holding things), because this
is obviously a sensory activity related to muscular movement
and sensation (see the definition
of Kinesthetic above).
It's up to you. As ever, use
these models and theories in ways that suit your purposes.
Apply your own judgment and
interpretation so that you get the best out of them, and where possible
even improve and adapt them for your own situation. As the quote
says, "A dwarf standing on the shoulders of a giant may see
farther than the giant himself" Didacus Stella, circa
Also relevant to the subject
of intelligence, particularly the fact that 'intelligence', however
it is defined, is never as important as the way we use our brains,
and make the best of ourselves:
"Many highly intelligent
people are poor thinkers. Many people of average intelligence are
skilled thinkers. The power of a car is separate from the way a
car is driven." Edward de Bono, b.1933, British
psychologist, writer and expert on thinking.
Relevant publications and references:
One Way To Make Social Scientist - Howard Gardner, 2003
Multiple Intelligence's: Theory in practice - Howard Gardner, 1993
Frames of Mind: Theory of multiple Intelligence's - Howard Gardner,
Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligence's for the 21st century
- Howard Gardner, 1999
Leading Minds: An anatomy of leadership - Howard Gardner, 1995
The Shattered Mind - Howard Gardner, 1975
Howard Gardner and Multiple Intelligence's - Mark Smith, 2005 (Encyclopedia
of Informal Education, www.infed.org)
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