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Notes On Learning Styles

The following is a paraphrased version of Penny's notes for a seminar she gave to teachers at Instituto Cervino in Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico in November of 2005. These notes describe how to identify student learning styles (also called "Intelligences") and show why these learning styles can be useful to the teacher during the learning process. Before reading these notes, it is strongly recommended that you first create your own MI profile.

The learning style concepts that are discussed in this web page are important if you are interested in building a communication bridge that permits you, as a teacher, to bring effective knowledge and experiences to your students. By using learning styles to understand both yourself as the information provider and your students as receivers, the cognition rate of your students will increase dramatically.


Communication takes place in many different forms and is understood in many different ways depending on the level and kind of understanding that filters through our being. These "filters" are sometimes called "learning styles" because the unique ways that each of us learn are how we absorb, interpret, and process information of all kinds.

For example, my husband can tell me something or read something to me that may involve a deep level of understanding on my part. Because I understand the ways in which I best learn, I usually ask him to provide me with something to read before our discussion and ask that I be abile to interrupt him during our conversation to ask questions. I am a highly visual person and find that this style must be met or my level of understanding will not be as deep as it should be.

In 1983, Dr. Howard Gardner, a Professor of Education at Harvard University, concluded that people could absorb and transmit information in seven different ways. His investigations revealed that any one person was stronger in some ways than in others. He called his theory and his list of categories "Multiple Intelligences". These categories are:
  • Musical .
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic .
  • Logical-Mathematical .
  • Linguistic .
  • Visual-Spatial .
  • Interpersonal .
  • Intrapersonal .
He developed his ideas to help educators communicate information to their students by understanding the cognitive process within different human beings. Teachers were struggling to impart information in a reasonable fashion to the majority of their students. The average absorption rate of students learning was about 15 minutes worth per class hour. In other words it took an hour to explain and check for understanding of a knowledge set that should have lasted only 15 minutes.

Dr. Gardner pointed out that schools and culture focus most of their attention on linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligence. for example, the standard I.Q. test addresses only the highly articulate or logical people of our culture. But Dr. Gardner says that we should also place equal attention on those who show gifts in the other intelligences: the artists, architects, musicians, designers, dancers, therapists, entrepreneurs, and others who enrich the world in which we live.

It has also been discovered that about 80% of all grade school teachers have strong logical-mathematical learning styles. Yet, only about 20% of students are logical-mathematical learners. There is a clear imbalance that leads many teachers using their dominant style to teach with methods that are aimed at only 20% of their students. Consequently, there is a clear "disconnect" between the teacher who wishes to deliver information in a logical-mathematical fashion and the student who best receives, for example, spatial-visual information. The teacher might be delivering information as a table or list of numerical values but the student cannot understand what is being communicated because he/she best understands a picture or a graph.

The use of these multiple intelligences needs to not only be brought into schools but can be brought into the workplace, help in raising our children, and communicating in our marriage and other relationships.

You have all taken the MI test and have the list of the 7 intelligences and your scores on them. As we discuss these areas you will be able to see if your profile shows a pattern that would accurately describe you.

The first learning style we will talk about is the LINGUISTIC INTELLIGENCE: (WORD SMART) The highly Linguistic person is someone who is an excellent talker and has a readily available vocabulary and ability to communicate with others to help them understand the ideas. They are verbally able to build trust and rapport with others. The Linguistic person loves to read about something and enjoys communicating with others in discussion formats. They are excellent in motivating others and problem-solving situations and are able to make persuasive arguments as to why something can or cannot be done. The linguistic person can be given many tasks that involve verbal communication with others. Salespeople, lawyers, clergy, counselors, teachers, lecturers, writers, people in the advertising field, politicians. Linguistic students do well in networking groups, in creating ideas for getting a project started, and in re-teaching a lesson set you may need to have repeated so that the other students will all understand the concept.

The LOGICAL/MATHEMATICAL INTELLIGENCE (NUMBER/REASONING SMART) describes the person who is very good with numbers, charts, maps, computers, data analysis, organizational skills. The person with strengths in this area make excellent scientists, bookkeepers, engineers, inventors, designers, computer programmers, and accountants. These are the people who can reason logically if the facts are given to them in such a way that they can create charts, or Power Point presentations. My husband is our family logical-mathematical person and he keeps all of our finances straight. I simply do not have the skills to do as good a job as he can.

SPATIAL INTELLIGENCE (PICTURE SMART) involves persons who are able to visualize in depth in their thinking processes. They tend to think in pictures and images. They can re-create in their minds the accurate design and layout of almost anything. They are creative and often are our artists and designers, land developers, store designers because they can see the people coming and going, inventory display in their heads before anything concrete is accomplished. Illustrators, builders, photographers, guides, pilots, inventors are all strong in this intelligence area. For these people ideas are rapid and usually very functional when translated into reality. They can look at a picture and instantly see it come to life in function.

The BODILY/ KINESTHETIC INTELLIGENCE (BODY SMART) is the person who uses a lot of body language to communicate. You can generally see them as people who use their arms and hands in speaking, when they are building rapport with another they use gestures and movements that make the other person feel at ease. On the other hand they can instantly communicate dissatisfaction such as the body and tone inflections. The coach, the seamstress, the sports enthusiast, a dancer, a craftsperson, and the mechanic. Bodily-kinesthetic people like hands-on activities, they use their bodies frequently, have a hard time keeping their hands still or when sitting often move their legs and tap their pencils or pens. They are also people who have "gut reactions" to ideas. They must have active participation in whatever they are involved in and they enjoy messy activities. Their desks usually are not neat and tidy. This does not mean that they are not interested in a subject. It simply means that producing the end result is so much more important than how their work area looks.

MUSICAL INTELLIGENCE (MUSIC SMART) is strong in those people who respond to music emotionally. They can appreciate rhythms, like to sing or play musical instruments, work well with music in the background while they work and feel happier when surrounded by music. This person often hums to themselves, wears headphones while working, and responds to any rhythmic activity. They find great discomfort in random noise and harsh sounds. I have found it very beneficial to have a tape player with environmental sounds playing when the students had quiet projects to work on, and especially at testing times.

The INTERPERSONAL INTELLIGENCE (PEOPLE SMART) is the social person. They understand and like to work with others. They are very responsive to the moods and temperaments of another and can perceive the desires of that person. They are good organizers of people and they have the ability to communicate to others in a clear and concise manner. They use this intelligence to look for clues about another person and get to the real problem or ideas that the other person wants to communicate. They can actually get inside the other person's head and see what's going on. We have an expression in English "They can walk in another person's shoes". Teachers should be very strong in this area as well as politicians, social workers, consultants, leaders, and clergy. They are the "People Persons". If you are not terribly strong in this area you might want to find one of your students or another teacher who is gifted in this area to help you talk to a student in distress and help you find a solution for the problem.

The last Multiple Intelligence area is INTRAPERSONAL INTELLIGENCE (SELF SMART). This person is very aware of themselves and they can access their own feelings easily. They can make quick decisions for themselves and enjoy meditating, thinking things over, independent work, non-group activities, self-teaching situations, individualized projects. They like to have choices in the classroom where they can select for themselves. They are uncomfortable when others choose for them. They do not like schedules that someone else has set for them. Small business owners are very comfortable with this intelligence strength. Writers fall into this category as they can create without interference from others. They will often not ask for help because they would rather work it out for themselves. They are happiest when spending time alone. You could create a quiet area in your classroom where these students could go when they need to have that alone time to work out a problem.