Second in a series of courses that comprise the PRIME Teacher Training Program. Here we look at the Theory of Multiple Intelligences and Learning Styles and how it impacts facilitating learning for ALL students.
2 Facilitating Diversity in Learning Course Resource Book
Pragmatics Predictability Performance Perception
Resources Recognition Realia Resolve
Imagination Investigation Inclusion Insight
Mystery Motivation Media
Energy Enthusiasm Extension Engagement
C O M M U N I C AT I O N I N E N G L I S H
A Modern Approach to Facilitating the Acquisition of English as a Foreign Language
Facilitating Diversity in Learning
Part 2 of the PRIME Teacher Training Program
FACILITATING DIVERSITY .................................................................................................................4
HOW WE LEARN..............................................................................................................................4
IT'S NOT HOW SMART YOU ARE - IT'S HOW YOU ARE SMART!..........................................................6
THE NINE TYPES OF INTELLIGENCE...................................................................................................7
GARDNER’S EIGHT CRITERIA FOR IDENTIFYING INTELLIGENCE..........................................................8
LEARNING STYLES AND YOUR STUDENTS.........................................................................................9
WHAT ARE “MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES”?.......................................................................................12
NEW AND EMERGING THEORIES OF INTELLIGENCE.........................................................................14
THE THEORY OF MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES.....................................................................................17
VARIATIONS OF THINKING STYLES.................................................................................................22
MATCHING TEACHING STYLES WITH LEARNING STYLES IN EAST ASIAN CONTEXTS..........................24
HELPING STUDENTS IDENTIFY LEARNING STYLES............................................................................31
INFORMATION AND QUESTIONNAIRES FOR
ASSESSING LEARNING STYLES AND PREFERENCES...........................................................................33
MAKE LEARNING FUN THROUGH MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES...........................................................44
ASSESSMENT AND EVALUATION ...................................................................................................50
EIGHT SMARTS IN DESIGNING ELT MATERIALS ..............................................................................52
CLEAR RUBRICS MOVE STUDENTS BEYOND APATHY TO UNDERSTANDING ....................................57
ASSESSMENTS THAT RECOGNIZE AND ENHANCE DIVERSITY ..........................................................59
CHARACTERISTICS OF EFFECTIVE TEACHING...................................................................................62
“CATCH A HUMAN STAR AND . . .” ................................................................................................66
MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES RESOURCES...........................................................................................69
Articles are the property of the authors and copyright owners. Permission is granted for reproduction.
Please site the authors and source if reproducing.
Making Learning Fun through Multiple Intelligences (MI)
by William M. Tweedie
Part 1 - Introduction to MI Theory
A. What are learning styles?
B. What are thinking styles?
C. What are Multiple Intelligences?
D. What is the relationship between the two concepts?
E. What are your intelligence strengths?
a. Survey of your strengths.
b. Does it affect your teaching style?
c. Circle of Knowledge Activity
i. What are the Nine Intelligences?
ii. What are three characteristics of learners using each?
Part 2 - Theory into Practice
A. MI and Motivation
B. The seven levels of engagement
C. Helping students identify their learning styles – a first step to engaging the
psychological and emotional ‘selves’ of students
D. Making Learning Fun through MI
a. An example activity for MI group building – It’s in the Bag
Part 3 - Lesson Plans
A. Sample MI Lesson Plan
a. Developing a Lesson Plan Group Activity
b. The case for rubrics
Part 4 - Summary and Conclusion
A. Characteristics of effective teaching – a model based on the Teaching Behaviors
Inventory created by Harry Murray at the University of Western Ontario.
B. How enthusiastic are YOU?
“Go with your cousin Courage and his sister Success will not be far behind.”
How We Learn
By ALISON GOPNIK
New York Times: Published: January 16, 2005
o here's the big question: if children who don't even go to school learn so easily, why do children who
go to school seem to have such a hard time? Why can children solve problems that challenge
computers but stumble on a third-grade reading test?
When we talk about learning, we really mean two quite different things, the process of discovery and
of mastering what one discovers. All children are naturally driven to create an accurate picture of the
world and, with the help of adults to use that picture to make predictions, formulate explanations,
imagine alternatives and design plans. Call it ''guided discovery.''
If this kind of learning is what we have in mind then one answer to the big question is that schools
don't teach the same way children learn. As in the gear-and-switch experiments, children seem to
learn best when they can explore the world and interact with expert adults. For example, Barbara
Rogoff, professor of psychology at the University of California at Santa Cruz, studied children growing
up in poor Guatemalan Indian villages. The youngsters gradually mastered complex skills like
preparing tortillas from scratch, beginning with the 2-year-old mimicking the flattening of dough to the
10-year-old entrusted with the entire task. They learned by watching adults, trying themselves and
receiving detailed corrective feedback about their efforts. Mothers did a careful analysis of what the
child was capable of before encouraging the next step.
This may sound like a touchy-feely progressive prescription. But a good example of such teaching in
our culture is the stern but beloved baseball coach. How many school teachers are as good at essay
writing, science or mathematics as the average coach is at baseball? And even when teachers are
expert, how many children ever get to watch them work through writing an essay or designing a
scientific experiment or solving an unfamiliar math problem?
Imagine if baseball were taught the way science is taught in most inner-city schools. Schoolchildren
would get lectures about the history of the World Series. High school students would occasionally
reproduce famous plays of the past. Nobody would get in the game themselves until graduate school.
But there is another side to the question.
In guided discovery -- figuring out how the world works or unravelling the structure of making tortillas
-- children learn to solve new problems. But what is expected in school, at least in part, involves a
very different process: call it ''routinized learning.'' Something already learned is made to be second
nature, so as to perform a skill effortlessly and quickly.
The two modes of learning seem to involve different underlying mechanisms and even different brain
regions, and the ability to do them develops at different stages. Babies are as good at discovery as
the smartest adult -- or better. But routinized learning evolves later. There may even be brain changes
that help. There are also tradeoffs: Children seem to learn new things more easily than adults. But
especially through the school-age years, knowledge becomes more and more engrained and
automatic. For that reason, it also becomes harder to change. In a sense, routinized learning is less
about getting smarter than getting stupider: it's about perfecting mindless procedures. This frees
attention and thought for new discoveries.
The activities that promote mastery may be different from the activities that promote discovery. What
makes knowledge automatic is what gets you to Carnegie Hall -- practice, practice, practice. In some
settings, like the Guatemalan village, this happens naturally: make tortillas every day and you'll get
good at it. In our culture, children rich and poor grow highly skilled at video games they play for hours.
But in school we need to acquire unnatural skills like reading and writing. These are meaningless in
themselves. There is no intrinsic discovery in learning artificial mapping between visual symbols and
sounds, and in the natural environment no one would ever think of looking for that sort of mapping. On
the other hand, mastering these skills is absolutely necessary, allowing us to exercise our abilities for
discovery in a wider world.
The problem for many children in elementary school may not be that they're not smart enough but that
they're not stupid enough. They haven't yet been able to make reading and writing transparent and
automatic. This is particularly true for children who don't have natural opportunities to practice these
skills, learning in chaotic and impoverished schools and leading chaotic and impoverished lives.
But routinized learning is not an end in itself. A good coach may well make his players throw the ball
to first base 50 times or swing again and again in the batting cage. That will help, but by itself it won't
make a strong player. The game itself -- reacting to different pitches, strategizing about base running
-- requires thought, flexibility and inventiveness.
Children would never tolerate baseball if all they did was practice. No coach would evaluate a child,
and no society would evaluate a coach, based on performance in the batting cage. What makes for
learning is the right balance of both learning processes, allowing children to retain their native
brilliance as they grow up.
Alison Gopnik is co-author of ''The Scientist in the Crib'' and professor of psychology at the University
of California at Berkeley.
It's Not How Smart You Are - It's How You Are Smart!
Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences
What parent can not see gleaming rays of genius in their child? And yet, how many children come to
school and demonstrate their own unique genius? There was a time when it might have been a joke
to suggest "Every parent thinks their kid's a genius." But research on human intelligence is suggesting
that the joke may be on educators! There is a constant flow of new information on how the human
brain operates, how it differs in function between genders, how emotions impact on intellectual acuity,
even on how genetics and environment each impact our children’s' cognitive abilities.
While each area of study has its merits, Howard Gardner of Harvard University has identified different
KINDS of intelligence we possess. This has particularly strong ramifications in the classroom,
because if we can identify children's different strengths among these intelligences, we can
accommodate different children more successfully according to their orientation to learning.
Thus far Gardner has identified nine intelligences. He speculates that there may be many more yet to
be identified. Time will tell. These are the paths to children's learning teachers can address in their
classrooms right now.
Teachers are now working on assimilating this knowledge into their strategies for helping children
learn. While it is too early to tell all the ramifications for this research, it is clear that the day is past
where educators teach the text book and it is the dawn of educators teaching each child according to
their orientation to the world.
