Truth be told, I’m not a great test taker. In fact, I think I walk to the beat of a different drum when it comes to grades. A lot of people study to get a grade; I study to learn. Hopefully my grades reflect that. But if they don’t, it doesn’t make me stupid. It just means that I learn differently than other people.
I’ve always had good enough grades that no one ever tested me for learning disabilities. But the grade isn’t the end in itself for me; I’m not big on the percentages, GPAs, and letter grades. In fact, I think it’s really annoying that they try to quantify a variety of different people’s abilities using the same standards. I’ve always sensed that I view learning and school differently than everyone else does, and that’s ok.
Traditional intelligence theories state that intelligent people are capable of solving problems, using logic, and thinking critically. These are the building blocks of both intelligence and creativity.
However, these intelligent people use a variety of methods to solve problems, use logic, and think critically. No one really does this the same way.
And that is the fundamental flaw in our assessment process today. We are looking at a room full of students who learn in their individual ways and testing them in the same way. So really, what we are testing is not the student’s knowledge of the subject, but their ability to learn in the way they’ve been trained.
So there is good news for people who have been made to feel stupid in school. If you are frustrated, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are dumb. It just might mean, however, that you have a different kind of intelligence than the one that is being tested on you. You can have any combination of the types of intelligence listed below; you don’t have to fit into one category neatly. (Although some people really, really do excel at just one!)
Here’s a crash course in all the different ways that a person can be intelligent:
1) Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence. People with this type of intelligence have amazing mastery of language and words, both spoken and written. They tell jokes, like trivia, and are great conversationalists. People with verbal-linguistic intelligence are storytellers, politicians, writers, editors, teachers, and journalists. The defining trait of people with this type of intelligence is this: they think in words rather than pictures, feelings, or emotions. Verbal-linguistic intelligence is one of my strengths. But as most people do, I have a combination of the following intelligences.
2) Visual-Spatial Intelligence. This has to do with the way a person perceives the world. They think in pictures. People with this type of intelligence draw and design things, daydream, and have strong opinions about colors and textures that match and those that don’t. People with Visual-Spatial Intelligence are interior designers, fashion designers, and inventors. They are good at picturing a map of their community or how much furniture will fit inside a room. (These are two things that I am terrible at. However, I love drawing and art, so I do have a certain amount of this type of intelligence.)
3) Musical-Rhythmic Intelligence. People with this type of intelligence are musically very perceptive, discerning, and expressive. They have no trouble in composing music, and often are performers. These types of people notice non-verbal communication better than most; they hear body language and expression louder than the words. Many times, children who make lots of noise and “tap” out tunes with their fingers or pencils to study are intelligent in this way, but they are viewed as being a troublemaker because they don’t appear to be listening, even when they actually are.
4) Logical-Mathematical Intelligence. People with this type of intelligence solve problems with ideas and concepts. Accountants, payroll administrators, CPAs, scientists, computer programmers, and engineers must have a high degree of logical-mathematical intelligence. They recognize abstract patterns, enjoy brain teasers and puzzles, and enjoy strategy games. My dad and my brother are both very highly intelligent in this area. In fact, sometimes I think that logic and math comes so naturally to dad that he doesn’t know how to break it down for those of us who are dummies in this area. This is a very common tendency for people who are high Logical-Mathematical performers.
5) Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence. These people use their entire bodies to communicate ideas and feelings. These people are often actors, athletes, and dancers. They process knowledge through bodily sensations, such as moving, tapping, twitching, or fidgeting. These people have a constant need to touch everything. They enjoy role playing, creativity, and often demonstrate rather than explain their ideas. They read body language and gestures more than words, and wait until they have seen someone else do something before they try it on their own. Like the Musical-Rhythmic learners, they can’t sit still and have a constant need to interact with the subject rather than listen to it.
6) Interpersonal Intelligence. These people are good at judging other people’s moods, motives and motivations, and feelings. They are relatable and cooperative, but are reserved when they sense that they are being treated with arms-length kindness. People with Interpersonal Intelligence are highly emotionally intelligent, empathetic, have lots of friends, understand different points of view, and are great at resolving conflict.
7) Intrapersonal Ingelligence. These people know themselves intimately. They are adaptable, they know their limits, and are very self disciplined. Intrapersonal students are great at being homeschooled or tutored because they are very self motivated. They learn independently and at their own pace. They like being alone, are self-reflective, and are highly in tune with their inner feelings, values, and beliefs. Although they are self paced, they are usually very creative, intuitive, and don’t need external incentives and rewards to complete a task.
8) Naturalist Intelligence. These people are very aware of their environments and are highly in tune with life on all levels. They relate any given subject to examples of plants, animals, growth, and nature. Naturalist Intelligence pinpoints the interrelationships between living things and natural elements. They are archaologists, animal trainers, veterinarians, biologists, zoologists, and environmentalists. Students with Naturalist Intelligence love being outdoors and internally translate everything into examples in their environment in order to process the deeper concept.
So if you’re feeling discouraged about your own mental abilities and intellect, maybe you’re holding yourself up to the wrong standard of measurement. Capitalize on your strengths, because intelligence doesn’t look the same in every person.
And in the end, it’s not about assessing what you know. (Or what anyone else knows that you know.)
It’s what you are capable of knowing, becoming a lifelong lover of learning, and contributing your strengths to this big old world we live in.
*Disclaimer: I wrote this article based on my own experiences and research in the area of emotional intelligence. I am not a doctor or a healthcare professional of any kind; DO NOT use this article in place of professional advice.
Get the book: Click Here to read about the book, “Emotional Intelligence for Dummies.” I highly recommend it as a practical resource!