Integrating Multiple Intelligences in India
by Jitendra Sandu and Ira Gupta
|This month’s essay by two Indian scholars in India describe both multiple intelligences and its impact on our understanding of creativity. The authors have brought MI to many students and adults in India. Jitendra Sandu is a PhD candidate and the CEO of TAAS, Co-author Ira Gupta is an undergraduate student at Fergusson College, Pune, India. She is studying Psychology, Sociology and Applied Statistics. Their essay provides a brilliant example describing the great promise of MI coupled with the substantial barriers to its implementation. In 1983 Howard Gardner published his landmark book, Frames of Mind, introducing the theory of multiple intelligences (MI). Later he followed up with a profound book on the creative mind. Creating Minds. |
India has a decade-long affair with MI, not ready for a long-term relationship
When we think of intelligence, most of us believe invariably of engineers, doctors, or students who excel in science and mathematics. But this notion of intelligence is highly restrictive. Howard Gardner proposed that there is not one singular intelligence but several types of intelligences. These different types of intelligences interact with each other to allow the individual to function.
Howard Gardner developed his ‘Theory of Multiple Intelligences’ in 1983 in his book ‘Frames of Mind’. He is the John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Research Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He is considered one of the most influential public intellectuals in the world and has written twenty-five books and hundreds of articles.
We had the good fortune to spend some time with Dr Gardner in January of 2012 during his visit to India. We documented some very specific interactions and brilliant insights as shared with and during the various gatherings of academia.
In a session conducted in Bangalore, Dr Gardner advised teachers to identify their students’ strengths by observing them in environments like museums where their interactions with different types of exhibits and interests can be noted. This can also be done by giving them questionnaires about their strengths. Their responses should be cross-referenced to where their teachers and parents believe their strengths lie to ensure greater accuracy.
Dr Gardner discussed his views on creativity, educational challenges, and creating environments that nurture each child’s unique abilities. Creativity is ‘coming up with something new which is acceptable’. According to Dr Gardner, creative children tend to be childlike while simultaneously holding the seriousness of an adult. They possess a playful nature and are not afraid of being ridiculed. Creative children also show the kind of passion and commitment that allows them to look at things long-term and subsequently work on the same projects for years. They have a notable capacity for solitude, where they are comfortable alone and do not need to seek people in social settings, even though they can interact with others if they want. They see through things clearly, which makes them honest, even brutally so at times. However, this also implies that creative children are more likely to be defiant and stand their ground even when no one else supports them. Their minds may even be considered odd as they have a unique blend of intelligences and weaknesses, where they are often laser-focused on their domains/areas of interest only.
Dr Gardner explained that traditional views of intelligence do not recognise or consider creativity. Being gifted actually implies that the child’s talent was recognised earlier and that it was developed faster. He states that nowadays, you can observe an increase in intelligences quotients and a decrease in creativity quotients. This is because most people are made to work in groups, whereas creative people thrive in solitude. Constantly being connected to a digital world further worsens this lack of isolation and clarity, which creative minds crave. Dr Gardner says creative people work by reflecting, leveraging and framing. This means that they observe themselves, use what they know about their strengths to push themselves and learn from their failures instead of getting upset.
So how do educators create better learning environments that value creativity and individuality? They should give more importance to creating curious personalities who are unafraid of being different. Teachers should note irregular/uncommon answers and leave room for making mistakes instead of only paying heed to the correct answers. They need to find a way to create an environment with enough structure to ensure discipline and enough flexibility to nurture creativity instead of killing it. Additionally, hands-on immersion in fields has also proven to enhance creativity. Teachers can create ideal learning environments by defining clear education goals and finding precise ways to assess them.
Gifted Children also require special care to excel. They should get opportunities to meet other talented children to feel normal. They should be allowed to pursue their talents without being forced to learn too many things simultaneously. Unlike other children, gifted children already show great perseverance in their fields of interest and do not require much external pressure to perform. Additionally, placing too much pressure on them is counterproductive because it may lead to them giving up.
Dr Gardner touches on the topic of how to assess the effectiveness of learning and the quality of teaching in his interview with ‘the Hindu’. He believes that the sphere of education could do without international comparisons and global rankings, which do little except dominate the thinking of ministers and distort what and how teaching is carried out in several countries. He states that a better alternative would be to assess whether students can demonstrate their understanding across various disciplines and if they are moral and ethical citizens. One way to honestly evaluate students is by designing tests that include unfamiliar concepts and different types of problems.
