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Understand your child’s unique personality and learning style

Understand your child’s unique personality and learning style

Every child is endowed with a unique ‘element’, finding and harnessing that element is essential in the long term success and well-being of the child

Approaches to learning and instruction should take into consideration the diversity of intellect, the distinct abilities or inclinations of each student and the dynamism of their nature.

Education is the process that is supposed to help us learn in a way that is best suited for each one of us, developing our inherent, natural abilities.

Our learnings should enable us to find our way through the maze of this world and create our distinct position on the buzzing, bustling global stage.

Does our education system or the prevalent approach to learning achieve this? Do we take into consideration the diversity, distinctiveness and dynamism of our young learners? Do we seek to find what is best suited for our children?

According to the late British educationist and author of several bestselling books on education and human development, Sir Ken Robinson, modern approach to education of ‘one style fits all’ is stifling the individual talents and abilities of too many students, killing their motivation to learn.

This happens because schools or modern education systems largely don’t take into consideration the diversity of intellect, the distinct abilities or inclinations of each students and the dynamism of their nature.

Find your element

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Sir Ken argues that every individual is born with a distinct element and finding our element is essential to our well-being and ultimate success in learning, achieving and leading a meaningful life.

This can only happen if the educational ecosystem is conducive to finding and harnessing the element of each individual, rather than forcing students to model themselves in the ‘one size fits all’ learning system.

“We are all born with extraordinary powers of imagination, intelligence, feeling, intuition, spirituality, and of physical and sensory awareness. For the most part, we use only a fraction of these powers, and some not at all. Many people have not found their element because they don’t understand their own powers, their true organic nature or their constant potential for renewal,” writes Sir Ken Robinson in his bestselling book The Element.

He adds that some of the most brilliant and creative people didn’t do well at school, because at school they couldn’t really discover what they could do or who they really were or what they were good at, because the schooling system didn’t allow them to discover themselves and flourish in the way they best could.

With increasing joblessness, lack of purpose, disorientation and disillusionment of modern youth, it becomes obvious that the modern approach to learning is not catering to the learner’s interest, pace, aptitude, social needs and natural ability.

Education should be transformative, helping each individual discover their true potential on their own terms, in their own way; respectful of others yet distinctive in themselves; fulfilling their purpose of existence, while adding value to the world around them!

Basic purpose of any education system should be to build on a foundation of human inquisitiveness that leads learners to reflect and find solutions that are compatible to their interests, inclinations and styles as well as to the natural universal order.

Intellect Redefined

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One of the reasons why the modern education system evolved into a highly standardised and over-simplified learning model of ‘one style fits all’ is due to the narrow understanding and definition of intellect that developed in the West over the last few centuries.

Sir Ken Robinson sums this up succinctly in these words: “The foundation of modern education was laid during the early Western ‘enlightenment’ period of 16th century and was based on the two core principles of reason and evidence.”

He adds that any concept that couldn’t be understood through logic or senses or couldn’t be proved through empirical evidence was considered to be non-existent. In fact, it was and is rejected as dogma, mythology, superstition and heresy.

This narrow purview of knowledge has confined intellect only to what mind can perceive and senses can ascertain, rejecting a range of other ways of cognition and perception such as psychological, emotional, moral and spiritual intelligence.

This narrow conception of intellect has also led to the rejection of the Divine, creation as well as the soul, spirit and the heart. Obviously, according to the ‘enlightened’ Western minds all these couldn’t be ‘proved’ or perceived by their narrow mind.

Contrary to this narrow ‘Western’ idea of intellect, modern research now acknowledges a broad set of intellect and cognitive faculties within a person. Modern psychology also acknowledges the existence of people with different sets of intellects beyond the measure or grasp of the standardised IQ or EQ tests.

According to the widely acclaimed Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner, human beings are not confined to one, but many intelligences. They include linguistic, musical, mathematical, spatial, kinesthetic, inter-personal, intra-personal, naturalist and existential intelligence.

In his Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Gardner asserts that we all have different strengths and that education should treat them equally so that all children have the opportunities to develop their individual abilities.

“Regardless of which subject you teach— the arts, the sciences, history, or math — you should present learning materials in multiple ways. Conveying information in multiple ways not only helps students learn the material better, but also helps educators understand the students’ knowledge and skills while reinforcing the educators mastery over the content,” said Gardner in his widely-acclaimed research on intelligence and ways of learning.

Schools and educational institutions should take into consideration Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory in curriculum development, design instruction and approaches to learning, curating courses and developing assessment strategies.

Learning modules should be designed based on the various approaches to learning that students naturally have and the strengths and weaknesses of various intelligences that each one of us has.

According to Gardner, courses and learning approaches designed to help students learn in a range of ways can develop greater confidence in them and motivate them to improve in areas in which they are not as strong.

Personality Types

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Understanding a child’s unique personality, which covers the faculty of intellect, inclinations, interests and aptitude, as well as his learning preferences or style is essential in the long term success and well-being of the child.

With the right understanding of the child’s abilities and type of intelligence, parents and educators can give the learner the right direction and help them develop the most suitable approach to learning.

Former president of the American Psychological Association and a professor of psychology at Tufts University, Robert Sternberg argues that there are three broad types of personalities based on our intelligences. These are people with analytical intelligence, those who have the ability to solve problems using academic skills; personalities with high levels of creative intelligence, who can effortlessly deal with novel situations and come up with original solutions; and people with extraordinary practical abilities, who are great at dealing with problems and challenges in everyday life.

None of these personality types or intelligence types is better than the other, each coming with its distinct advantages and utility and each equally important in a world offering diverse opportunities.

As educators and parents, our job is to identify the personalities and types of intelligence our children are naturally endowed with and mould their characters accordingly. This will ensure that our children are able to find their true worth in the society by developing and employing their inherent gifts for the greater good of the society.

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