Academic journal article Journal of Adult Education

Identifying the Multiple Intelligences of Your Students

Academic journal article Journal of Adult Education

Identifying the Multiple Intelligences of Your Students

Article excerpt


One way of addressing individual differences among adult learners is to identify the Multiple Intelligences of the learner. Multiple Intelligences refers to the concept developed by Howard Gardner that challenges the traditional view of intelligence and explains the presence of nine different Multiple Intelligences. The purpose of this study was to develop a valid and reliable instrument for identifying these Multiple Intelligences. Items were developed by field testing with 168 college students, and responses from 874 community college students were factor analyzed to develop a 27item indicator to identify Multiple Intelligences preferences of adult learners.


The distinguishing characteristic of adult education is its focus on the individual learner. This emphasis is reflected in the two foundational theories of adult learning that form the cornerstone of our current understanding of adult learning (Merriam, 2001, p. 3). These twin pillars of adult learning theory are andragogy and self-directed learning.

Malcolm Knowles (1970) conceptualized andragogy as "the art and science of helping adults learn" (p. 38). This approach for "helping human beings learn" (p. 38) was based on a set of "at least four crucial assumptions about the characteristics of adult learners" (p. 39). These basic assumptions hold that as adults mature, (a) they move toward becoming more independent and capable of directing their own learning, (b) they have an accumulated reservoir of experience that can be a valuable resource for learning, (c) their readiness to learn is related to their developing social roles, and (d) their orientation to learning is problem centered with a desire for immediate application. Later Knowles added that adults are internally motivated and that adults need to know why they need to learn something before committing to the learning (Knowles, Holton, & Swanson, 1998).The importance of andragogy is that it created a rationale for a learner-centered approach to adult learning.

Knowles (1975) also played a role in conceptualizing self-directed learning. He defined self-directed learning as "a process in which individuals take the initiative, with or without the help of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes" (p. 18). When this is combined with the work of others such as Houle and Tough, it is clear that self-directed learning is widespread, is an integral part of an adult' s everyday life, and is systematic but does not depend on an instructor or classroom (Merriam, 2001, p. 8).

These foundational theories of andragogy and self-directed learning describe adult learning as a learner-centered activity. This focus mandates that individual differences be identified in the classroom in order for teachers to be effective. One way of addressing individual differences is to identify the skills of problem solving that learners use to resolve the genuine problems or difficulties that they encounter in life and that thereby lay the ground work for acquisition of new knowledge (Gardner, 1983, pp. 60-6 1 ). Such an approach involves identifying the Multiple Intelligences of learners.

Multiple Intelligences

The traditional mode of teaching, which is termed frontal teaching or chalk and talk, has not been successful for all students as is evidenced by the dropout rate of 50% in high schools in the United States (Snyder, 1999, p. 11). Statistics such as these portray a serious educational problem. The achievement of the American dream of completing an education should not just be for those that can score high on a traditional intelligence test. In 1983, Howard Gardner developed the theory of Multiple Intelligences which explains the presence of nine different Intelligences: these include Bodily/ Kinesthetic, Existential, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Logical/ Mathematical, Musical, Naturalist, Verbal/Linguistic, and Visual/Spatial (Gardner, 1997, p. …

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