By Walter McKenzie
copyright 1999 Walter McKenzie
The Nine Types of Intelligence
• VISUAL/SPATIAL - children who learn best visually and organizing things spatially. They
like to see what you are talking about in order to understand. They enjoy charts, graphs,
maps, tables, illustrations, art, puzzles, costumes - anything eye catching.
• VERBAL/LINGUISTIC - children who demonstrate strength in the language arts: speaking,
writing, reading, and listening. These students have always been successful in traditional
classrooms because their intelligence lends itself to traditional teaching.
• MATHEMATICAL/LOGICAL - children who display an aptitude for numbers, reasoning
and problem solving. This is the other half of the children who typically do well in traditional
classrooms where teaching is logically sequenced and students are asked to conform.
• BODILY/KINESTHETIC - children who experience learning best through activity: games,
movement, hands-on tasks, building. These children were often labeled "overly active" in
traditional classrooms where they were told to sit and be still!
• MUSICAL/RHYTHMIC - children who learn well through songs, patterns, rhythms,
instruments and musical expression. It is easy to overlook children with this intelligence in
• INTRAPERSONAL - children who are especially in touch with their own feelings, values
and ideas. They may tend to be more reserved, but they are actually quite intuitive about
what they learn and how it relates to them.
• INTERPERSONAL - children who are noticeably people oriented and outgoing, and do
their learning cooperatively in groups or with a partner. These children may have typically
been identified as "talkative" or " too concerned about being social" in a traditional setting.
• NATURALIST - children who love the outdoors, animals, field trips. More than this, though,
these students love to pick up on subtle differences in meanings. The traditional classroom
has not been accommodating to these children.
• EXISTENTIALIST - children who learn in the context of where humankind stands in the "big
picture" of existence. They ask "Why are we here?" and "What is our role in the world?" This
intelligence is seen in the discipline of philosophy.
By Walter McKenzie
copyright 1999 Walter McKenzie
Gardner’s Eight Criteria for Identifying Intelligence
1. Isolation of Brain Function - as medicine studies isolated brain functions through
cases of brain injury and degenerative disease; we are able to identify actual physiological
locations for specific brain functions. A true intelligence will have its function identified in a
specific location in the human brain.
2. Prodigies, Idiot Savants and Exceptional Individuals - human record of
genius, such as, Mozart being able to perform on the piano at the age of four and Dustin
Hoffman's "Rainman" character being able to calculate dates accurately down to the day of
the week indicate that there are specific human abilities which can demonstrate themselves to
high degrees in unique cases. Highly developed examples of a true intelligence are rare
3. Set of Core Operations - there is an identifiable set of procedures and practices which
is unique to each of the true intelligences.
4. Developmental History with an Expert End Performance - as clinical
psychologists continue to study the developmental stages of human growth and learning, a
clear pattern of developmental history of the human mind is being documented. A true
intelligence has an identifiable set of stages of growth with a Mastery Level which exists as an
end state in human development. We can see examples of people who have reached the
Mastery level in each of the intelligences.
5. Evolutionary History - as cultural anthropologists continue to study the history of
human evolution, there is adequate evidence that our species has developed intelligence over
time through human experience. A true intelligence can have its development traced through
the evolution of Homosapiens.
6. Supported Psychological Tasks - clinical psychologists can identify sets of tasks for
different domains of human behaviour. A true intelligence can be identified by specific tasks
which can be carried out, observed and measured.
7. Supported Psychometric Tasks - the use of psychometric instruments to measure
intelligence (such as I.Q. tests) have traditionally been used to measure only specific types of
ability. However, these tests can be designed and used to identify and quantify true unique
intelligences. The Multiple Intelligence theory does not reject psychometric testing for specific
8. Encoded into a Symbol System - humans have developed many kinds of symbol
systems over time for varied disciplines. A true intelligence has its own set of images it uses
which are unique to it and are important in completing its identified set of tasks.
Remember, everyone has ALL the intelligences. The intelligences are not mutually
exclusive - they act in consort. MI Theory was not developed to exclude individuals, but to
allow all people to contribute to society through there own strengths!
Learning Styles and Your Students
Summary by William M. Tweedie, adapted from a variety of sources
If you've ever watched a group of students interact, you've probably noticed that different students like
to do different things. Why is this? Many educators and student psychologists believe that each
student has a particular learning style that affects how he or she most effectively interacts with the
world to learn and grow. Knowing the learning styles of your students can help you choose activities
that will help your students learn and grow most effectively.
The study of Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences (Frames of Mind - Gardner, 1983) is still
developing and there are different interpretations of the two concepts and the relationship between
them. For now, it is important to simply recognize that not everybody learns or acquires a second
language through a single method or set of techniques. The following summary presents ideas
accepted by most educators.
Learning Styles: What They Are
Simply put, a learning style is the preferred way a person acquires knowledge. It is not what a person
learns, but how a person learns. A student’s learning style is a reflection of the development of his
intelligences at any given moment. Eight different intelligences have been identified through the work
of Howard Gardner. Although we are capable of using them all, it seems most of us rely on only one
or two. As a result, we develop our own particular approach to learning (and in many cases to
teaching) based on our favoured learning style(s). Educators and psychologists commonly define the
eight different learning styles as follows:
Verbal - Linguistic - Linguistic learners relate to language in both its written and spoken form. They
learn best through poetry, storytelling, grammar, abstract reasoning, metaphors, similes, etc.
Logical - Mathematical - Logical-mathematical learners focus on different types of reasoning and
logic. They like to make observations, draw conclusions, make judgments, and formulate hypotheses.
Visual - Spatial - Spatial learners like to deal with visualization and imagery. Students with this
learning style learn well through painting, drawing, sculpturing, designing, etc.
Intrapersonal - Intrapersonal learners focus on situations that require them to reflect upon
themselves. They like higher-order thinking and reasoning, self-reflection, spirituality, and the
awareness and expression of feelings.
Interpersonal - Interpersonal learners engage in verbal and nonverbal communication with others.
They learn best when working in groups cooperatively, reacting to others' moods and feelings, and
understanding the perspective of others.
Bodily - Kinaesthetic - Bodily Kinaesthetic learners like physical movement. They learn well when
involved in physical exercise and in forms of expression like dance, mime, drama, or role-playing.
Musical - Rhythmical - Musical learners have the capacity to recognize rhythm and tone patterns,
and sensitivity to sounds from the human voice and musical instruments. They like to interact with
Naturalist/Environmental - A relatively new category of style, the outdoor learner is inspired to learn
in natural surroundings. Their curiosity is aroused by the earth’s physical characteristics and beauty.
Verbal - Linguistic - Linguistic learners relate to language in both its written and spoken form. They
learn best through poetry, storytelling, grammar, abstract reasoning, metaphors, similes, etc.
Learning Styles: How to Use Them
Understanding that your students’ have individual learning styles can help you support what they do in
the classroom. By providing activities that suit their learning styles, you provide optimum opportunities
for them to learn.
For example, you might want to teach mathematical concepts in ways best suited to your students’
learning styles. If a student is a more musical learner, singing number songs might be useful.
Linguistic learners might best learn mathematical concepts from stories in which numbers figure
prominently. Interpersonal learners might benefit from more social activities such as cooking from a
recipe. Once you recognize (ideally, through formal analysis as well as informal observation) a variety
of the learning styles in your students, provide activities that will reinforce them. In doing so, it will be
important to show how things related to their careers are evident in all sorts of different activities,
including music, art, and literature. In that way you can ensure that your students’ interests are tapped
and still focus on important educational points.
Learning Styles: Things to Think About
As you start to think about your students’ learning styles, you might want to keep these points in mind:
Your students may have several different learning styles that work best for each of them. Although a
particular learning style may be dominant in any individual or group of students, it is still important that
you provide a variety of activities. In that way, you will continue to develop their other intelligences and
aspects of personalities.
Learning styles can be used both to teach and reinforce concepts. Try using one approach to teach
your students a concept, and then use a different one to reinforce it. For example, you might want to
use a linguistic approach, such as a story, to teach the vocabulary or idea of some aspect of their
career studies or other interests, and then have your students draw a picture that reflects the concept
Regardless of your students’ ages and ability levels, your course content and objectives, or the focus
of an individual lesson, it is important to keep in mind the fact that everyone of us has a different style
or combination of styles that best facilitates learning anything.
As language is such a vital personal tool linked directly with our emotional and psychological selves,
having the awareness of and doing your best to accommodate your students’ learning styles is
perhaps more important for you as language learning facilitators than for ‘teachers’ of other subjects.
What These Learners Like to Do, Are Good At, What Works For Them
The Linguistic Learner likes to: read, write and tell stories; is good at: memorizing names, places,
dates and trivia; learns best by: saying, hearing and seeing words.
Logical/Mathematical Learner likes to: do experiments, figure things out, work with numbers, ask
questions and explore patterns and relationships; is good at: math, reasoning, logic and problem
solving; learns best by: categorizing, classifying and working with abstract patterns/relationships.
