Several years ago Howard Gardner revolutionised learning style theory with his idea of 'multiple intelligences'. In reality it is illogical to categorise the mind so simplistically, but it does have considerable merit in helping educators understand the learning process and maximise educational opportunity to fulfil children's potential. It allows parents to value all kinds of learning - not just building on strengths and preferred modalities, but catering to the development of the whole child, by using stronger 'intelligences' to awaken and strengthen weaker ones.
The benefits to learners include the valuing and nurturing of individual differences, offering equal access to learning for all learners, and the renaming of 'learning disabilities' with learning differences, thus empowering disadvantaged learners. This supportive approach then leads to notable improvements in all areas of learning, including retention of skills and knowledge, increased self confidence and self esteem, allowing for better preparation for adult life. At the centre of this approach is a balanced, integrated and comprehensive personalised learning curriculum based on observation and reflection of the child learning.
The characteristics of Gardner 's model include seven broad intelligences. Successful learners have flexible and integrated learning styles, utilising all of the seven (or more - researchers have continued to add to Gardner 's list of intelligences) and achieving a balance between them. Gardner claims the intelligences are used concurrently and typically complement each other as individuals develop skills or solve problems. Identifying your preferred learning style leads to self awareness, and the ability to select the right learning tools for each individual situation. Although there is usually a tendency to be strong in one or more areas self aware learners work to develop strength in the others.
In a perfectly balanced learning environment where all senses are treated with equal respect a young child will naturally develop in a holistic way. This is easily evidenced as most children will sing and babble quite happily while building sandcastles, always watching out for something interesting to add to the construction or talk about. It is only because society places so much emphasis on language development and communication via printed material that continuing development of many of Gardner 's intelligences are arrested or relegated to infrequent exercising.
Gardner classifies the seven intelligences as follows:
Observation is the key to locating a child's preferred learning style. It is possible to build up a profile of the child over time, preferably using unobtrusive methods, unless the child is old enough to participate fully in the activity and is agreeable.
See also Learning Styles and Preferences
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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