As a child I really didn't know much about how we learn - I simply discovered, as many of us do, that some things I could remember well and easily - and others I just couldn't!
(In my case math - or 'maths' as we say in the UK).
Eureka! There are 8 Intelligences? I thought I only had one...
In my adult years I was fortunate enough to discover more about how we learn and apply it to help others learn easily and quickly in the business environment.
I became familiar with a major learning principle that is also part of the Montessori learning environment - Howard Gardner's Theory of multiple intelligences.
The 8 intelligences are (ref infed.org)
- Linguistic Intelligence - use of language
- Logical-Mathematical Intelligence - analyze, investigate, logical math operation
- Musical Intelligence - skill in the performance, interpretation and appreciation of musical patterns
- Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence - using the whole of one's body or part of one's body to problem solve
- Spatial Intelligence - recognizing and using the patterns of wide space and confined areas
- Interpersonal Intelligence - the capacity to understand the intentions, motivations and desires of others
- Intrapersonal Intelligence - to know oneself, feelings, fears and motivations
- Naturalistic Intelligence - awareness of, and connection with, nature and its patterns and rhythms.
So what is the connection between Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences and Montessori Schools?
When teachers are Montessori trained, some study of Howard Gardner's Theory of multiple intelligences is included in their course work.
Honestly though in my humble opinion, Maria Montessori, (the Montessori Method's originator and founder) knew instinctively what many educational theorists have since proven in practice.
Whole body learning is definitely the way to accelerate learning and also create a very enjoyable learning experience at the same time. (The educational equivalent of having your cake and eating it).
As an example, simply compare a memory of a dry subject from school (I'm going to pick history, because that was dry for me). There were lists and lists of dates to memorize by rote, and many of the stories and experiences didn't seem real to me. I found it boring, quite frankly.
Compare that with creating a play or story around a famous historic event and actually playing the characters. (Take your pick - I'm going to be Amelia Earhart because I'm writing this in Wichita, KS).
If I was a child who had played the role, experienced some of the ideas of the time, drew pictures about it and spoke to others about how 'I/Amelia' lived and died - the body and the mind remember more than just hearing the teacher speak and taking notes.
Why is this useful to us when we are learning how to learn?The really interesting thing about the 8 intelligences is that we all have our own natural preferences and lean towards a top 2, perhaps 3 of the preferences listed above. Which ones do you like best? We'd love to hear your comments. My top two are Linguistic and Interpersonal. Just ask my friends!
Even more interesting to note - if we create and design educational methods that appeal to more of these intelligences than just 2 or 3 while the learning is happening, there is more chance of us learning and remembering what we are learning later and the speed of retained learning increases.
(In my case we applied this method of learning to teaching adults and children how to touch-type in 1 day - and it worked!).
Then I became a mother...and found Montessori - and my kids love Math!After all my experiences I wanted to ensure that my kids had the best shot at their education and that they would learn in an environment that encouraged success. I knew what I was looking for but I wasn't sure it was out there.
Enter Montessori! First of all in Maryland at the Bay Montessori School, then at the Wichita Montessori School - both girls have spent the entirety of their education from Primary (preschool) through to elementary (up to 5th grade) - in classrooms which encourage whole-body learning.
Math (which had been the bane of my life at school) is taught in Montessori using more than just one of the intelligences, using beads and blocks (bodily-kinesthetic, spatial intelligences), group study and study across grades (interpersonal), quiet study (intrapersonal), with spoken exercises (linguistic) and using logical-mathematical analysis and linguistic intelligence also.
Both my girls are doing well in math and, in fact, all other subjects as a result. The oldest is now a Wichita Montessori School Alumni and this year is in Middle School and thriving.
It was both a thrill and a relief to discover that amongst the many amazing influences Montessori teachers learn from are - Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences.
In the global market we need to learn faster, better and easier - and whole-body learning achieves that
In our fast-paced global society, I am grateful that my children have had so many more chances both to learn and to remember with the Montessori method. I believe it is one of the best things we can do for our children's education.
Perhaps it'll be one of the best things you do for yours?
Sarah Lawrence Hinson previously co-directed Oddball Training UK, writes her own blog at Mom On A Spiritual Journey and is a proud parent at the Wichita Montessori School.