Psychologists consider intelligence to be the ability to learn from experience, solve problems, and use knowledge to adapt to new situations. It is also often defined as our intellectual potential; something we are born with, something that can be measured and capacity that is difficult to change. However, in recent years, other theories and concept of intelligence have emerged and one of such conception is the theory of multiple intelligences. As children develop from childhood to adulthood, the child relates to his environment and one of the concepts that can’t be overlooked in every child’s development is art.
However, the theory and practice of art in the development of children seems to have some correlation with the theory propounded by Gardner; the theory of multiple intelligence.
Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligence
The theory of multiple intelligence was propounded by Howard Gardner in his 1983 book Frames of Minds; The theory of Multiple Intelligences, as a model of intelligence that differentiates intelligence into specific modalities rather than seeing it as dominated by a single general ability. This theory has emerged from cognitive research and “documents the extent to which students possess different kinds of minds and therefore learn, remember, perform, and understand in different ways,” (Gardner 1991).
Gardner argues that, there is a wide range of cognitive abilities and that there are only very weak correlations among them. For instance, the theory postulates that a child who learns to multiply easily is not necessarily more intelligent than a child who has more difficulty on the same task. The child who is slow in mastering multiplications may best learn it through another approach that gives him a deeper understanding of the multiplication concept at a fundamental deeper level or may even excel outside the field of mathematics. The child that uses the other approach to understand the multiplication process at a fundamental deeper level may be slow and can hide a mathematical intelligence potentially higher than that of a child who quickly memorizes the multiplication table without understanding the process of multiplication.
Gardner says that these differences “challenge an educational system that assumes that everyone can learn the same materials in the same way and that a uniform, universal measure suffices to test student learning. Indeed, as currently constituted, our educational system is heavily biased toward linguistic modes of instruction and assessment and, to a somewhat lesser degree, toward logical-quantitative modes as well.” Gardner argues that “a contrasting set of assumptions is more likely to be educationally effective. Students learn in ways that are identifiably distinctive. The broad spectrum of students – and perhaps the society as a whole – would be better served if disciplines could be presented in a numbers of ways and learning could be assessed through a variety of means.
Gardner proposed that there are eight intelligences, and has suggested the possible addition of a ninth known as “existentialist intelligence”. The learning styles are as follows:
Linguistic intelligence allows individuals to communicate and make sense of the world through language. Poets exemplify this intelligence in its mature form. Students who enjoy playing with rhymes, who pun, who always have a story to tell, who quickly acquire other languages–including sign language–all exhibit linguistic intelligence.
Logical-mathematical intelligence enables individuals to use and appreciate abstract relations. Scientists, mathematicians, and philosophers all rely on this intelligence. So do the students who “live” baseball statistics or who carefully analyze the components of problems–either personal or school-related before systematically testing solutions.
Visual-Spatial intelligence makes it possible for people to perceive visual or spatial information, to transform this information, and to recreate visual images from memory. Well-developed spatial capacities are needed for the work of architects, sculptors, and engineers. The students who turn first to the graphs, charts, and pictures in their textbooks, who like to “web” their ideas before writing a paper, and who fill the blank space around their notes with intricate patterns are also using their spatial intelligence. While usually tied to the visual modality, spatial intelligence can also be exercised to a high level by individuals who are visually impaired.
Bodily-Kinesthetic Body Kinesthetic intelligence allows individuals to use all or part of the body to create products or solve problems. Athletes, surgeons, dancers, choreographers, and crafts people all use bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. The capacity is also evident in students who relish gym class and school dances, who prefer to carry out class projects by making models rather than writing reports, and who toss crumbled paper with frequency and accuracy into wastebaskets across the room.
Musical-Rhythmic Musical intelligence allows people to create, communicate, and understand meanings made out of sound. While composers and instrumentalists clearly exhibit this intelligence, so do the students who seem particularly attracted by the birds singing outside the classroom window or who constantly tap out intricate rhythms on the desk with their pencils.
Inter-personal Interpersonal intelligence enables individuals to recognize and make distinctions about others’ feelings and intentions. Teachers, parents, politicians, psychologists and salespeople rely on interpersonal intelligence. Students exhibit this intelligence when they thrive on small-group work, when they notice and react to the moods of their friends and classmates, and when they tactfully convince the teacher of their need for extra time to complete the homework assignment.
Intra-personal Intrapersonal intelligence helps individuals to distinguish among their own feelings, to build accurate mental models of themselves, and to draw on these models to make decisions about their lives. Although it is difficult to assess who has this capacity and to what degree, evidence can be sought in students’ uses of their other intelligences–how well they seem to be capitalizing on their strengths, how cognizant they are of their weaknesses, and how thoughtful they are about the decisions and choices they make.
