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Adult Learners' Week: Learning and intelligence

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15th May 2012
Director The Learning Architect
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To tie in with this Adult Learners' Week (12 - 18 May), we're publishing an article a day from L&D practitioner and workplace wellness guru Liggy Webb. Today, learning and intelligence.

Our approach to learning is very much dependent on what works for us, because every person is unique. Some people may self-limit their potential to learn new things because they feel they lack intelligence - from my experience academic qualifications have very little bearing on people's ability to learn, and sometimes they are weighted far too much in the selection process for job roles.

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."
Albert Einstein
Interestingly enough, a theory of multiple intelligences was developed in 1983 by Dr. Howard Gardner, professor of education at Harvard University.
It suggests that the traditional notion of intelligence, based on IQ testing, is far too limited. Instead, Dr. Gardner proposes eight different intelligences to account for a broader range of human potential in children and adults. These intelligences are:

Linguistic intelligence (words, spoken or written)

People with high verbal-linguistic intelligence display a facility with words and languages. They are typically good at reading, writing, telling stories and memorising words along with dates. They tend to learn best by reading, taking notes, listening to lectures, and discussion and debate.
They are also frequently skilled at explaining, teaching and oration or persuasive speaking. Those with verbal-linguistic intelligence learn foreign languages very easily as they have high verbal memory and recall, and an ability to understand and manipulate syntax and structure. This intelligence is highest in writers, lawyers, philosophers, journalists, politicians, poets, and teachers.

Logical-mathematical intelligence (logic, abstractions, reasoning and numbers)

It is often assumed that those with this intelligence naturally excel in mathematics, chess, computer-programming and other logical or numerical activities.
A more accurate definition places emphasis on traditional mathematical ability and more reasoning capabilities, abstract patterns of recognition, scientific thinking and investigation, and the ability to perform complex calculations. It correlates strongly with traditional concepts of 'intelligence' or IQ. Many scientists, mathematicians, engineers, doctors and economists function on this level of intelligence.

Visual-spatial intelligence (vision and spatial judgement)

People with strong visual-spatial intelligence are typically very good at visualising and mentally manipulating objects. Those with strong spatial intelligence are often proficient at solving puzzles. They have a strong visual memory and are often artistically inclined.
Those with visual-spatial intelligence also generally have a very good sense of direction and may also have very good hand-eye coordination, although this is normally seen as a characteristic of bodily-kinaesthetic intelligence. Careers that suit those with this intelligence include artists, engineers and architects.

Bodily-kinaesthetic intelligence (bodily movement)

People who have this intelligence usually learn better by getting up and moving around, and are generally good at physical activities such as sports or dance. They may enjoy acting or performing, and in general they are good at building and making things. They often learn best by doing something physically, rather than reading or hearing about it.
Those with strong bodily-kinaesthetic intelligence seem to use what might be termed muscle memory and they remember things through their body such as verbal memory or images. Careers that suit those with this intelligence include football players, athletes, dancers, actors, surgeons, doctors, builders, and soldiers.

Musical intelligence (rhythm, music, and hearing)

Those who have a high level of musical-rhythmic intelligence display greater sensitivity to sounds, rhythms, absolute pitch and music. They normally have good pitch and may be able to sing, play musical instruments, and compose music.
Since there is a strong auditory component to this intelligence, careers that suit those with this intelligence include instrumentalists, singers, conductors, disc-jockeys, orators, writers and composers.

Interpersonal intelligence (interaction with others)

People who have a high interpersonal intelligence tend to be extroverts, characterised by their sensitivity to others' moods, feelings, temperaments and motivations, and their ability to cooperate in order to work as part of a group.
They communicate effectively and empathise easily with others, and may be either leaders or followers. They typically learn best by working with others and often enjoy discussion and debate. Careers that suit those with this intelligence include politicians, teachers, managers and social workers.

Intrapersonal intelligence (introspective and self-reflective capacities)

They are usually highly self-aware and capable of understanding their own emotions, goals and motivations. They often have an affinity for thought-based pursuits such as philosophy. They learn best when allowed to concentrate on the subject by themselves.
There is often a high level of perfectionism associated with this intelligence. Careers that suit those with this intelligence include philosophers, psychologists, theologians, writers and scientists.

Naturalist intelligence (nature, nurturing and relating information to one's natural surroundings)

Those with it are said to have greater sensitivity to nature and their place within it, the ability to nurture and grow things, and greater ease in caring for, taming and interacting with animals. They may also be able to discern changes in the weather or similar fluctuations in their natural surroundings. Recognising and classifying things are at the core of a naturalist.
They must connect a new experience with prior knowledge to truly learn something new. Naturalists learn best when the subject involves collecting and analysing, or is closely related to something prominent in nature; they also don't enjoy learning unfamiliar or seemingly useless subjects with little or no connections to nature. It is advised that naturalistic learners would learn more through being outside or working in a kinaesthetic way. Careers that suit those with this intelligence include vets, environmentalists, scientists, gardeners and farmers.
Dr. Gardner believes that our schools and culture focus most of their attention on linguistic and logical- mathematical intelligence. We esteem the highly articulate or logical people of our culture. However, Dr. Gardner says that we should also place equal attention on individuals who show gifts in the other intelligences: the artists, architects, musicians, naturalists, designers, dancers, therapists, entrepreneurs and others who enrich the world in which we live.
Liggy Webb is widely respected as a leading expert in the field of modern life skills and workplace wellness. She is the founding director of The Learning Architect a consortium of niche industry experts. For more info visit www.liggywebb.com and www.thelearningarchitect.com. For access to more toolkits and information you can email Liggy here

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