Spatial Learner likes to: draw, build, design and create things, daydream, look at pictures/slides,
watch movies and play with machines; is good at: imagining things, sensing changes, mazes/puzzles
and reading maps, charts; learns best by: visualizing, dreaming, using the mind's eye and working
Musical Learner likes to: sing, hum tunes, listen to music, play an instrument and respond to music;
is good at: picking up sounds, remembering melodies, noticing pitches/rhythms and keeping time;
learns best by: rhythm, melody and music.
Bodily/Kinaesthetic Learner likes to: move around, touch and talk and use body language; is good
at: physical activities (sports/dance/acting) and crafts; learns best by: touching, moving, interacting
with space and processing knowledge through bodily sensations.
Naturalistic Learner likes to: be outside, with animals, geography, and whether; interacting with the
surroundings; is good at: categorizing, organizing a living area, planning a trip, preservation, and
conservation; learns best by: studying natural phenomenon, in a natural setting, learning about how
Interpersonal Learner likes to: have lots of friends, talk to people and join groups; is good at:
understanding people, leading others, organizing, communicating, manipulating and mediating
conflicts; learns best by: sharing, comparing, relating, cooperating and interviewing.
Intrapersonal Learner likes to: work alone and pursue own interests; is good at: understanding self,
focusing inward on feelings/dreams, following instincts, pursuing interests/goals and being original;
learns best by: working alone, individualized projects, self-paced instruction and having own space.
SPACE TO ACCOMMODATE YOUR LEARNING STYLE:
Draw, Write, Calculate, Scribble, Make music, Consider the space, Talk about this space
with friends, Plan your next vacation!
What are “Multiple Intelligences”?
By William M. Tweedie, adapted from a variety of sources
Multiple Intelligences are eight different intellectual abilities and sets of skills.
What are these intellectual abilities and skills?
The ability to perceive the visual: These learners tend to think in pictures and need to
create vivid mental images to retain information. They enjoy looking at maps, charts, pictures,
videos, and movies.
Their skills include:
puzzle building, reading, writing, understanding charts and graphs, a good sense of direction,
sketching, painting, creating visual metaphors and analogies (perhaps through the visual
arts), manipulating images, constructing, fixing, designing practical objects, interpreting visual
Possible Career Paths: Navigators, sculptors, visual artists, inventors, architects, interior
designers, mechanics, engineers
The ability to use words and language: These learners have highly developed auditory
skills and are generally elegant speakers. They think in words rather than pictures.
Their skills include:
listening, speaking, writing, story telling, explaining, teaching, using humour, understanding
the syntax and meaning of words, remembering information, convincing someone of their
point of view, analyzing language usage.
Possible Career Paths: Poet, journalist, writer, teacher, lawyer, politician, translator
The ability to use reason, logic and numbers: These learners think conceptually in logical
and numerical patterns making connections between pieces of information. Always curious
about the world around them, these learners ask lots of questions and like to do experiments.
Their skills include:
problem solving, classifying and categorizing information, working with abstract concepts to
figure out the relationship of each to the other, handling long chains of reason to make local
progressions, doing controlled experiments, questioning and wondering about natural events,
performing complex mathematical calculations, working with geometric shapes
Possible Career Paths: Scientists, engineers, computer programmers, researchers,
The ability to control body movements and handle objects skilfully: These learners
express themselves through movement. They have a good sense of balance and eye-hand
co-ordination. (E.g. ball play, balancing beams). Through interacting with the space around
them, they are able to remember and process information.
Their skills include:
Dancing, physical co-ordination, sports, hands on experimentation, using body language,
crafts, acting, miming, using their hands to create or build, expressing emotions through the
Possible Career Paths: Athletes, physical education teachers, dancers, actors, firefighters,
The ability to produce and/or appreciate music: These musically inclined learners think in
sounds, rhythms and patterns. They immediately respond to music either appreciating or
criticizing what they hear. Many of these learners are extremely sensitive to environmental
sounds (e.g. crickets, bells, dripping taps).
Their skills include:
Singing, whistling, playing musical instruments, recognizing tonal patterns, composing music,
remembering melodies, understanding the structure and rhythm of music
Possible Career Paths: Musician, disc jockey, singer, composer
The ability to relate to and understand others: These learners try to see things from other
people's point of view in order to understand how they think and feel. They often have an
uncanny ability to sense feelings, intentions and motivations. They are great organizers,
although they sometimes resort to manipulation. Generally they try to maintain peace in group
settings and encourage co-operation. They use both verbal (e.g. speaking) and non-verbal
language (e.g. eye contact, body language) to open communication channels with others.
Their skills include:
seeing things from other perspectives (dual-perspective), listening, using empathy,
understanding other people's moods and feelings, counselling, co-operating with groups,
noticing people's moods, motivations and intentions, communicating both verbally and non-
verbally, building trust, peaceful conflict resolution, establishing positive relations with other
Possible Career Paths: Counsellor, salesperson, politician, business person
The ability to self-reflect and be aware of one's inner state of being: These learners try to
understand their inner feelings, dreams, relationships with others, and strengths and
Their Skills include:
Recognizing their own strengths and weaknesses, reflecting and analyzing themselves,
awareness of their inner feelings, desires and dreams, evaluating their thinking patterns,
reasoning with themselves, understanding their role in relationship to others
Possible Career Paths: Researchers, theorists, philosophers
The ability to appreciate and learn from the environment and nature: These learners
have the ability to understand and appreciate the physical properties and wonders of the
Their Skills include:
Geography - categorizing animals, plants, rocks, etc. They understand and organize for
conservation and preservation. They are usually very aware of the relationships between
people and the environment.
Possible Career Paths: Forest rangers, meteorologists, conservationists, biologists,
New and Emerging Theories of Intelligence
Originally prepared by: Kristin Garrigan and Jonathan Plucker (fall 2001) Revised
Indiana State University: www.indiana.edu
You cannot pick up a magazine today without seeing an article regarding intelligence or
intelligences. The study of intelligence has proved to be a continuously evolving, dynamic field, with
the breadth of the field expanding rapidly over the past 25 - 30 years. Many individuals, such as
Gardner, Naglieri, and Goleman, argue that our view of human intelligence is far too narrow, leading
the way to an expanded view of what intelligence is and what constitutes an intelligence. Several of
the new and emerging intelligences are noted in the following sections.
The Theory of Multiple Intelligences
In the early 1980s, Howard Gardner opened the window to multiple intelligences (MI). Prof.
Gardner claimed that MI theory illuminates the fact that humans exist in a multitude of contexts and
that these contexts both call for and nourish different arrays and assemblies of intelligence. Many
psychologists have expounded on this notion and today the number of quantifiable intelligences
extends beyond that of Gardner's initial seven multiple intelligences.
Robert J. Sternberg has devoted much of his career to the study of various conceptions of human
intelligence. Starting with his Triarchic Theory of Human Intelligence (Sternberg, 1985), he has
expanded on his view of human ability and success. Successful intelligence is defined as that set of
mental abilities used to achieve one's goals in life, given a socio-cultural context, through adaptation
to, selection of, and shaping of environments. Successful intelligence involves three aspects that are
interrelated but largely distinct: analytical, creative, and practical thinking (Sternberg, 1998). Practical
Intelligence is the ability to size up a situation well, to be able to determine how to achieve goals, to
display awareness to the world around you, and to display interest in the world at large (Sternberg,
1990; Sternberg et al., 2000; Wagner, 2000). Prof. Sternberg is working on several projects that
examine the interrelation of his various conceptions of ability in applied settings.
Moral Intelligence is the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. Broadly conceived, moral
intelligence represents the ability to make sound decisions that benefit not only yourself, but others
around you (Coles, 1997; Hass, 1998).
Interpersonal intelligence is the ability to understand other people: what motivates them, how they
work, how to work cooperatively with them. Successful salespeople, politicians, teachers, clinicians,
and religious leaders are all likely to be individuals with high degrees of interpersonal intelligence. At
the same time, social intelligence probably draws on specific internal (Gardner would say
intrapersonal) abilities. For example, in a recent study of incompetence, Kruger and Dunning (1999)
found that incompetent people assessed themselves as being highly competent. This lack of ability to
self-assess may be due to a combination of internal (poor metacognition) and external factors (poor
ability to compare oneself to others). Social intelligence appears to be receiving the most attention in
the management and organizational psychology literatures (e.g., Hough, 2001; Riggio, Murphy, &
Emotional intelligence, on the other hand, "is a type of social intelligence that involves the ability to
monitor one's own and others' emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use the information to
guide one's thinking and actions" (Mayer & Salovey, 1993, p. 433). According to Goleman (1995),
"Emotional intelligence, the skills that help people harmonize, should become increasingly valued as a
workplace asset in the years to come." (p. 160). EL may subsume Gardner's inter- and intrapersonal
intelligences, and involves abilities that may be categorized into five domains (Salovey & Mayer,
• Self-awareness: Observing yourself and recognizing a feeling as it happens.
