Heather Syrett, Laura Lucas, Edgar Granillo
Education, Higher Education
Material Type:
Community College / Lower Division
  • ACC
  • Austin Community College
  • EDUC
  • Effective Learning Strategies
  • Inside Your Classroom
  • OER Colorado
  • Student Success
  • inside-your-classroom
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    Chapter 8: Ways of Knowing

    Chapter 8: Ways of Knowing


    Learning Framework: Effective Strategies for College Success

    Chapter 8: Ways of Knowing

    Learning Objectives

    By the end of this chapter, you will be able to:

    • Describe the theory of multiple intelligences and identify your preferred intelligences

    • Describe the relationship between emotional intelligence and self-regulation

    • Identify the types of thinking that contribute to successful intelligence

    • Define multimodal learning

    • Apply multimodal approaches and a growth mindset to learning tasks

    Ways of Knowing

    Ways of Knowing


    Lee was excited to take a beginning Spanish class to prepare for a semester abroad in Spain. Before their first vocabulary quiz, they reviewed their notes many times. Lee took the quiz, but when they got the results, they were surprised to see that they had earned a B-, despite having studied so much. 

    Lee’s professor suggested that they experiment with different ways of studying. For example, in addition to studying their written notes, they might also try listening to audio recordings of the vocabulary words and repeating them out loud.

    Many of us, like Lee, are accustomed to very traditional learning as a result of our experience as K–12 students. For instance, we can all remember listening to a teacher talk and copying notes off the chalkboard. However, when it comes to learning, one size doesn’t fit all. People have different learning strengths and preferences, and these can vary from subject to subject. For example, while Lee might prefer listening to recordings to help them learn Spanish, they might prefer hands-on activities like labs to master the concepts in their biology course. This chapter will explore some theories that take into account these different approaches to learning.


    Multiple Intelligences

    For nearly a century, educators and psychologists have debated the nature of intelligence, and more specifically whether intelligence is just one broad ability or can take more than one form. Many classical definitions of the concept have tended to define intelligence as a single broad ability that allows a person to solve or complete many sorts of tasks, or at least many academic tasks like reading, knowledge of vocabulary, and the solving of logical problems.

    One of the most prominent of these models to portray intelligence as having multiple forms is Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. Gardner proposes that there are eight different forms of intelligence, each of which functions independently of the others. Each person has a mix of all eight abilities—more of some and less of others—that helps to constitute that person’s individual cognitive profile. These eight intelligences are summarized in Table 1 below.

    Since most tasks—including most tasks in classrooms—require several forms of intelligence and can be completed in more than one way, it is possible for people with various profiles of talents to succeed on a task equally well. In writing an essay, for example, a student with high interpersonal intelligence but rather average verbal intelligence might use her interpersonal strength to get a lot of help and advice from classmates and the teacher. A student with the opposite profile might work well on their own but without the benefit of help from others. Both students might end up with essays that are good, but good for different reasons.

    Table 1: Multiple Intelligences According to Howard Gardner
    Form of intelligenceExamples of activities using the intelligence
    Linguistic: Verbal skill; ability to use language well
    • verbal persuasion
    • writing a term paper skillfully
    Musical: Ability to create and understand music
    • singing, playing a musical instrument
    • composing a tune
    Logical-Mathematical: logical skill; ability to reason, often using mathematics
    • solving mathematical problems easily and accurately
    • developing and testing hypotheses
    Spatial: Ability to imagine and manipulate the arrangement of objects in the environment
    • completing a difficult jigsaw puzzle
    • assembling a complex appliance (e.g. a bicycle)
    Bodily-Kinesthetic: a sense of balance; coordination in use of one’s body
    • dancing
    • gymnastics
    Interpersonal: Ability to discern others’ nonverbal feelings and thoughts
    • sensing when to be tactful
    • sensing a “subtext” or implied message in a person’s statements
    Intrapersonal: Sensitivity to one’s own thoughts and feelings
    • noticing complex or ambivalent feelings in oneself
    • identifying true motives for an action in oneself
    Naturalist: Sensitivity to subtle differences and patterns found in the natural environment
    • identifying examples of species of plants or animals
    • noticing relationships among species and natural processes in the environment

    This model can be useful as a way for students to think about how you approach your learning. Multiple intelligences suggest that there is (or may be) more than one way to be “smart,” and that you can benefit from identifying your personal strengths and preferences.

    Watch this video for an explanation of the eight different types of Multiple Intelligences.

    8 Intelligences Theory of Multiple Intelligences Explained Dr Howard Gardner:

    Complete Section ACTIVITY 1: IDENTIFYING YOUR STRONGEST INTELLIGENCE at the end of the chapter 


    Emotional Intelligence

    Emotional intelligence is an important element of self-regulation. It can be defined as the ability of individuals to recognize their own and other people’s emotions, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goal(s). Those with high levels of emotional intelligence are able to recognize and reflect on their own emotions (intrapersonal intelligence) and those of the people around them (interpersonal intelligence); they are also able to respond to those emotions in ways that minimize negative consequences and support the achievement of intended goals.

    The following video provides a deeper look at emotional intelligence in the words of Daniel Goleman, a psychologist who has researched and written extensively on the topic:

    Daniel Goleman Introduces Emotional Intelligence


    One aspect of emotional intelligence is emotion regulation. Emotion regulation (self-regulation) refers to the capacity to manage and productively use one’s emotions. Emotional regulation is important in delaying gratification and self-control as demonstrated in Walter Mischel’s “Marshmallow Test” (1972).  You can see the “Marshmallow Test” experiment here. As you read in Chapter 4 delaying gratification is one of the most important aspects in combating procrastination.  Research has found that people who are better able to self-regulate and delay gratification, are less impulsive and have higher cognitive and social intelligence. They have better SAT scores, are rated by their friends as more socially adept, and cope with frustration and stress better than those with less skill at emotion regulation (Ayduk et al., 2000; Eigsti et al., 2006; Mischel & Ayduk, 2004).  As you read in Chapter 6, self -regulation is a very important part of the Model of Strategic Learning. 


