“It’s not how smart you are, but how you are smart.”
I am from a totally unchurched background (not that unusual in England). Growing up, I can’t ever remember reading a book and was classed as dyslexic with learning difficulties. Yet, at 18 when I started to explore the Christian faith, one of the first things to happen was to be given the gospel of Matthew (possibly the most difficult Gospel to read) and many other books followed (most I didn’t read). Have you noticed how print focused the Christian faith is, how often do you recommend or get recommended a book? How many magazines or newspapers do you read a month and of course we are a ‘people of the book’. I must confess, I have never read the whole bible all the way through, yet I have listened to it all the way through several times. Audio is much more in-tune with my learning style or ‘intelligence’. Yet, the Western Church is very much focused on verbal/linguistic style teaching.
Understanding multiple intelligences (MI) has really helped me think through and challenge my style of teaching with young people. If you are a book worm, then my guess is that your teaching style is more verbal / linguistic. I am a very visual person so I learn from visual /spatial and I find I produce great presentations, maps, charts etc. But what about the young people who don’t naturally learn in a visual /spatial? What I am now doing is to try and incorporate as many MI learning styles as possible into my teaching. So I will try story, problem-solving, visualizations, drama and so on. I find that inevitably some young people will engage more with one style, but most people can learn bits from each MI, we are not 100% one or another. And that’s the great thing about incorporating MI into our teaching, it engages the whole person, maybe that’s why the greatest commandment, the Shema (Deut 6:4) states to love God with all our heart, soul and might.
This is a summary of the eight intelligences with my added examples of Jesus incorporating a particular MI:
|Intelligence Area||Strengths||Preferences||Learns best through||Needs||Jesus Example|
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|Writing, reading, memorizing dates, thinking in words, telling stories||Write, read, tell stories, talk, memorize, work at solving puzzles||Hearing and seeing words, speaking, reading, writing, discussing and debating||Books, tapes, paper diaries, writing tools, dialogue, discussion, debated, stories, etc.||Parables, Dialogue, Debate’s|
|Math, logic, problem-solving, reasoning, patterns||Question, work with numbers, experiment, solve problems||Working with relationships and patterns, classifying, categorizing, working with the abstract||Things to think about and explore, science materials, manipulative, trips to the planetarium and science museum, etc.||Some parables|
|Visual /Spatial||Maps, reading charts, drawing, mazes, puzzles, imagining things, visualization||Draw, build, design, create, daydream, look at pictures||Working with pictures and colors, visualizing, using the mind’s eye, drawing||LEGOs, video, movies, slides, art, imagination games, mazes, puzzles, illustrated book, trips to art museums, etc.||Eye of a needle, Bread and Wine, Plank in eye, Miracles, I am’s|
|Athletics, dancing, crafts, using tools, acting||Move around, touch and talk, body language||Touching, moving, knowledge through bodily sensations, processing||Role-play, drama, things to build, movement, sports and physical games, tactile experiences, hands-on learning, etc.||Washing of feet, Road trips- like ‘gates of Hell’|
|Musical||Picking up sounds, remembering melodies, rhythms, singing||Sing, play an instrument, listen to music, hum||Rhythm, singing, melody, listening to music and melodies||Sing-along time, trips to concerts, music playing at home and school, musical instruments, etc.||Sung a hymn then went out to the Mount of Olives (Matt 26:30)|
|Interpersonal||Leading, organizing, understanding people, communicating, resolving conflicts, selling||Talk to people, have friends, join groups||Comparing, relating, sharing, interviewing, cooperating||Friends, group games, social gatherings, community events, clubs, mentors/ apprenticeships, etc.||Gospels are full of Interpersonal teaching|
|Intrapersonal||Recognizing strengths and weaknesses, setting goals, understanding self||Work alone, reflect pursue interests||Working alone, having space, reflecting, doing self-paced projects||Secret places, time alone, self-paced projects, choices, etc.||‘…but stayed outside in lonely places.’ Mark 1:45|
|Naturalistic||Understanding nature, making distinctions, identifying flora and fauna||Be involved with nature, make distinctions||Working in nature, exploring living things, learning about plants and natural events||Order, same/different, connections to real life and science issues, patterns||Often teaching outdoors and used nature in examples (lilies, birds)|
Paul Tilley is the Associate Pastor, Youth & Children’s Ministry at Malmesbury Abbey, UK and blogs at www.paultilley.com.