Learning styles and multiple intelligences are not mutually exclusive. Effective integration of these two student variables lends for affective instruction and revealing formative and summative assessment (Silver, 2000).
The four learning styles as introduced by Carl Jung are mastery (sensing thinking), interpersonal (sensing feeling), understanding (intuitive thinking), and self-expressive (intuitive thinking). Students who learn in a mastery style prefer to know what to do, how to do it, and when it is due (Laureate Education, 2001). Interpersonal learners strive on making personal connections with learning, are humanists, and prefer collaboration. All of their learning is based on themselves and others. The understanding learners rely on critical thinking, and proving their ideas. Finally, self-expressive are described greatly by their label; these students want to express themselves, and engage in creative and imaginative learning (Silver, 2000).
Students obviously learn in different ways. They also are intelligent in different ways. Logical-mathematical students learn systematically. Verbal-linguistic students prefer the use of language. Interpersonal students work well with others. Intrapersonal students rely mostly on themselves. The musical intelligence is good musically and rhythmically. Naturalists prefer to learn about nature. Spatial intelligence refers to the ability to recognize spatial features, and students are usually very good at drawing. Finally, students can be intelligent in regards to bodily kinesthetic abilities (Silver, 2000).
Mastery students can work within each of the multiple intelligences. This is true with each of the learning styles. For example, an interpersonal style learner can debate by using their verbal-linguistic intelligence. When understanding the endless possibilities for planning instruction, teachers become free and intentional. Instruction should a deliberate dissemination of knowledge from one to another in a varying rotation of learning styles while intentionally exploiting the eight intelligences (Silver, 2000).
Assessment is also an intentional instrument for measuring the abilities of each student. Knowing that each student is very unique, teachers now integrate learning styles and intelligences into assessments, therefore meticulously allowing students to prove their proficiency in dominant styles and intelligences while providing support in subdominant categories (Silver, 2000).
Categories, however, is a word that may imply a detrimental belief among educators. Students are never confined to one style or intelligence. The drawback of labeling students may result in debilitating instruction. Educators may only cater to student strengths while negating their subdominant styles, thus creating a dependency on one style or intelligence (Laureate Education, 2001).
The theories discussed are powerful tools to integrate instruction and assessment in a way where all students will be successful, and have ample opportunity to learn towards mastery. However, the safest way to ensure the positive implementation of the theories is to always vary instruction. Auditing units or curriculum for proper integration of learning styles and multiple intelligences greatly reduces the risk of catering to limited styles and intelligences. These tools are not the end all, and as a professional, teachers need to guide instruction based on assessment. Knowing students is the key to affective instruction (Silver, 2000).
Laureate Education (Executive Producer). (2001). Learning differences: Effective teaching with learning styles and multiple intelligences [Educational video]. Los Angeles: Author.
Silver, H. F., Strong, R. W., & Perini, M. J. (2000). So each may learn: Integrating learning styles and multiple intelligences. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.