• Managing emotions: Handling feelings so that they are appropriate; realizing what is behind a
feeling; finding ways to handle fears and anxieties, anger, and sadness.
• Motivating oneself: Channelling emotions in the service of a goal; emotional self control;
delaying gratification and stifling impulses.
• Empathy: Sensitivity to others' feelings and concerns and taking their perspective;
appreciating the differences in how people feel about things.
• Handling relationships: Managing emotions in others; social competence and social skills.
Additional perspectives on EI are available in Bar-On and Parker (2000).
In this Hot Topic, we attempted to provide a brief overview of the major categories of new and
emerging conceptions of intelligences. This list is not meant to be exhaustive, and we refer interested
readers to the recent special issue of the journal, Roeper Review (April 2001), which addressed these
and other new conceptions.
Bar-On, R., & Parker, J. D. A. (Eds.) (2000). The handbook of emotional intelligence: Theory,
development, assessment, and application at home, school, and in the workplace. San Francisco:
Coles, R. (1997). The moral intelligence of children: How to raise a moral child. New York:
Dweck, C. S., Chiu, C., & Hong, Y. (1995). Implicit theories and their role in judgments and reactions:
A world from two perspectives. Psychological Inquiry, 6, 267-285.
Gardner, H. (1993). Multiple intelligences. New York: BasicBooks.
Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence. New York: Bantam Books.
Hass, A. (1998). Doing the right thing: Cultivating your moral intelligence. New York: Hardcover.
Hough, L. M. (2001). I/Owes its advances to personality. In B. W. Roberts & R. Hogan (Eds.),
Personality psychology in the workplace. Decade of behaviour (pp. 19-44). Washington, DC:
American Psychological Association.
Kruger, J., & Dunning, D. (1999). Unskilled and unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one's
own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
Mayer, J. D. & Salovey, P. (1993). The intelligence of emotional intelligence. Intelligence, 17,
Riggio, R. E., Murphy, S. E., & Pirozzolo, F. J. (Eds.). (2002). Multiple intelligences and leadership.
Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Salovey, P. & Mayer, J. D. (1990). Emotional intelligence. Imagination, Cognition, and Personality, 9,
Sternberg, R. J. (1998). Principles of teaching for successful intelligence. Educational Psychologist,
Sternberg, R. J. (1990). Handbook of human intelligence. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Sternberg, R. J., Forsythe, G. B., Hedlund, J., Horvath, J. A., Wagner, R. K., Williams, W. M., Snook,
S. A., & Grigorenko, E. L. (2000). Practical intelligence in everyday life. New York: Cambridge
Wagner, R. K. (2000). Practical intelligence. In R. J. Sternberg (Ed.), Handbook of intelligence (pp.
380-395). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Prepared by Kristin Garrigan and Jonathan Plucker.
The Theory of Multiple Intelligences
Originally prepared by: Kristin Garrigan and Jonathan Plucker (fall 2001) Revised
Indiana State University: www.indiana.edu
Development of MI Theory
After years of research, Howard Gardner proposed a new theory and definition of intelligence in his
1983 book entitled Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. The basic question he
sought to answer was: Is intelligence a single thing or various independent intellectual faculties?
Gardner is Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He
also holds an adjunct faculty post in psychology at Harvard and in neurology at Boston University
School of Medicine. He is best known for his work in the area of Multiple Intelligences, which has
been a career-long pursuit to understand and describe the construct of intelligence (Gardner, 1999a;
Project Zero Website, 2000).
Gardner describes his work with two distinct populations as the inspiration for his theory of Multiple
Intelligences. Early in his career, he began studying stroke victims suffering from aphasia at the
Boston University Aphasia Research Center and working with children at Harvard's Project Zero, a
laboratory designed to study the cognitive development of children and its associated educational
implications (Gardner, 1999a). In Intelligence Reframed, Gardner states,
Both of the populations I was working with were clueing me into the same message: that the human
mind is better thought of as a series of relatively separate faculties, with only loose and unpredictable
relations with one another, than as a single, all-purpose machine that performs steadily at a certain
horsepower, independent of content and context. (p.32)
Gardner concluded from his work with these two populations that strength in one area of performance
did not reliably predict comparable strength in another area. With this intuitive conclusion in mind,
Gardner set about studying intelligence in a systematic, multi-disciplinary, and scientific manner,
drawing from psychology, biology, neurology, sociology, anthropology, and the arts and humanities.
This resulted in the emergence of his Theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI Theory) as presented in
Frames of Mind (1983). Since the publication of that work, Gardner and others have continued to
research the theory and its implications for education in general, curriculum development, teaching,
and assessment. For the purposes of this Hot Topic, the focus will be on a description of the theory,
major criticisms, and the implications for assessment.
Definition of MI Theory
According to Gardner (1999a), intelligence is much more than IQ because a high IQ in the
absence of productivity does not equate to intelligence. In his definition, "Intelligence is a bio-
psychological potential to process information that can be activated in a cultural setting to solve
problems or create products that are of value in a culture" (p.34). Consequently, instead of
intelligence being a single entity described psychometrically with an IQ score, Gardner's definition
views it as many things. He endeavoured to define intelligence in a much broader way than
psychometricians. Gardner established several criteria to achieve this goal (1983; 1999a). In
identifying capabilities to be considered for one of the "multiple intelligences" the construct under
consideration had to meet several criteria rather than resting on the results of a narrow psychometric
To qualify as ”intelligence" the particular capacity under study was considered from multiple
perspectives consisting of eight specific criteria drawn from the biological sciences, logical analysis,
developmental psychology, experimental psychology, and psychometrics. The criteria to consider
"candidate intelligences" (Gardner, 1999a, p. 36) are:
1) the potential for brain isolation by brain damage,
2) its place in evolutionary history,
3) the presence of core operations,
4) susceptibility to encoding,
5) a distinct developmental progression,
6) the existence of idiot-savants, prodigies and other exceptional people,
7) support from experimental psychology, and
8) support from psychometric findings (Gardner, 1999a).
To illustrate the specifics of these criteria, a brief description and example of each is provided.
The potential for brain isolation by brain damage means that one "candidate intelligence" (Gardner
1999a, p.36) can be dissociated from others. This criterion came from Gardner's work in
neuropsychology. For example, stroke patients who are left with some forms of "intelligence" intact
despite damage to other cognitive abilities such as speech. From an evolutionary perspective, the
candidate intelligence has to have played a role in the development of our species and its ability to
cope with the environment. In this case, Gardner (1999a) uses inference to conclude that spatial
abilities were critical to the survival of our species. Early hominids had to be able to navigate diverse
terrains using spatial abilities. The pressure of the environment then resulted in selection for this
ability. Both of these criteria emerged from the biological sciences.
From the perspective of logical analysis, an intelligence must have an identifiable core set of
operations. Acknowledging the fact that specific intelligences operate in the context of the
environment, Gardner (1999a) argues that it is crucial to specify the capacities that are central to the
intelligence under consideration. For example, linguistic intelligence consists of core operations such
as recognition and discrimination of phonemes, command of syntax and acquisition of word
meanings. In the area of musical intelligence, the core operations are pitch, rhythm, timbre, and
harmony. Another criterion related to logical analysis states that an intelligence must be susceptible to
encoding in a symbol system. According to Gardner, (1999a) symbol systems are developed versus
occurring naturally, and their purpose is to accurately and systematically convey information that is
culturally meaningful. Some examples of encoding include written and spoken language,
mathematical systems, logical equations, maps, charts and drawings.
Gardner (1999a) established two criteria from developmental psychology. The first is the presence of
a developmental trajectory for the particular ability toward an expert end-state. In other words,
individuals do not necessarily exhibit their "intelligence" in its raw state. Rather, they prepare to use
their intelligence by passing through a developmental process. Thus, people who want to be
mathematicians or physicists, spend years studying and honing their logical/mathematical abilities in a
distinctive and socially relevant way. The second criteria borrowed from the discipline of
developmental psychology, is the existence of idiot-savants, prodigies and exceptional people.
Gardner (1999a) refers to these as accidents of nature that allow researchers to observe the nature of
a particular intelligence in great contrast to other average or impaired abilities. One example of this
type of highlighted intelligence is the autistic person who excels at numerical calculations or musical
Finally, Gardner (1999a) draws his last two criteria from traditional psychology and psychometrics to
determine if candidate intelligence makes it onto the list of specific abilities he calls Multiple
Intelligences. There must be support from experimental psychology that indicates the extent to which
two operations are related or different. Observing subjects who are asked to carry out two activities
simultaneously can help determine if those activities rely on the same mental capacities or different
ones. For example, a person engaged in working a crossword puzzle is unlikely to be able to carry on
a conversation effectively, because both tasks demand the attention of linguistic intelligence, which
creates interference. Whereas, the absence of this sort of competition allows a person to be able to
walk and converse at the same time suggesting that two different intelligences are engaged. In spite
of the fact that Gardner proposed his theory in opposition to psychometrics, he recognizes the
importance of acknowledging psychometric data (1999a).
