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The Other Intelligences

A seasoned teacher considers some often-overlooked learning styles


Published August 27, 2003 at 8:19 p.m.
Updated September 16, 2016 at 3:30 p.m.

Most educators and parents have heard of Howard Gardner's theory of Multiple Intelligences. For the uninitiated, it is a system for categorizing human intelligence into seven classifications: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal and intrapersonal.

With all due respect to Professor Gardner, I would like to humbly submit a few intelligences I think he overlooked. My list is the product of 19 years of teaching every age from preschool to high school. In order to distinguish my discoveries from the bona fide Multiple Intelligences, (MI), I will refer to them as the Other Intelligences, or OI (pronounced "Oy" as in "Oy vey.")

OI#1 The Random-Thinking Intelligence

This intelligence manifests itself in the student's ability to maintain a flow of random thoughts which do not pertain in any way to the subject matter at hand. Although this is one of the more difficult intelligences to measure, it should be noted that if you call on a Random-Thinking Intelligent student and he or she answers correctly and then says, "Hey, I can't believe I knew the answer. I mean, that was like a total accident!" then the student has not fully developed this particular intelligence. Success will be demonstrated when none, not even one, of the student's random thoughts collides with anything you are attempting to teach.

OI#2 The Inter-Origami Intelligence

This intelligence is most commonly expressed not only through the reading and writing of notes to classmates, but especially through the folding of such notes into an astounding variety of paper shapes which would challenge the most venerable origami expert. The preferred medium of expression for this intelligence is unusually loud paper. The most fascinating aspect of the Inter-Origami Intelligence is that students who are most talented at reading, writing, folding and unfolding notes are apparently illiterate in any other context.

OI #3 The Time-Warp Intelligence

You should recognize the Time Warp Intelligence in the student who says to you on the day you are collecting a four-week research project, "So, like, when is this due?" This student might come to you the day after grades close and ask, "Is there anything I can do to bring up my grade?" Likewise, the student who hands in work so old it shows signs of mildew. "Oh," the student will say, "I forgot to hand this in. Can I still get credit?" There are many variations of this intelligence, all of them pointing to a perception of time which does not conform to the ordinary. These are students who exist in a realm beyond the time-space continuum as we know it. I am the proud mother of one such student, who used to ask earnestly from time to time, "Mom, is it still today?"

OI#4 The Stealth-Kinesthetic Intelligence

This intelligence is mainly expressed through the shooting of spit-balls through gutted pens. There is some controversy regarding whether this is a true intelligence, some claiming it is too specific. However, when one considers the expression of this intelligence, the full range of skills involved will convince even the most vehement critics that this is indeed an intelligence all its own.

Consider the dexterity required to transform an ordinary pen into a pea-shooter, and the covert manufacture of spit balls from tiny little pieces of torn paper. Then, with lightning speed and agility, the attack! The precision required to hit the target and the sleight of hand needed to avoid detection are so demanding of the brain's motor cortex that Stealth-Kinesthetically gifted students are taxed past the point of being able to do anything else.

OI# The Adaptive Resistance Intelligence

This intelligence bears a striking resemblance to artificial intelligence in that it has an adaptive ability to resist your teaching methods no matter how much, how often or to what extent you alter your style.

You can most easily identify this intelligence in students who inform you that you are teaching wrong. "I'm a visual learner," they will tell you if you are in the middle of a hands-on activity. "I learn by seeing." If you try using the overhead projector to reach these visual learners, they will tell you that they learn best by doing. Don't try to outsmart them by reminding them that last week they were visual learners. They know it's up to you to find a way to teach to their learning styles, however frequently and drastically they may change. The good news is that these students will always keep you on your toes. No chance of sinking into the chalk-and-talk rut with these learners. The bad news is that they have infinite adaptive capabilities. I have in fact encountered what I believe to be the ultimate manifestation of this intelligence in a student who said to me one day, "I learn better when you don't teach me."

OI#7 The Self-Oblivious Intelligence

One of the most frequently misunderstood of the intelligences, the Self-Oblivious Intelligence is apparent in students who talk, sub-vocalize, babble or make funny noises without knowing it. A variation of this intelligence is foot-tapping, pen-flicking, chair scraping and desk-kicking. When the student is asked to stop making the noise in question, he or she invariably replies, "Stop what? I wasn't talking!"

OI#7 Verbal Voidal Intelligence

The Verbal Voidal intelligent student has the uncanny ability to invent words that do not exist or new forms of pre-existing words. If, for example, the adjectival form of the word "verb" is "verbal," then the adjective which corresponds to "void" must be "voidal" -- hence the name of this intelligence. If one can be a major failure, it stands to reason that one can also fail majorly. If someone is a real loser, what do you call the state of being a loser? I've heard loserdom and loserness, but my personal favorite is loserity (accent on the second syllable, as in prosperity.)

The Verbal-Voidal Intelligence shows up particularly well in language classes, where students may be called upon to translate words for which there is no exact English equivalent. For example, the French word for "other" is "autre." The adverbial form, "autrement," is conventionally translated as "otherwise." A truly Verbal Voidal Intelligent student, however, would never accept such limitations and would invent the necessary word, "otherly," in order to translate more precisely.

Unfortunately, it may be a long time before these Other Intelligences receive the recognition and respect they deserve. Although we teachers are trying to embrace and explore the many different styles of learning, I fear it will take years of intensive professional development with highly trained, Otherly Intelligent professionals before we learn to appreciate them.