In this interview, Howard Gardner discusses how digital media challenges traditional values. Since digital media has caused a clash between people’s opinions, views, cultures, histories and ethical codes, it has become increasingly difficult to understand what is good, what is beautiful and what is true. This creates the question of how to solve these dilemmas and how to preserve ancient values. Dr Gardner also talks about how the decision regarding the language of instruction of a child’s education should be made in the child’s best interest and not that of their family or larger community. Additionally, parents should not force their children to pursue what they wish they could have or what they failed at. Instead, they should try to play to their child’s interests to find their aptitude and fulfil their potential.
Individuation and Pluralisation
Dr Gardner reiterates that the best educational institutions in the world, like those of Finland, provide quality education for every child and even spend more resources on disadvantaged children. He believes that every child needs to be literate in one/more languages and that they should be comfortable with the major scholarly disciplines. There is a strong need for individualisation and pluralisation. By presenting information in ways compatible with a child’s strengths and by allowing children to express what they have learned in different ways, more students can benefit, and there will be a very positive impact in the sphere of education. This is because a whole new range of intelligences can be activated when new material is taught to students using different teaching methods.
One method of teaching and learning will never fit everyone. Different students have different needs, and educational institutions and educators are responsible for curating programs that cater to their specific needs. But how could they even begin to understand how to help their students? One way to do this is to evaluate the different intelligences displayed by the student by using the Multiple Intelligences Development Assessment Scales (MIDAS). The use of this tool has yielded great awareness, according to feedback from parents and educators.
You’d think a student’s performance is mainly their concern, but it is also equally important to their parents, teachers and principals. Understanding which of the multiple subtypes of intelligences predominantly operate in someone’s brain can aid in designing custom-made approaches which play to their specific strengths. Doing so boosts their performance while creating a more flexible and enhanced learning environment at a larger scale. Therefore, by evaluating what intelligences are at play, parents and teachers can improve the student’s performance, and educators can create a better learning environment that benefits varied audiences.
The MIDAS Profile
The MIDAS evaluation created by Dr Branton Shearer brings the complexity of human nature via a “Brief Learning Summary” broken into Main and Specific areas.
The enormous output is isolated into Main scales and subscales under “THE MIDAS SCALES”. To make things more straightforward, each main scale separates specificities, making it more accessible. It’s measurable and is displayed in a “High” to “Low” format. The intelligences are displayed with related; – “Activities”, “Study Skills”, “Just For Fun”, “School Majors”, and “Careers”. The “Self-Reflection” section gives you a chance to introspect.
In short, The MIDAS evaluation is NOT just a set of questions. But, taken honestly and seriously, it’s a powerhouse of knowledge and can benefit students and teachers with proper guidance and process.
Our experience with almost 25,000+ evaluations done over a period of five (5) years in India has given us thousands of testimonials across schools and from parents, teachers, supervisors and principals.
Teachers have reported that such evaluations proved “empowering“ and “informative” for the students as they can now better understand their learning strengths and preferences. With this new knowledge, it is easier for them to know what areas need further support and which strengths they should play too. One such teacher in Bangalore reasoned that such evaluative reports would help teach how to modify parenting strategies to benefit the child manifolds. Similarly, parents agree that MIDAS introduced by Talent Assessment Analytics Solutions (TAAS) in India, helps ”throw light on otherwise untapped talents”. Its associated counselling sessions, which were “non-judgmental”, along with its brain mapping techniques and reports, helped them gain insight into how to help plan their children’s futures.
Even school principals have a lot to say about MIDAS. They were glad to see that even some parents who were administered the test learned how to mould themselves holistically so that their children “can transform the society for the twenty-first century” in turn. Other principals opined that even teachers should take the test so that they can understand their own strengths and what their preferred methods of teaching are to yield optimum results. Another principal stated that they especially appreciated the test’s precision, accuracy and scientific nature, which is why they recommend all their students to take the test. Parents also endorse the view that the MIDAS produced accurate evaluations efficiently.
A principal in Mumbai states that they trust the test to be “100% unique and 100% effective”. Another principal said that they encourage teenagers to take the assessment because the subsequent guidance provided is crucial, which is crucial during the fragile phase of adolescence. Similarly, some parents believe the questionnaire should be administered compulsorily in preschools to promote early development. Many confirm that the analysis provided in the reports helps discover oneself and that it is “logical and realistic”.
MIDAS is an excellent tool for recognising strengths, weaknesses, and preferred learning and thinking strengths, which can aid people in planning their futures and tapping into hidden potentials. However, it is essential to note that while it is especially beneficial to students, it is not meant exclusively for their use. This tool should be used by all teachers, students, principals or anyone who needs to gain a sense of direction in their life. Only through this recognition of individual strengths and a sense of collective action will we be able to progress into a better society conducive to greater learning, adaptability and creativity for all.