Gardner (1983; 1999a) defined seven intelligences using the preceding eight criteria. Logical-
mathematical intelligence is the ability to detect patterns, think logically, reason deductively and carry
out mathematical operations. Linguistic intelligence involves the mastery of spoken and written
language to express oneself or remember things. These first two forms of intelligence are typically the
abilities that contribute to strong performance in traditional school environments and to producing high
scores on most IQ measures or tests of achievement. Spatial intelligence involves the potential for
recognizing and manipulating the patterns of both wide spaces such as those negotiated by pilots or
navigators, and confined spaces such as those encountered by sculptors, architects or championship
chess players. Musical intelligence consists of the capacity to recognize and compose musical
pitches, tones, rhythms, and patterns and to use them for performance or composition. Bodily-
Kinaesthetic intelligence involves the use of parts of the body or the whole body to solve problems or
create products. Athletes, dancers, surgeons and craftspeople are likely to have highly developed
capacity in this area. The last two intelligences are the personal intelligences: interpersonal and
intrapersonal. Interpersonal intelligence indicates a person's ability to recognize the intentions,
feelings and motivations of others. People who possess and develop this quality are likely to work well
with others and may choose fields like sales, teaching, counselling or politics in order to use them.
Intrapersonal intelligence is described as the ability to understand oneself and use that information to
regulate one's own life. According to Gardner each of these seven "intelligences" has a specific set of
abilities that can be observed and measured (1999a, 1983). More recently, Gardner (1998) has
nominated three additional candidate intelligences: Naturalist, Spiritual and Existential intelligence and
evaluated them in the context of the eight criteria he established in his research and outlined earlier in
this paper. He defines a naturalist as a person "who demonstrates expertise in recognition and
classification of the numerous species - the flora and fauna - of her or his environment." (1998, p.
115). Gardner is comfortable with declaring that a Naturalist intelligence meets the criteria he set
forth, however he is less sure about how to define and incorporate Spiritual and Existential
"…the monopoly of those who believe in a single general intelligence has come to an end." (Gardner,
Criticism of MI Theory
When reviewing criticism of Multiple Intelligences theory, addressing the historically ever-present
question of whether intelligence is one thing or many things is unavoidable. The fundamental criticism
of MI theory is the belief by scholars that each of the seven multiple intelligences is in fact a cognitive
style rather than a stand-alone construct (Morgan, 1996). Morgan, (1996) refers to Gardner's
approach of describing the nature of each intelligence with terms such as abilities, sensitivities, skills
and abilities as evidence of the fact that the "theory" is really a matter of semantics rather than new
thinking on multiple constructs of intelligence and resembles earlier work by factor theorists of
intelligence like L.L. Thurstone who argued that a single factor (g) cannot explain the complexity of
human intellectual activity. According to Morgan (1996), identifying these various abilities and
developing a theory that supports the many factors of intelligence has been a significant contribution
to the field. Furthermore, he believes that MI theory has proven beneficial to schools and teachers
and it may help explain why students do not perform well on standardized tests but it in Morgan's
opinion it does not warrant the complete rejection of g.
Gardner (1995) admittedly avoided addressing criticism of his theory for nearly a decade after the
publication of Frames of Mind. However, in a 1995 article that appeared in Phi Delta Kappan he
responds to several "myths" about the Theory of Multiple Intelligences. These myths provide a
summary of the major commentary on and criticism of Gardner's theory. The first myth is that if there
are seven intelligences we must be able to measure them with seven specific tests. Gardner is vocal
about his disdain for a singularly psychometric approach to measuring intelligence based on paper
and pencil tests. Secondly, he responds to the belief that an intelligence is the same as a domain or a
discipline. Gardner reiterates his definition of an intelligence and distinguishes it from a domain which
he describes as a culturally relevant, organized set of activities characterized by a symbol system and
a set of operations. For example, dance performance is a domain that relies on the use of bodily-
kinaesthetic and musical intelligence (Gardner, 1995).
Other criticisms include the notion that MI theory is not empirical, is incompatible with inheritability,
and environmental influences, and broadens the construct of intelligence so widely as to render it
meaningless. Gardner (1995) staunchly defends the empiricism of the theory by referring to the
numerous laboratory and field data that contributed to its development and the ongoing re-
conceptualization of the theory based on new scientific data. Regarding the claim that Multiple
Intelligences theory cannot accommodate g, Gardner argues that g has a scientific place in
intelligence theory but that he is interested in understanding intellectual processes that are not
explained by g. In response to the criticism that MI theory is incompatible with genetic or
environmental accounts of the nature of intelligence, Gardner states that his theory is most concerned
with the interaction between genetics and the environment in understanding intelligence. Finally, the
notion that MI theory has expanded the definition of intelligence beyond utility produces a strong
reaction from Gardner. He argues passionately that the narrow definition of intelligence as equal to
scholastic performance is simply too constrictive. In his view, MI theory is about the intellectual and
cognitive aspects of the human mind. Gardner is careful to point out that MI theory is not a theory of
personality, morality, motivation, or any other psychological construct (1995, 1999a, 1999b).
Implications for Assessment
The two most widely used standardized tests of intelligence are the Wechsler scales and the
Stanford-Binet. Both instruments are psychometrically sound, but Gardner believes that these tests
measure only linguistic and logical/mathematical intelligences, with a narrow focus within content in
those domains. According to Gardner, the current psychometric approach for measuring intelligence
is not sufficient. In his view, assessment must cast a wider net to measure human cognitive abilities
more accurately. Gardner (1993) proposes several improvements for the development of intelligence
measures. Before enumerating those improvements, it is important to understand how Gardner
defines assessment. In his view, the purpose of assessment should be to obtain information about the
skills and potentials of individuals, and provide useful feedback to the individuals and the community
at large. Furthermore, Gardner (1993) draws a distinction between testing and assessment.
Assessment elicits information about an individual's abilities in the context of actual performance
rather than by proxy using formal instruments in a de-contextualized setting.
Gardner argues for making assessment a natural part of the learning environment. Assessment is
then built into the learning situation much like the constant assessment of skills that occurs in
apprenticeship or the self-assessment that occurs in experts who have internalized a standard of
performance based on the earlier guidance of teachers. The ecological validity of assessment is also
at issue according to Gardner (1993). Predictive validity of traditional intelligence tests may be
psychometrically sound, but its usefulness beyond predicting school performance is questionable.
Therefore, prediction could be improved if assessments more closely approximated real working
conditions. Instruments for measuring intelligence should also be "intelligence-fair" (1993, p.176).
Consequently, we need to reduce the bias toward measuring intelligence through
logical/mathematical and linguistic abilities and move toward looking more directly at a specific
intelligence in operation (e.g., assessing for spatial intelligence by having an individual navigate his or
her way around unfamiliar territory). Gardner acknowledges that this approach to assessment may be
difficult to implement.
Gardner (1993) emphasizes two additional points about assessment that are critical. The first is that
the assessment of intelligence should encompass multiple measures. Relying on a single IQ score
from a WISC-III (Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children) without substantiating the findings through
other data sources does the individual examinee a disservice and produces insufficient information for
those who provide interventions. Secondly, all assessments and resulting interventions must be
sensitive to individual differences and developmental levels. Finally, Gardner is in favour of
assessment for the primary purpose of helping students rather than classifying or ranking them.
While these views about assessment are intuitively sensible, Sternberg (1991) argues that the
naturalistic approach is a "psychometric nightmare" (p. 266). Quantifying performance on these sorts
of assessments is difficult, objectivity is questionable, and cultural bias is still a problem. Hard data is
the scientific "gold standard" and psychometric soundness is a prerequisite. Therefore, Sternberg
(1991) hesitates endorsing this approach to assessment on the basis that we would simply be
replacing one flawed system of measurement with an approach that is equally problematic. Recent
research on MI Theory-based assessments provides evidence in support of Sternberg's concern
about psychometric quality (e.g., Plucker, Callahan, & Tomchin, 1996).
Future Research Directions
The future research agenda for MI Theory and intelligence is likely to encompass a multidisciplinary
approach. While intelligence is usually researched through the lens of psychology, future discoveries
are likely to come from the cross-pollination of ideas in neuroscience, cellular biology, genetics, and
anthropology to name a few (1999a). Gardner (1999a) also favours gathering ethnographic data and
cross-cultural information to see intelligence in action and in context. The use of information
processing techniques and computer simulations is another relevant approach for gaining new insight
into human intellectual capacities. At this point in history, the study of intelligence has moved well
beyond the realm of psychometrics. As Gardner (1999a) writes, "The theory of multiple intelligences
has helped break the psychometricians’ century long stranglehold on the subject of intelligence." (p.
Gardner, H. (1999a). Intelligence reframed: Multiple intelligences for the 21st century. New York:
Gardner, H. (1999b, February). Who owns intelligence? Atlantic Monthly, 67-76.
