2013 and … Children’s Learning

While there was much written about children’s learning in 2013 (as always), there was a seminal perspective that all parents and educators should embrace.

This came from a long-time leader in the field – Howard Gardner. Dr. Gardner offers a key take on the idea (derived in part from his work on multiple intelligences that took hold 3 decades ago) that kids have distinctive “learning styles” – namely that it is not, at this time, a viable or productive framework. Gardner dismisses the idea that a given child will have a prominently singular approach – intuitive, visual, whatever – that they apply to any and every learning situation. Rather, he suggests that the concept of multiple intelligences suggests that all kids have multiple intelligences they apply – and that kids vary in their learning style because of the specific mix of which intelligences are stronger or are applied more readily.

Why is this important? It suggests to me that we need to embrace the idea that we need to promote a number of intelligences in all kids – strengthen each kid’s particular strengths and nurture the development of areas that are not their strongest. Rather than individual learning styles (which suggests one kid learns one way and other learns in a very different way) we need a more nuanced approach that embraces individual differences and allows some tailoring so kids can work at their own pace and uniquely apply and expand all their intelligences.

As is often the case when we examine children’s learning, the take-home is that we cannot oversimplify what is inherently complex. But that’s not to say that we don’t have a platform for improving how we teach all our kids. It’s just going to take some ingenuity.

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