Barriers: Social Resistance and Rigid School Structures
The fact remains that MI did not grow, flourish or develop as expected. The expectation from the main stakeholders: – schools, students and parents to carry the idea forward did not materialise. While there are many benefits to implementing multiple intelligences in schools, it is not a widely adopted approach in India for several reasons:
- Standardized testing: The emphasis on standardised testing and the pressure to meet academic benchmarks can discourage teachers from implementing multiple intelligences in their classrooms.
- Changing established educational practices: Implementing multiple intelligences in schools requires a significant shift in traditional educational approaches. It involves creating new curricula and teaching methods tailored to student’s individual strengths and learning styles, which can take time to develop and implement.
- Training teachers: Teachers need to be trained in the theory and practice of multiple intelligences to effectively incorporate it into their teaching. This requires professional development and ongoing support, which can also take time.
- Assessing student strengths: Implementing multiple intelligences in schools involves identifying each student’s strengths and learning styles. This can be time-consuming and may require new assessment tools and techniques.
- Resource allocation: Implementing multiple intelligences in schools may require additional resources, such as materials, technology, and staff, which can take time to acquire and allocate.
- Resistance to change: Resistance to change can also slow down the implementation of multiple intelligences in schools. Some educators and administrators may be skeptical of the theory or may be resistant to changing their teaching practices.
Overall, implementing multiple intelligences in schools is a complex process that requires significant time and effort. However, the benefits of tailoring education to individual strengths and learning styles can be significant and may ultimately lead to better outcomes for students.
Similarly Self-development can be challenging for students for several reasons:
- Lack of time: Many students are already busy with their academic workload and extracurricular activities, leaving little time for self-development. With so many demands on their time, it can be challenging to prioritise self-development.
- Lack of guidance: Self-development requires a plan and a strategy for achieving specific goals. Without proper guidance, it can be difficult for students to know where to start or how to make progress towards their goals.
- Fear of failure: Many students are afraid to try new things or take risks because they fear failure. This fear can hold them back from pursuing opportunities for self-development.
- Lack of motivation: Self-development requires motivation and dedication. It can be challenging to stay motivated when progress is slow or when there are other competing demands for a student’s time and attention.
- Limited resources: Self-development often requires resources such as books, courses, mentors, or equipment. Students may not have access to these resources or may not have the financial means to invest in them.
Overall, self-development requires time, guidance, motivation, and resources. When any of these are lacking, it can be challenging for students to progress towards their self-development goals.
Parents can and should embrace MI for the child’s overall holistic development. There could be several reasons why working parents in India may not have enough time to spend with their school-going kids. Some of these reasons are:
- Long working hours: Many working parents in India have to work long hours, especially those who work in demanding jobs such as IT, finance, and healthcare. This can leave them with very little time to spend with their children.
- Commuting: In large cities like Mumbai, Delhi, and Bangalore, commuting to work can take several hours each day. This can further eat into the time parents spend with their kids.
- Lack of work-life balance: Many companies in India have a culture of long working hours and do not offer flexible work arrangements. This can make it difficult for parents to balance their work and personal lives.
- Domestic chores: In many Indian households, women are expected to take care of household chores, which can be time-consuming. This can leave working mothers with even less time to spend with their children.
- Financial pressure: In many cases, both parents may have to work to make ends meet, leaving them with less time to spend with their children.
Overall, the combination of long working hours, commuting, lack of work-life balance, domestic chores, and financial pressure can make it challenging for working parents in India to find enough time to spend with their school-going kids.
MI is essential to create a learning environment which challenges and attends to the needs of every student to ensure their holistic development. Implementing multiple intelligences in school is the first step to creating such an environment. Shifting from the pre-existing education model will have its fair share of challenges, but doing so is essential to a student’s development. Often parents and students alike have too much chaos and too little time to identify a student’s strengths and weaknesses. Without knowing this, it is difficult to plan forward.
CASE Study 1
The Ambassador High School (TAHS) is a school based out of Mumbai, India and operates under the minority status, offering an SSC education with English as the medium of instruction. TAHS, aims at imparting quality education to all sections of society. They believe that the ‘shaping of character’ is more important than the ‘building of a reputation’.
Their classrooms integrate the theory of multiple intelligences to provide a more inclusive and effective learning experience for students with different learning styles and abilities. Here is a case study of a multiple intelligences classroom
Mrs. Bindu Raji their Principal has embraced the theory of multiple intelligences in her classrooms. She believes that all students have unique strengths and learning styles, and that it is her responsibility to create a learning environment that caters to these differences. Their teachers are taught to start their year by getting to know their students’ interests, strengths, and learning preferences through various assessments, surveys, and discussions.