Gardner, H. (1998). Are there additional intelligences? The case for naturalist, spiritual, and existential
intelligences In J. Kane (Ed.), Education, information, and transformation (pp. 111-131) Upper Saddle
River, NJ: Merrill-Prentice Hall.
Gardner, H. (1995). Reflections on multiple intelligences Phi Delta Kappan, 77(3), 200-208.
Gardner, H. (1993). Multiple intelligences: The theory in practice. New York: Basic Books.
Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: Basic Books.
Morgan, H. (1996). An analysis of Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences Roeper Review 18,
Plucker, J., Callahan, C. M., & Tomchin, E. M. (1996) Wherefore art thou, multiple intelligences?
Alternative assessments for identifying talent in ethnically diverse and economically disadvantaged
students Gifted Child Quarterly, 40, 81-92
Sternberg, R. J. (1991). Death, taxes and bad intelligence tests Intelligence, 15, 257-269
http://www.pz.harvard.edu/PIs/HG.htm (2000). Biographical data on Howard Gardner Principle
Investigators, Project Zero Website.
http://www.nea.org/neatoday/9903/meet.html (1999). NEA Today Online, Meet Howard Gardner: All
kinds of smarts.
Prepared and submitted for the intelligence website by Lynn Gilman, M.S.
Variations of Thinking Styles
(Excerpts from Sternberg, 1997)
The following are brief excerpts from the book "Thinking Styles" by Robert J. Sternberg. Readers are
encouraged to read the book for detailed coverage of thinking styles, and of the "Theory of Mental
PRINCIPLES OF THINKING STYLES
Styles are preferences in the use of abilities, not abilities themselves.
A match between styles and abilities creates synergy that is more than the sum of its parts.
Life choices need to fit styles as well as abilities.
People have profiles (or patterns) of styles, not just a single style.
Styles are variable across tasks and situations.
People differ in the strength of their preferences.
People differ in there stylistic flexibility.
Styles are socialized.
Styles can vary across the life span.
Styles are measurable.
Styles are teachable.
Styles valued at one time may not be valued at another.
Styles valued in one place may not be valued in another.
Styles, on average, are not good or bad -- it's a question of fit.
We confuse stylistic fit with levels of ability.
FUNCTIONS OF THINKING STYLES
Legislative people like to do things their own way. They like creating, formulating, and having things.
In general, they tend to be people who like to make their own rules.
Legislative people enjoy doing things the way they do them. They prefer problems that are not
restructured for them, but rather that they can structure for themselves.
Legislative people also prefer creative and constructive planning-based activities, such as writing
papers, design projects, and creating new business or educational systems.
People with the executive style are implementers: they like to do, and generally prefer to be giving
guidance as to what to do or how to do what needs to be done. Executive people also like to enforce
rules and laws (their own or others').
Executive people prefer problems that are given to them or structured for them and like to do and take
pride in the doers - in getting things done. Executive people tend to gravitate toward occupations that
are quite different from those to which legislative people are attracted.
Executive people will tend to the valued by organizations that want people to do things in a way that
appears to a set of rules or guidelines.
People with a judicial style like to evaluate rules and procedures and to judge things. Judicial people
also prefer problems in which they can analyze and evaluate things and ideas. They like to judge both
structure and content.
Legislative and judicial people can work well together in a team. For example, selection procedures
tend to be largely judicial, and are well suited to people who like to evaluate. The legislative person
may well not be ideal to read the applications and judge them, for lack of interest in dealing with the
job the way it should the done.
FORMS OF THINKING STYLES
People who are predominantly monarchic style tend to be motivated by a single goal or need at a
time. Monarchic people also tend to be single-minded and driven by whatever they are single-minded
about. They have a tendency to see things in terms of their issues.
Monarchic people often attempt to solve problems, full speed ahead, damn the obstacles. They can
be too decisive.
People with a hierarchic style tend to be motivated by a hierarchy of goals, with the recognition that
not all of the goals can be fulfilled equally well and that some goals are more important than others.
They thus tend to be priority setters who allocate carefully. They tend to be systematic and organized
in their solutions to problems and in their decision making.
In oligarchy, several individuals share power. Individuals with the oligarchic style tend to be motivated
by several, often competitive goals of equal perceived importance. They have trouble deciding which
goals to give priority to. The result is that they may have trouble allocating resources.
People with an anarchic style tend to be motivated by a wide assortment of needs and goals that are
often difficult for others, as well as for themselves, to sort out. They tend to be not so much
asystematic as antisystematic.
LEVELS, SCOPE, AND LEANINGS OF THINKING STYLES
Global Style-Local Style
Global people prefer to deal with relatively larger and often abstract issues. They tend to focus on the
forest, sometimes at the expense of the trees. Their constant challenge is to stay grounded and not to
get lost on cloud nine.
Local people prefer to deal with details, sometimes minute ones, and often ones surrounding concrete
issues. They tend to focus on the trees, sometimes at the expense of the forest. Their constant
challenge is to see the whole forest, and not just its individual elements.
Internal Style-External Style
People with an internal style tend to be motivated, task-oriented, sometimes aloof, and socially less
sensitive than other people. At times they also lack interpersonal awareness, if only because they do
not focus on it.
People with an external style, in contrast, tend to be more extroverted, people-oriented, outgoing,
socially more sensitive, and interpersonally more aware.
Liberal Style-Conservative Style
Individuals with a liberal style like to go beyond existing rules and procedures and seek to maximize
change. They also seek or are at least comfortable with ambiguous situations, and prefer some
degree of unfamiliarity in life and work.
Individuals with a conservative style like to adhere to existing rules and procedures, minimize change,
avoid ambiguous situations where possible, and prefer familiarity in life and work.
Matching Teaching Styles with Learning Styles in East Asian
The Internet TESL Journal Vol. VII, No. 7, July 200
Foreign Languages College, Jiangxi Normal University (Nanchang, China)
Examples of Mismatches between Teaching and Learning Styles
Liu Hong, a third-year English major in Jiangxi Normal University, China, was in David's office again.
After failing David's oral English course the previous year, Liu Hong had reenrolled, hoping to pass it
Unfortunately, things were not looking promising so far, and she was frustrated. When David asked
why she was so unhappy in his class, she said: “I am an introverted, analytic and reflective student. I
don't know how to cope with your extroverted, global and impulsive teaching style?"
Jenny, an American teacher from California, sat in Dean's office again, feeling perplexed by the
students' negative responses to her kinaesthetic and global styles of teaching. Despite Jenny's
persistent efforts to convince the students of the advantages of her teaching styles, she was told by
her Vietnamese colleagues that her attempts were in opposition to the prevalent teaching styles in
Vietnam. Jenny had specialized in applied linguistics for a long time and was well trained in the
TESOL area in U.S.A. But all of a sudden, it seemed that all her teaching competence and experience
had become useless in such a country where she had never been before.
Analyzing the Examples
The above statements are representative of serious mismatches between the learning styles of
students and the teaching style of the instructor. In a class where such a mismatch occurs, the
students tend to be bored and inattentive, do poorly on tests, get discouraged about the course, and
may conclude that they are not good at the subjects of the course and give up (Oxford et al, 1991).
Instructors, confronted by low test grades, may become overtly critical of their students or begin to
question their own competence as teachers, as exemplified by the Jenny's case above.
To reduce teacher-student style conflicts, some researchers in the area of learning styles advocate
teaching and learning styles be matched (e.g. Griggs & Dunn, 1984; Smith & Renzulli, 1984; Charkins
et al, 1985), especially in foreign language instruction (e.g. Oxford et al, 1991; Wallace & Oxford,
1992). Kumaravadivelu (1991:98) states that: "... the narrower the gap is between teacher intention
and learner interpretation, the greater are the chances of achieving desired learning outcomes". There
are many indications (e.g. Van Lier, 1996; Breen, 1998) that bridging the gap between teachers' and
learners' perceptions plays an important role in enabling students to maximize their classroom
Purpose of this Article
This article describes ways to make this matching feasible in real-life classroom teaching in East
Asian and comparable contexts. The assumption underlying the approach taken here is that the way
we teach should be adapted to the way learners from a particular community learn. But before
exploring how the teaching styles and learning styles can be matched, let us first examine traditional
East Asian students' learning style preferences in dealing with language learning tasks.
Traditional East Asian Learning Styles
Traditionally, the teaching of EFL in most East Asian countries is dominated by a teacher-centered,
book-centered, grammar-translation method and an emphasis on rote memory (Liu & Littlewood,
1997). These traditional language teaching approaches have resulted in a number of typical learning
styles in East Asian countries, with introverted learning being one of them. In East Asia, most students
see knowledge as something to be transmitted by the teacher rather than discovered by the learners.
