Author: J. Sarah Kleintop
Howard Gardner (1991) theorized that intelligence was not something that could simply be measured with an IQ test. Rather, he believed that every individual is equipped with a unique set of abilities, or modalities that impact the way an individual can “learn, remember, perform, and understand in different ways.” He identified seven different learning styles, or intelligences: (1) visual/spatial; (2) bodily-kinesthetic; (3) musical-rhythmic; (4) interpersonal; (5) intrapersonal; (6) verbal-linguistic; and (7) logical-mathematical.
One of the ways that educators can be more effective is by identifying the needs of the learner: How do students learn best? Are they verbal-linguistic learners? Musical-rhythmic? Logical-mathematical? This information can help teachers cultivate a lesson plan consisting of teaching methods and activities that cater to individuals’ unique learning styles.
So, how might an educator use Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences to teach the Circles of Sexuality? What types of learning activities or teaching methods can educators use to accommodate various learning styles?
I would first like to preface this by saying this post is by no means comprehensive, rather, my intention is to illustrate how the theory of multiple intelligences can be used by educators as a guide for teaching a sexuality related topic:
Visual-spatial learners think by imagining and envisioning concepts and ideas. Visual aids, like charts, photographs, or videos can be helpful for visual-spatial learners.
For example, teaching visual-spatial learners about intimacy might involve showing a film excerpt of an individual and their partner sharing their feelings or concerns about a situation they had just encountered together. This activity fuels the visual-spatial learner’s need to see in order to learn.
Bodily-kinesthetic learners use their bodies as an extension of their intellect; to engage the bodily-kinesthetic learner, a hands-on component, or activities that require using the body as a way to communicate are key.
An example of teaching sensuality to a bodily-kinesthetic learner might be to provide them with a variety of textures (i.e., feathers, silk, felt, bristles, foil, etc.), to touch, explore, and interact with. For the bodily-kinesthetic learner, knowing how they react to different sensations and textures can help them identify what they may or may not be comfortable with. This activity supports their need to use their body as a tool for learning.
Musical-rhythmic learners think in sounds, beats, and tones. Turning information into a song, rap, or a jingle helps musical-rhythmic learners memorize what they’ve learned, and to be able to recall it later.
In learning about sexualization, for example, the musical-rhythmic learner might benefit from an activity where they are asked to write a song and use an instrument—perhaps the piano or their own voice—to share an experience where they or someone they know experienced a form of sexualization. This activity zeros in on the musical-rhythmic learners need to use music and rhythm as a instrument for learning.
Interpersonal learners are sensitive and keenly aware of the moods, feelings, motivations, and temperaments of others. Interpersonal learners learn primarily through interacting with others, so debates, or group work might be something that would appeal to the needs of the interpersonal learner.
For the interpersonal learner, inviting an individual who has faced some form of sexualization to come in and speak with the class could be a helpful way to learn about sexualization. The opportunity to empathize, to converse with, and to ask questions acknowledges the interpersonal learner’s need to learn through interaction.
Intrapersonal learners are self-reflective, introspective, and show remarkable awareness of their strengths and weaknesses. Knowledgeable, intuitive, confident, and ambitious, intrapersonal learners tend to spend time reflecting and meditating alone. Intrapersonal learners are independent learners and can learn most effectively with books, journals, and alone time.
In teaching about intimacy, for example, an activity where an intrapersonal learner can reflect on their feelings about intimacy through journaling provides then with a chance to be alone and to explore their own thoughts. For the intrapersonal learner, this activity can promote a deeper awareness of intimacy by addressing their need to learn through self-reflection and independence.
The verbal-linguistic learner is easily able to use words to think, communicate, and to articulate their feelings. They enjoy storytelling, vocabulary, poems, listening to lectures, and books, and often learn best by listening, writing, or reading.
When teaching about sensuality, verbal-linguistic learners might benefit from an activity where they are given a poem written about an individual’s experience of exploring and discovering what it means to be sensual. This activity can attend to the verbal-linguistic learner’s need to learn through words and language.
Easily able to recognize patterns and relationships between items, logical-mathematical learners tend to think in abstract ways and enjoy solving problems. Logical-mathematical learners learn best when topics and activities are structured, rational, and are able to be traced from point a to point b.
When teaching about sexual health and reproduction, a timeline illustrating, for example, the stages of sexual arousal, can provide a way for logical-mathematical learners to trace the path of point a to point b. This activity is targeted toward the logical-mathematical learners need to learn through a logical process and lineal order.
The naturalist learner craves the outdoors, finding it easy to interact with nature, animals, and wildlife. Often they are excellent gardeners and landscapers who learn through exploring the elements.
In teaching about sexual identity, an activity that might help a naturalist learner to understand sexual identity would be visit a zoo. In observing the ways that animals relate with one another, assume gender roles, and negotiate differences in their biological sex, naturalistic learners can form a deeper understanding of sexual identity. This activity is concentrated on the naturalistic learner’s need to interact with the environment and to recognize patterns in nature.
Understanding how learning styles impact teaching methods and activities is important for educators to consider when teaching about topics in sexuality. The theory of multiple intelligences is an important, practical, and useful tool for educators to employ in order to more effectively meet the needs of a population. The theory of multiple intelligences provides the backbone and rationale behind what teaching methods and activities to use and why, in order to address the ultimate goal of creating an environment that facilitates learning.
Gardner, H. (1991). The unschooled mind: How children think & how schools should teach. New York: Basic Books.
Circles of Sexuality Leaders Resource (n.d.). In Advocates for Youth. Retrieved September 28 2014, from http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/storage/advfy/documents/circles.pdf