When it comes to learning, one size doesn’t fit all.

For how long do you think you could remember a list of ten items if you read it? What if someone read the list to you, or you heard it in a song? If you’re like most people, the extent to which you retain information depends on how you learned it. In other words your ability to recall items on the list is affected by your learning style, not your IQ. People have been using IQ tests for years to gauge intelligence, but because these tests are standardized they fail to take into account differences in learning styles. In 1983 a Harvard professor named Dr. Howard Gardner decided to tackle this issue by outlining what he considered the eight unique learning styles, or intelligences.

The theory of multiple intelligences

Dr. Gardner identified the following categories over the course of his career. Which one(s) speak to you?

Multiple intelligences table

What this means for society

According to the American Institute for Learning and Development, Dr. Gardner felt society places too much emphasis on linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligence, thereby ignoring all the other ways in which people can be brilliant. For example, students sit in long lectures in which they mostly listen to an instructor dictate. Their exams are usually paper-based and unvaried, often containing a slew of multiple choice questions with a few long- and short-answer parts. This system of standardized instruction and testing jeopardizes the futures of students who have alternative learning styles. They grow up thinking they’re weak in certain subject areas—or worse, believing they have a learning disability. Then they transition into the workforce and choose professions that may not be best suited to their dominant intelligence.

Luckily, educators and employers are beginning to recognize this issue and are coming up with new methods of instruction. Primary school teachers are “flipping” their classrooms so that students complete their readings at home and go through homework assignments in class instead. This way instructors can maximize the amount of time they spend helping students individually and can assign a more robust variety of exercises. Similarly, employers are starting to leverage the multiple intelligences of their staff by creating more flexible work schedules. Rather than being forced to work 9-5, some employees now have the choice of working from home or setting their own hours. These progressive organizations are less concerned with how the work is done, as long as it gets done.

Improve your intelligences

Just because you’re naturally inclined toward one intelligence doesn’t mean you can’t improve another. In fact, being aware of your strengths and weaknesses is crucial for professional development. Sign into your LifeSpeak account to learn more, or have your HR team get in touch with us if you don’t have access.


Also published on Medium.