They, therefore, find it normal to engage in modes of learning which are teacher-centered and in
which they receive knowledge rather than interpret it. According to Harshbarger el al (1986),
Japanese and Korean students are often quiet, shy and reticent in language classrooms. They dislike
public touch and overt displays of opinions or emotions, indicating a reserve that is the hallmark of
introverts. Chinese students likewise name "listening to teacher "as their most frequent activity in
senior school English classes (Liu & Littlewood, 1997). All these claims are confirmed by a study
conducted by Sato (1982), in which she compared the participation of Asian students in the classroom
interaction with that of non-Asian students. Sato found that the Asians took significant fewer speaking
turns than did their non-Asian classmates (36.5% as opposed to 63.5%).
The teacher-centered classroom teaching in East Asia also leads to a closure-oriented style for most
East Asian students. These closure-oriented students dislike ambiguity, uncertainty or fuzziness. To
avoid these, they will sometimes jump to hasty conclusions about grammar rules or reading themes.
Many Asian students, according to Sue and Kirk (1972), are less autonomous, more dependent on
authority figures and more obedient and conforming to rules and deadlines. Harshbarger at al (1986)
Korean students insist that the teacher be the authority and are disturbed if this does not happen.
Japanese students often want rapid and constant correction from the teacher and do not feel
comfortable with multiple correct answers. That is why Asian students are reluctant to "stand out" by
expressing their views or raising questions, particularly if this might be perceived as expressing public
disagreement (Song, 1995).
Perhaps the most popular East Asian learning styles originated from the traditional book-centered and
grammar-translation method are analytic and field-independent. In most of reading classes, for
instance, the students read new words aloud, imitating the teacher. The teacher explains the entire
text sentence by sentence, analyzing many of the more difficult grammar structures, rhetoric, and
style for the students, who listen, take notes, and answer questions. Oxford & Burry-Stock (1995)
states that the Chinese, along with the Japanese, are often detail-and precision-oriented, showing
some features of the analytic and field-independent styles. They have no trouble picking out
significant detail from a welter of background items and prefer language learning strategies that
involve dissecting and logically analyzing the given material, searching for contrasts, and finding
Another characteristically East Asian learning style is visual learning. In an investigation of sensory
learning preferences, Reid (1987) found that Korean, Chinese and Japanese students are all visual
learners, with Korean students ranking the strongest. They like to read and obtain a great deal of
visual stimulation. For them, lectures, conversations, and oral directions without any visual backup are
very confusing and can be anxiety-producing. It is obvious that such visual learning style stems from a
traditional classroom teaching in East Asia, where most teachers emphasize learning through reading
and tend to pour a great deal of information on the blackboard. Students, on the other hand, sit in
rows facing the blackboard and the teacher. Any production of the target language by students is in
choral reading or in closely controlled teacher-students interaction (Song, 1995). Thus, the perceptual
channels are strongly visual (text and blackboard), with most auditory input closely tied to the written.
Closely related to visual, concrete-sequential, analytic and field-independent styles are the thinking-
oriented and reflective styles. According to Nelson (1995), Asian students are in general more overtly
thinking-oriented than feeling oriented. They typically base judgement on logic and analysis rather
than on feelings of others, the emotional climate and interpersonal values. Compared with American
students, Japanese students, like most Asians, show greater reflection (Condon, 1984), as shown by
the concern for precision and for not taking quick risk in conversation (Oxford et al, 1992). Quite
typical is "the Japanese student who wants time to arrive at the correct answer and is uncomfortable
when making guess" (Nelson, 1995:16). The Chinese students have also been identified to posses
the same type of thinking orientation by Anderson (1993).
The final East Asian preferred learning style is concrete-sequential. Students with such a learning
style are likely to follow the teacher's guidelines to the letter, to be focused on the present, and
demand full information. They prefer language learning materials and techniques that involve
combinations of sound, movement, sight, and touch and that can be applied in a concrete, sequential,
linear manner. Oxford & Burry-Stock (1995) discovered that Chinese and Japanese are concrete-
sequential learners, who use a variety of strategies such as memorization, planning, analysis,
sequenced repetition, detailed outlines and lists, structured review and a search for perfection. Many
Korean students also like following rules (Harshbarger et al, 1986), and this might be a sign of a
It is worth noting that the generalizations made above about learning styles in East Asia do not apply
to every representative of all East Asian countries; many individual exceptions of course exist.
Nevertheless, these seemingly stereotypical descriptions do have a basis in scientific observation.
Worthley (1987) noted that while diversity with any culture is the norm, research shows that
individuals within a culture tend to have a common pattern of learning and perception when members
of their culture are compared to members of another culture.
Matching Teaching Styles with Learning Styles
From the descriptions and scientifically observed data reviewed above, it is legitimate to conclude that
there exist identifiable learning styles for most East Asian students. We can assume, therefore, that
any native English speaker engaged in teaching English to East Asian students is likely to confront a
teaching-learning style conflict. This is illustrated by the two examples cited at the very beginning of
this paper and further confirmed by Reid's (1987) and Melton's (1990) studies. Such style differences
between students and teachers consistently and negatively affect student grades (Wallace and
Oxford, 1992). It is when students' learning styles are matched with appropriate approaches in
teaching that their motivation, performances, and achievements will increase and be enhanced
In what follows, I give examples of how teacher's teaching style can be matched with students'
learning style in East Asian settings. I obtained these ideas from several sources, including
descriptions in books and published articles; responses to a recent questionnaire I sent to selected
overseas students from Japan, Korea and China in Australia; and my own teaching experience in
China. The approaches are classified in the following categories:
1. Diagnosing learning styles and developing self-aware EFL learners
2. Altering the teaching style to create teacher-student style matching
3. Encouraging changes in students' behaviour and fostering guided style-stretching
4. Providing activities with different groupings
Diagnosing Learning Styles and Developing Self-aware EFL Learners
Effective matching between teaching styles and learning styles can only be achieved when teachers
are, first of all, aware of their learners' needs, capacities, potentials and learning style preferences in
meeting these needs. To this end, teachers may use assessment instruments such as the Myers-
Briggs Type Indications Survey (Myers and McCaulley, 1985), the Keirsey Temperament Sorter
(Keirsey & Bates, 1984) and the Classroom Work Style Survey (Kinsella, 1996). These instruments
are sensitive to the kinds of style differences that are affected by culture. Although this kind of
assessment is not comprehensive, it does indicate students' preferences and provide constructive
feedback about advantages and disadvantages of various styles.
Before a survey is administered, the teacher should give a mini-lecture, trying to:
establish interest: what learning styles are
define general terms: for example, survey, questionnaire, perceptual, tally
discuss how learning styles are determined and used by students and teachers
explain how to tally results of surveys
persuade students of the benefits of identifying their learning styles
Following the lecture, the teacher can ask students to work in pairs to share notes from the mini-
lecture. By doing this, they can expect to further clarify the concept of survey taking and have a more
specific idea of what learning styles are. While the pair-work is in process, the teacher should be
prepared to answer any questions that may arise. Then, students are ready to complete the
questionnaire. If students have questions or need assistance, the teacher can have a mini conference
with them individually. Finally, students can start summarizing their individual style results in the
The next step is for the teacher to organize a whole-class discussion of the style assessment results.
The teacher can write the major learning styles on the blackboard and ask the students to write their
names under their major styles in a list. Then, in a full-class discussion, everybody is aware that the
class is indeed a mixture of styles and full of similarities and differences in learning style preferences.
This discussion helps eliminate some of the potential of a teacher-student "style war" if the teacher
talks about his or her own style during this time. I have found students are intensely interested in
talking about their own style and the styles of their peers and teachers. When such style discussions
are constructive, students' initial interest in self-awareness is rewarded and deepened.
Furthermore, based on these style assessment results, the teacher can build classroom community
by asking students to find several other students whose major learning style matches their own, and
sit in a group with those students. They follow instructions (written on the blackboard or on a
transparency) to share their summarized results and analyze those results. This discussion often
starts slowly, but it becomes increasingly animated as students discover similarities and differences.
In addition, teachers can use the survey results to identify style patterns among various groups of
students in their classes, which they should consider when designing learning tasks.
There are, however, dangers if learning assessment, diagnosis, and prescription are misused. We
can, at least, list three shortcomings of existing self-assessment instruments:
1. the instruments are exclusive. (i.e. they focus on certain variables);
2. the students may not self-report accurately; and
3. the students have adapted for so long that they may report on adapted preferences.
In order to ensure a reliability of such learning style instruments, Doyle and Rutherford (1984) call for
taking into account the nature of the learning tasks, the relationship between teacher and student, and
other situational variables. Further, Reid (1987:102) warns: "Both teachers and students involved in
identifying and using information on learning styles should proceed with caution and be aware that no
single diagnostic instrument can solve all learning problems"
For all of these reasons, I recommend using diaries as a supplemental tool. By reflecting the
processes that go on inside the writers' minds, they open up fields that are normally not accessible to
researchers, and are thus able to provide an important complement to other research tools. Before
students start keeping diaries, they should be issued with a set of guidelines about how to keep their
diaries and what to look out for. Each student is asked to keep a journal of their reactions to the
course, their teachers, their fellow students and any other factors which they consider are having an
effort on their learning. Students are told to describe only those events which they think are of interest.
