What are Learning Intelligences?

We all know people who struggled with a certain subject in school whether it was a classmate, a sibling, ourselves or our child. The tendency is to focus on the negative.

“I’m no good at math; numbers just don’t make any sense”

“I’ll never be able to read.”

“I can’t write a three page essay. I can’t even write a good paragraph!”

“I’m just too stupid to learn this.”

“I’m going to fail.”

Frustration, anger, tears over homework, forgetfulness, and boredom are just some of the symptoms of a mismatch between a student’s way of learning and the curriculum they’ve been presented with. There is nothing wrong with being different. In fact, there is no such thing as normal. It may be that a majority of people can learn in the same way, like a class in which most kids learn to read at the same age, but the idea that kids who are struggling in a particular subject are stupid is a myth.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

This quote is usually attributed to Albert Einstein, who although being a genius, was considered a horrible student in grade school.

One possible reason? He wasn’t engaged by the material.

While Einstein is just one example (statistically most children will not have a genius level I.Q.), even children of average intelligence are geniuses in their own way. Most of the time, you’ll be able to figure out someone’s learning style based on what naturally captivates their interest.            

Have you ever noticed that certain individuals are naturally intuitive when it comes to other people? They love being around other people; interaction and conversation energize them. They may be very talkative or just enjoy a good conversation. This is a type of intelligence that characterizes what is known as the interpersonal learner. Not everyone is able to read emotions or navigate interpersonal situations so fluidly. These people learn best through interacting with other people, whether it is other students, their parents, a teacher, a friend.

Other people are more introspective and prefer quiet to the busyness of a group discussion. They learn best when they are immersed in their own thoughts. They have a strong understanding of their inner feelings and opinions. You might notice they have a wisdom and intuition of their own, though they may speak less often than the interpersonal learner. Reading, self study and reflection are all good tools for the introspective learner.

Visual learners learn best when they can see the information. Whether it is through illustrations, charts, models, or videos, they retain knowledge more easily when they are able to visualize what is being taught.

Linguistic learners learn best when the concept is described using words, whether verbal or in text. They have a high awareness of the sounds and meanings of words. You might find that they are good spellers, interested in books and enjoy word games. Linguistic learners retain information well when it is read or when they can see the text.

Kinesthetic learners are learn best through movement and tactile examples. They are the ones that are wiggling in their seat, reaching out to touch the materials. They tend to enjoy making things with their hands, dancing or physical activity, role play or acting.            

Nature learners enjoy learning about nature and the relationships between plants and animals. They might be found exploring the woods, looking under rocks, caring for animals and pets, learning the names of different species. Nature learners are good at recognizing patterns and scientific relationships between different entities. Even when the topic is not nature related, they excel at comparison and observation.

Musical or auditory learners are keenly aware of rhythm and sound. They gravitate toward music, musical instruments and other noises in their environments. They may learn best when they can hear the rhythm of words or when the information is put in music. Some musical learners may find listening to music while they work distracting. For others it helps them focus. Putting a lesson to music or reading the lesson aloud are good ways to keep an auditory learner engaged. Audio books, and little songs or rhymes may make information more easily absorbed for the musical learner.

Some people are logical learners and learn best when they are solving problems. These are the students who do well with math and abstract concepts. They like working to answer questions and prefer to understand the reasoning behind decisions and the way things work. People who are logic smart will likely appreciate the consistent nature of mathematics or the sciences. They may find learning difficult when the material that is presented doesn’t seem to follow logical rules, such as spelling and phonics. It is important to encourage students through their more difficult subjects and acknowledge their progress even when they are struggling.

People can have a combination of multiple learning intelligences. Sometimes this happens based on environment and experiences and other times it is through conscious choice. Recognizing your own learning style and those of your kids can help maximize learning. Nevertheless, it is also important to become proficient in other ways of taking in information. In the course of our lives, we won’t always have a choice what format information will come in. Incorporating multiple methods of learning can strengthen our skills so that we are not reliant on a single one method of absorbing information.

If you’d like to learn more about the different learning intelligences and how to equip your children to live into the way God designed them, check out the book, 8 Great Smarts: Discover and Nurture Your Child’s Intelligences by Kathy Koch.

One Comment

  1. Charmaine Van Ster

    Thank you for such insightful information.

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Lillian was homeschooled from kindergarten through high school graduation. She enjoys writing, learning foreign languages, and playing violin. She works as a Homeschool Specialist at Christianbook and is working on completing her associate’s degree.