Naturalistic Naturalistic intelligence allows people to distinguish among, classify, and use features of the environment. Farmers, gardeners, botanists, geologists, florists, and archaeologists all exhibit this intelligence. This area has to do with nurturing and relating information to one’s natural surroundings. Examples include classifying natural forms such as animal and plant species and rocks and mountain types; and the applied knowledge of nature in farming, mining, etc.
Gardner claimed that the eight intelligences rarely operate independently. They are used at the same time and tend to complement each other as people develop skills or solve problems.
Art and child development
Art can be defined as the way something is done; “the use of skill and imagination in the creation of aesthetic objects, environments or experience that are shared with others” (Britannica online). Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time; according to Thomas Merton in his book No Man is an Island.
Child development on the other hand refers to the biological, psychological and emotional changes that occur in human beings between birth and the end of adolescence, as the individual progresses from dependency to increasing autonomy.
“Observation of children shows that their activity is of two main kinds; children delight in making new movements, but they also find pleasure in repeating old ones. They are endowed with two very different tendencies; to explore the unknown and to consolidate the known. At one moment they are experimental and progressive; at another they are humdrum and conservative. These two general tendencies are often called respectively the creative tendency and the routine tendency.”(A. G. Hughes 1959) It can therefore be concluded that every child can be creative and since creativity is an element of art, art if properly used can help solve psychological and emotional challenges that is always connected to the development of children.
According to an article Via the Museum of Children’s Art in Oakland, all of the benefits associated with children learning art while they are young and the impact it has on their lives are outlined. The following include some of the benefits.
- Art stimulates both sides of the brain.
- There are studies that show that kids, who make art, read better and get better grades in science and mathematics.
- The kids learn by using their senses and art is ideal in this process
- The kids need a place to express themselves at school and art offers that platform.
- Art promotes self esteem
- Art encourages kids to give more attention to the physical space that surround them.
- Art develops hand and eye coordination.
- Art stimulates perception.
- Art teaches them to think openly. It represents a culture of questioners more than a culture of responders.
- Art teaches that there is more than one solution for a problem.
- Art teaches kids to think creatively to solve problems.
- Kids can share and reflect on their work of art and learn something about the world they live in.
- When art is integrated with the other subjects in the curriculum, kids commit more to the learning process.
- Art nourishes the human soul. One feels good doing it.
Therefore, art if well handled in respect to child development can help children to be able to use every part of the body to come up with solutions to challenges that we face in our everyday life.
Discussion and conclusion
Critically analyzing Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences and art and child development, one can easily create a strong link between the two. Gardner in his theory simply says intellectuality should not be generalized since learning can be done with several approaches.
Gardner in his theory was looking at allowing people to use their abilities (their area of intelligence) to solve other problems with more fundamental understanding. In his theory, it can be said that the styles of learning as proposed are related to each other in understanding and solving issues. This means that, the theory of multiple intelligences is of the view that area of intelligences needs to be invoked and effectively used to solve a problem.
Nonetheless, in analyzing art and how it imparts on the development of children, one can say that art helps one to fully waken up potentials and abilities. Art make use of the senses and most of the part of the body if not all to solve problems. Therefore Gardner in his quest to develop a theory ended up re-defining art and its importance.
Art has always been the basic way to help children understand concepts. For instance, the child that could not understand the multiplication process because he can’t memorize can use drawings to come by the fundamental underpinnings of the process. E.g. 2×3=? This is mathematics but art can be used to effectively articulate the comprehension and arriving at a result. Drawing two oranges closely three times can be used since the math just means two of something three times. The child can therefore count the drawn oranges to arrive at the result with a deeper understanding.
Again, to teach gravitational force, you can simply ask a child to draw a tree and make a fruit fall from the tree. If a child is told after this is done that, the force that makes a fruit fall downward from trees is gravity, they will best understand the concept.
In conclusion, there is nothing like an “intellectually poor students”, it is just a matter of helping the child develop fully his potentials (learning style/intelligence area) in other to appreciate better the subject at stake and conceptualizing theories and formulae. Both Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligence and art and child development are related since they both accepts the facts that a child must be allowed and made to psychologically, emotionally and biological express himself to fully harness their various intelligences.
- Learning and Teaching. An introduction to psychology and Education. A.G. Hughes pg.9
- Thinking About Psychology. The science of mind and Behavior. Second Edition. Charles T. Blair and Randal M. Ernst. Pg. 536, 537
- The Importance of Art in a Child’s Development. MaryAnn F. Kohl
- Gardner, H (1999) Multiple Intelligence for the 21st century, New York. Basic Books.
- Smith, Mark K. (2002, 2008) ‘Howard Gardner and multiple intelligences’, the encyclopedia of informal education, http://www.infed.org/thinkers/gardner.htm.
- The Distance Learning Technology Resource Guide,” by Carla Lane
- 20 Reasons Why Art is Important for Children. Museum of Children’s Art in Oakland