    Successful Intelligence

    While the model of strategic learning focuses on the interaction between individual knowledge, abilities, and environment, other theories place greater emphasis on rounding out one’s cognitive abilities to be able to approach and solve problems in different ways. In his theory of successful intelligence, for example, Robert Sternberg proposes that to be successfully intelligent is to think well in three different ways: analytically, creatively, and practically. Typically, only analytical intelligence is valued on tests and in the classroom. Yet the style of intelligence that schools most readily recognize may well be less useful to many students in their adult lives than creative and practical intelligence.

    • Analytical thinking encompasses the ability to think abstractly and process information effectively. People high on this dimension are able to think critically and analytically. Analytical thinking emphasizes effectiveness in information processing and is characterized by high test scores and high I.Q. scores.
    • Creative thinking includes the ability to formulate new ideas, to combine seemingly unrelated facts or information. It emphasizes insight and the ability to invent new solutions and is overlooked by test scores.
    • Practical thinking covers the ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions and to shape the environment so as to maximize one’s strengths and compensate for one’s weaknesses. It emphasizes intelligence in a practical sense. People high on this dimension quickly recognize what factors influence success on various tasks and are adept at both adapting to and shaping their environment so that they can accomplish various goals. Practical intelligence is not reflected in test scores.

    Successful intelligence is most effective when it balances all three of its analytical, creative, and practical aspects. It is more important to know when and how to use these aspects of successful intelligence than just to have them. Successfully intelligent people don’t just have abilities, they reflect on when and how to use these abilities effectively.


    Multimodal Learning

    In the college setting, you’ll probably discover that instructors teach their course materials according to the method they think will be most effective for all students. Students are capable and have to learn in a variety of ways.  Learning is not dependent on your learning style.  The belief in learning styles has been largely debunked.  Research shows that learning styles don't actually exist! (Cofield et al., 2004; Pashler, H. et al., 2008; Riener, C et al, 2010).  The deleterious impact of believing in a debunked theory is students can shut down or lose interest when a professor isn’t teaching in a way that is consistent with your “preferred learning style”. It is important to understand that learning styles do not exist, as this will help you maintain a growth mindset as you learn new material in different subjects. 

    Students can identify and apply the learning benefits of a growth mindset, and make informed and effective learning choices in regards to personal engagement and motivation.  In the example at the beginning of the chapter, Lee is better suited to incorporate different modalities to learn Spanish.  Information in our brain is stored in terms of meaning, thus the more engaged a person is in their learning the more meaningful the material becomes.  As you will learn in Chapter 9, the more engaged a person is in learning new material the more elaborate the encoding process becomes, therefore; making it easier to retrieve the new information. 



    • The theory of multiple intelligences proposes that intelligence is multi-faceted

    • Each learner has a unique set of strengths, and that there are many ways to be “smart.”

    • Emotional intelligence is an important factor in self-regulation

    • Successful Intelligence involves a combination of analytical, creative, and practical thinking

    • Learners can incorporate a variety of intelligences and a growth mindset to different learning tasks through multimodal learning



    • Describe the theory of multiple intelligences and identify your strongest intelligences
    • Apply your strongest intelligences to classroom scenarios


    • Complete the Multiple Intelligences inventory and find your strengths. Multiple Intelligences Assessment
    • Review your scores for each type of intelligence.
    • Describe your two highest-scoring intelligences. How do these fit with what you know about how you learn best?
    • Think about the class you are taking right now. How can you use your highest-scoring intelligences to your advantage in these classes? How can you use these strengths to study and learn the material?
    • Follow your instructor’s guidelines for submitting your assignment.




    • Personal Learning Preferences. Authored by: Edgar Granillo, Laura Lucas, and Heather Syrett. Provided by: Austin Community College. LicenseCC BY-NC-SA-4.0



    • 8 Intelligences - Theory of Multiple Intelligences Explained - Dr. Howard Gardner. Authored by: Practical Psychology. LicenseAll Rights ReservedLicense Terms: Standard YouTube License
    • Daniel Goleman Introduces Emotional Intelligence. Authored by: Big Think. Located at: LicenseAll Rights ReservedLicense Terms: Standard YouTube License


    Ayduk, O., Mendoza-Denton, R., Mischel, W., Downey, G., Peake, P. K., & Rodriguez, M. (2000). Regulating the interpersonal self: Strategic self-regulation for coping with rejection sensitivity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79(5), 776–792

    Coffield, F., Ecclestone, K., Moseley, D., & Hall, E. (2004). Learning styles and pedagogy in post 16 education: a critical and systematic review.Eigsti, I.-M., Zayas, V., Mischel, W., Shoda, Y., Ayduk, O., Dadlani, M. B., Casey, B. J. (2006). Predicting cognitive control from preschool to late adolescence and young adulthood. Psychological Science, 17(6), 478–484

    Mischel, W., & Ayduk, O. (Eds.). (2004). Willpower in a cognitive-affective processing system: The dynamics of delay of gratification. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

    Mischel, W., Ebbesen, E.B. (1970).  Attention in delaying of gratification.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 16(2), 329-337.

    Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2008). Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence. Psychological Science in the Public Interest9(3), 105–119.

    Riener, Cedar & Willingham, Daniel. (2010). The Myth of Learning Styles. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning. 42. 32-35.