Also to be included in the diary are the problems students have found in their encounter with the
foreign language, and what they plan to do about it. The language in which these records have to be
kept is not necessarily specified, but it is better for them to use the target language.
The diaries are collected in at regular intervals, photocopied and then returned immediately to the
diarists. The students are assured that the material in their diaries will be treated in full confidentiality.
For the analysis of these diaries, Bailey (1990) recommends a five-stage procedure, in which the
researcher first edits the diary and then looks for recurring patterns and significant events.
Altering the Teaching Style to Create Teacher-Student Style Matching
In all academic classrooms, no matter what the subject matter, there will be students with multiple
learning styles and students with a variety of major, minor and negative learning styles. An effective
means of accommodating these learning styles is for teachers to change their own styles and
strategies and provide a variety of activities to meet the needs of different learning styles. Then all
students will have at least some activities that appeal to them based on their learning styles, and they
are more likely to be successful in these activities. Hinkelman and Pysock (1992), for example, have
demonstrated the effectiveness of a multimedia methodology for vocabulary building with Japanese
students. This approach is effective in tapping a variety of learning modalities. By consciously
accommodating a range of learning styles in the classroom in this way, it is possible to encourage
most students to become successful language learners.
In addition, EFL teachers in East Asia should consider culturally related style differences as they plan
how to teach. Following is a list of activities for East Asian learners that could be tried for each style:
Visual learning style preference
1. Read resources for new information.
2. Use handouts with activities.
3. Keep journals of class activities to reinforce vocabulary or new information.
4. Watch an action skit. Write narrative of events.
5. Take notes on a lecture. Outline the notes to reinforce ideas and compare with others.
Analytic learning style preference
1. Judge whether a sentence is meaningful. If the sentence is not meaningful, the student
changes it so that it makes sense.
2. Give students a list of related vocabulary words (such as a list of foods, animals, gifts, etc.)
and ask them to rank these words according to their personal preferences.
3. Give students questions to which two or three alternative answers are provided. Students'
task is to choose one of the alternatives in answering each question.
4. Ask students to express their opinions as to agree or disagree with a given statement. If they
disagree, they reword the statement so that it represents their own ideas.
The prospect of altering language instruction to somehow accommodate different learning styles
might seem forbidding to teachers. This reaction is understandable. Teaching styles are made up of
methods and approaches with which teachers feel most comfortable; if they try to change to
completely different approaches, they would be forced to work entirely with unfamiliar, awkward, and
uncomfortable methods. Fortunately, teachers who wish to address a wide variety of learning styles
need not make drastic changes in their instructional approach. Regular use of some the instructional
techniques given below should suffice to cover some specified learning style categories in most East
Make liberal use of visuals. Use photographs, drawings, sketches, and cartoons to illustrate and
reinforce the meanings of vocabulary words.
Show films, videotapes, and live dramatizations to illustrate lessons in text.
Assign some repetitive drill exercises to provide practice in basic vocabulary and grammar, but
don't overdo it.
Do not fill every minute of class time lecturing and writing on the blackboard. Provide intervals for
students to think about what they have been told; assign brief writing exercises.
Provide explicit instruction in syntax and semantics to facilitate formal language learning and
develop skill in written communication and interpretation.
Encouraging Changes in Students' Behaviour and Fostering Guided Style-stretching
For example, an important aspect of instructional style for many Korean students might involve
weaning them from rote repetition, slowly guiding them into real communication in authentic language
situation. An effective instructional style for dealing with many Chinese students might include paying
attention to the individual, creating a structured but somewhat informal classroom atmosphere to ease
students out of their formality, introducing topics slowly, avoiding embarrassment, and being
The following are examples of teaching activities that guide East Asian students to alter their learning
behaviours, stretch their learning styles and enable them to improve their language performance.
Groups of four or five learners are given cards, each with a word on it. Each person describes his
word in the foreign language to the others in the group without actually using it. When all students
have described their word successfully, the students take the first letter of each and see what new
word the letters spell out. (Puzzle parts might also depict objects in a room; in this case, when all
the words have been guessed, the group decides which room of the house has been described.)
Class members are placed in pairs or in larger groups. Each student has a blank piece of paper.
He listens to his partner or the group leader who has a picture to describe (the teacher can
provide the picture or students can choose their own). As his partner describes the picture, the
student tries to draw a rough duplicate according to the description he hears.
Providing Activities with Different Groupings
In a class made up of students with various learning styles and strategies, it is always helpful for the
teacher to divide the students into groups by learning styles and give them activities based on their
learning styles. This should appeal to them because they will enjoy them and be successful. For
example, the group made up of the extroverted may need the chance to express some ideas orally in
the presence of one or many class members. On the other hand, the group made up of the introverted
may need some encouragement to share ideas aloud and may want the safety of jotting down a few
notes first and perhaps sharing with one other person before being invited or expected to participate
in a group discussion.
In addition to trying style-alike groups for greatest efficiency, the teacher can also use style-varied
groups for generating greatest flexibility of styles and behaviours. Teachers should avoid grouping
introverts with each other all the time. It is often helpful to include open students and closure-oriented
students in the same group; the former will make learning livelier and more fun, while the latter will
ensure that the task is done on time and in good order. But before students are divided into groups,
they should be aware of the divisions and understand what they are doing and why they are doing it.
Wu (1983) concludes that Chinese students usually respond well to activities when they realize what
the purposes behind them are.
Finally, no matter how students are to be grouped, teachers should make a conscious effort to include
various learning styles in daily lesson plan. One simple way to do this is to code the lesson plans so
that a quick look at the completed plan shows if different learning styles have been included. Putting
"A" or "V" beside activities that denote whether they are primarily appealing to the analytic learner or
the visual learner will serve as a reminder that there is a need for mixture of both kinds of activities.
Meanwhile, simply designating various parts of the lesson plan with letters (I for individual, P for pair,
SG for small group, LG for large group) and other symbols reminds the teacher to pay attention to
learning styles. The coding is not meant to be extra work for the teacher or to make classes seem
artificial or not spontaneous. If the coding system is used on a regular basis, it becomes very natural
to think in terms of being inclusive, or providing the setting and the activities by which all learners can
find some portion of the class that particularly appeals to them.
In this article I have discussed the significance of matching teaching and learning styles in East Asian
countries and provided some empirical evidence to indicate that East Asian students exhibit distinctive
learning style characteristics. To understand and respect individual's diverse learning styles, I suggest
that teachers employ instruments to identify students' learning styles and provide instructional
alternatives to address their differences, and that teachers plan lessons to match students' learning
styles while at the same time encouraging students to diversify their learning style preferences. By
doing this we can assist our students in becoming more effective language learners.
o Anderson, J. 1993. Is a communicative approach practical for teaching English in China? Pros
and cons. System, 21/4, 471-480.
o Bailey, K.M., 1990. The use of diary studies in teacher education programs. In Richards, J.C.,
Nunan, D. (Eds.), Second Language Teacher Education. Cambridge University Press,
o Breen, M.P. 1998. Navigating the discourse: on what is learnt in the language classroom. In
Freeman, D., Richards, R. (Eds.), Learners and Language Learning. SEAMEO Regional
Language Center, Singapore, 115-143.
o Brown, H. 1994. Principles of language learning and teaching. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall
o Charkins, R.J., O'Toole, D.M., &Wetzel, J.N. 1985. Linking teacher and student learning styles
with student achievement and attitudes. Economic Education, spring, 111-120.
o Condon, J. 1984. With respect to the Japanese. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press
o Doyle, W., & Rutherford, B. 1984. Classroom research on matching learning and teaching styles.
Theory into Practice, 23, 20-25.
o Griggs, S.A., and Dunn. R.S. 1984. Selected case studies of the learning style preferences of
gifted students. Gifted Child Quarterly, 28/3, 115-119.
o Harshbarger, B., Ross, T., Tafoya, S & Via, J. 1986. Dealing with multiple learning styles in the
ESL classroom. Symposium presented at the Annual Meeting of Teachers of English to Speakers
of Other Languages, San Francisco, CA.
o Hinkelman, D.W. & Pysock, J.M. 1992. The need for multi-media ESL teaching methods: A
psychological investigation into learning styles. Cross Currents, 19/1, 25-35.
o Kinsella, K. 1996. Designing group work that supports and enhances diverse classroom work
styles. TESOL Journal, 6/1, 24-31.
o Keirsey, D. & Bates, M. 1984. Please understand me. Del Mar, CA: Prometheus Nemesis Press.
o Kumaravadivelu, B., 1991. Language-learning tasks: teacher intention and learner interpretation.
English Language Teaching Journal, 45/2, 98-107.
o Liu, N. F. and Littlewood, W. 1997. Why do many students appear reluctant to participate in
classroom learning discourse? System, 25/3, 371-384.