Learning Styles – Multiple Intelligences or Growth Mindset?

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Learning styles (or personality preferences) and multiple intelligence are vastly different, and their terms are far from interchangeable. It’s also true that both can work together for growth mindset outcomes!

It’s stated erroneously at times that they are the same thing, yet reliability tests show that learning styles have yet to be proven effective at certain learning levels some scholars suggest. More validity work to be done here. Anybody looking for an interesting PhD pursuit on this topic will find many others doing just that, as learning style ideas get implemented and examined in actual classes.

While the backbone of multiple intelligences, on the other hand,  assumes that each person comes with at least eight distinctive intelligences, learning styles enable students to blend and combine these intelligences in several recognized patterns. My Mita model approach, for instance, proved that secondary students gain higher motivation and higher achievement when they use their multiple intelligences actively in class. Several additional PhD studies, in several countries have replicated my model and each found the same improvement. A recent study was extended to higher education students using Mita in Ireland, and the same significant improvement resulted.

Learning styles, while some scholars discredit them, relate to the learning approaches that students enjoy most, and so may help students to articulate their learning preferences. How so?

  • Visual: Enjoys concepts, pictures, and charts. While others may have diffi­culty with graphics, visual learners enjoy bringing ideas to life through colors, lines, or constructions.
  • Kinesthetic: Enjoys high levels of activity and movement. Learning often comes more naturally, through physical movement.
  • Analytic: Enjoys looking at the bigger picture and breaking ideas up into manageable parts. Likes to create order out of chaos and can always find a good starting point.
  • Global: Enjoys shaping an overall concept and translating ideas into terms that others can understand. Fits similar pieces into a bigger picture.
  • Concrete sequential: Enjoys organization and detail and can usually chart time well for creating projects. Likes to transform abstract ideas and concepts into concrete realities.
  • Abstract sequential: Enjoys checking and documenting information. Takes time and effort to research and evaluate information to ensure accuracy, value, and
  • Concrete random: Enjoys creating interesting adventures. Enjoys inspir­ing, motivating, and energizing others, pushing a group toward new adventures. Along with other approaches described and illustrated in my book, Mita in the Classroom and Beyond learning styles can be adapted into classroom management techniques and can help teachers to work with special needs students. In order to help students to identify their learning style preferences, and to adapt these to work well in your classes, you can start with one problem they are having.

For instance, common problems tend to include

  • organization of ideas or materials
  • inability to work well with others
  • boredom with the materials
  • lack of reflection required to improve their work

Chase a cool problem

Once students have identified a problem area or you have seen a growth area, ask questions that will help students to select a strategy that they enjoy most to attain the results you expect. As they list the strategies together, they are likely also illustrating their preferred learning styles. Students are especially good at helping one another with this practice. That’s why this can act as a classroom management technique: it gets students involved through activating their pre­ferred approaches to the work.growth-minset-poss-thinking

In a growth mindset learning approach, students first work together with a teacher’s guidance to create a safe learning setting. Lecture handouts are often distributed to students as learning tools, and Web resources as well as texts and current course materials are made available. Students are taught to take leadership in the areas of their strengths and to both teach and learn from every member of the group so that teams prosper and students benefit.

Learning styles are especially useful in classes when teachers provide clear guidelines, make suggestions for alternative approaches, and encourage creativ­ity within structure. It’s good to remember that high school students sometimes have had very little experience relating to peers in their classes. Others have been put into groups without clear guidance or motivation and so have suffered nega­tive results.

Growth mindset classes cultivate most of the learning styles when they chal­lenge all students to take risks, create expectations that students can attain, and value or reward superior quality for its own sake. Faculty motivate students most by showing keen interest in all they care about and by encouraging them to im­prove almost everything they do. This is how their brains work best.

What do you think about growth mindset, learning styles, and multiple intelligences?capture1

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Created by Ellen Weber, Brain Based Tasks for Growth Mindset