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When we talk about intelligence, often we think of it as our potential to learn. It’s seen as a fixed quality for growth that can be measured in how adept we are at learning new (often academic) concepts. But, this excludes a lot of people. Most of us have known someone who struggled in school but was highly gifted in other areas. Maybe they were a fantastic athlete, could pick up any instrument and play it, or knew exactly how to diffuse a tense interpersonal situation. These are intelligences that aren’t measured by typical IQ tests. However, they are still incredibly valuable. They still matter.

In 1983, Howard Gardner, a psychologist, and Professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, first outlined his theory of multiple intelligences. He suggested that our ideas about what it means to be ‘intelligent’ are far too limited. Gardner stated that there are actually more, specific types of intelligence. He eventually introduced eight:

  • Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence: This intelligence relates to physical abilities and coordination, including sports, dance, and hands-on activities.
  • Interpersonal Intelligence: It refers to the ability to understand and connect with others, fostering strong interpersonal relationships.
  • Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence: This is about language proficiency, encompassing reading, writing, and effective communication.
  • Logical-Mathematical Intelligence: This intelligence involves logical thinking, problem-solving, and mathematical skills.
  • Intrapersonal Intelligence: It focuses on self-awareness, introspection, and understanding one’s own emotions and motivations.
  • Visual-Spatial Intelligence: This is the ability to perceive and work with visual information, including art, design, and spatial reasoning.
  • Naturalistic Intelligence: It relates to an understanding of the natural world, including an affinity for plants, animals, and environmental processes.
  • Musical Intelligence: This intelligence involves musical talent, including the ability to create, appreciate, and understand music.

Other intelligence, such as digital intelligence and existential intelligence, have also been discussed.

Unfortunately, school environments prioritize logical-mathematical and verbal-linguistic intelligence above all other kinds. Students who are not inherently gifted in these areas struggle. They are overlooked or seen as being lazy. They are labeled from a young age as students who will not achieve the same standards of living as students who are academically gifted. This misleads them into believing that they will never find a meaningful or fulfilling career. Often, they are encouraged to settle for a job–any job–regardless of whether it provides them with satisfaction or the potential for future success. In reality, most of these students are just as capable and intelligent as their peers. They, like many others, have different types of intelligence that would serve them incredibly well in the right careers. The challenge is not only in identifying those types of intelligence but also in leveraging these strengths so that students can and will succeed in whatever path they choose. It’s about empowering students to realize that they are intelligent and capable, despite being told otherwise.

Work-based learning has the immense potential to help cultivate these overlooked intelligences in students who struggle to thrive in a traditional school setting. GPS Ed’s curriculum helps our students cultivate all of their intelligences. Our instructors don’t only focus on logical-mathematical and verbal-linguistic intelligences. Instead, they help students nurture their interpersonal intelligence through teambuilding activities like the annual cardboard boat regatta. Students develop their body-kinesthetic intelligence through working in welding, machining, and a variety of other hands-on work-based learning opportunities. They gain intrapersonal intelligence through introspective writing exercises. These are just a few examples of how our curriculum helps to strengthen our students from a more holistic perspective. This not only empowers them to thrive and gain self-confidence, but it also helps to create more well-rounded people. Students who have developed multiple intelligences will be able to demonstrate better critical thinking and become better at creative problem-solving. Regardless of what their futures hold for them, these skills will serve them well in their careers.

Discover how embracing the power of multiple intelligences and work-based learning can unlock your students’ full potential. Whether you’re an educator or a parent, explore the possibilities and get involved in shaping the future of holistic education. Learn more about work-based learning through our Education Center & Youth Apprenticeship program by clicking here.

Written By


Erica Rodenbeck
Grant Writer
erodenbeck@gpsed.org
GPS Education Partners

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