The teacher then creates a classroom environment that incorporates a variety of learning modalities, including visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. For example, she sets up learning centers around the room that cater to different intelligences such as the “Art Studio” for visual learners, “Music Room” for auditory learners, and “Science Lab” for hands-on and kinesthetic learners.
During her math lesson, the teacher uses a variety of approaches to teach different concepts. For example, when teaching fractions, she might use visual aids such as pie charts, color-coded manipulatives, and diagrams for visual learners. She may also use songs, rhymes, and chants for auditory learners. For kinesthetic learners, she might incorporate physical activities such as cutting and pasting, measuring, and drawing to help them understand the concept of fractions.
When students are working independently or in small groups, the teacher allows them to choose activities that align with their strengths and interests. For example, a student who loves to draw might choose to illustrate a story they read in class, while a student who is good with numbers might work on a math puzzle.
The teacher also encourages her students to reflect on their learning styles and to set goals for themselves. For example, a student who struggles with reading might set a goal to read for 10 minutes every day, while a student who excels at problem-solving might set a goal to work on more challenging math problems.
Overall, the multiple intelligences classroom provides a personalized and engaging learning experience for all her students, allowing them to tap into their unique strengths and talents.
CASE Study 2
Rajhans Vidyalaya was started in 1986, in Mumbai India. Their Founder Principal & Psychologist Deepshikha Srivastava use to run this school a decade back. The management encourages innovative and independent thinking in their students. They believe that every child is blessed with some talent. In order to nurture his talent, they offer plethora of sporting and extracurricular activities, which form an important part of their curriculum.
We will explore how a 10th-grade classroom teacher incorporated the MI theory into her teaching strategies.
The classroom comprises 38 students of different backgrounds and abilities. The students are a mix of visual and auditory learners, with some having a keen interest in sports, music, or art. The teacher, has been teaching for over ten years and has a deep understanding of the MI theory.
Incorporating MI Theory into Teaching Strategies:
The teacher incorporates MI theory into her teaching strategies by designing activities that cater to each student’s preferred learning style. She ensures that each student has an equal opportunity to engage in activities that cater to their strengths and interests. Below are some examples of how the teacher incorporates MI theory into her teaching strategies.
The teacher uses storytelling and debates to stimulate the linguistic intelligence of her students. She encourages students to express their ideas and opinions through writing and speaking. For instance, when teaching history, she assigns students to write a persuasive essay on a historical figure, and then they present their arguments in a debate format.
To cater to the logical-mathematical intelligence of her students, the teacher uses problem-solving activities and puzzles. She gives her students math problems that require critical thinking and analysis. She also incorporates logical-mathematical games such as chess and sudoku into her lesson plans.
The teacher uses visual aids such as maps, graphs, and charts to enhance the spatial intelligence of her students. She also incorporates art activities such as drawing and painting into her lesson plans. For instance, when teaching geography, she encourages students to draw maps of different regions, which helps them to develop their spatial intelligence.
The teacher incorporates physical activities such as sports, dancing, and drama to cater to the bodily-kinesthetic intelligence of her students. She encourages students to participate in sports and dance events and organize drama performances. These activities help students develop their physical coordination and express themselves through movement.
The teacher uses music to stimulate the musical intelligence of her students. She plays music in the classroom, and she encourages her students to sing and play musical instruments. She also incorporates music into her lesson plans, for instance, when teaching poetry, she encourages students to compose music to accompany their poems.
The teacher encourages group work and peer teaching to enhance the interpersonal intelligence of her students. She assigns students to work in groups to complete projects, and she encourages them to teach and learn from each other. She also invites guest speakers to the classroom to share their experiences and knowledge with the students.
The teacher promotes self-reflection and self-awareness to enhance the intrapersonal intelligence of her students. She encourages students to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses and to set personal goals. She also assigns journal writing tasks, which help students to develop self-awareness.
The teacher incorporates outdoor activities such as gardening and nature walks to enhance the naturalist intelligence of her students. She encourages students to appreciate nature and to understand their role in preserving the environment. For instance, when teaching biology, she takes her students on a nature walk to observe different plant and animal species.
Jitendra Sandu is a PhD candidate and the CEO of TAAS, a talent assessment and analytics company based in Mumbai, India. TAAS works in the area of Competence Mapping, org behaviour and Talent management across academia and corporations.
Co-author Ira Gupta is an undergraduate student at Fergusson College, Pune, India. She is studying Psychology, Sociology and Applied Statistics.