Drama and Multiple Intelligence Theory

This article was first published in December 2004 for my thesis. However, it is still relevant for the Training Facilitation I deliver and 121 coaching as I encounter many trainees and clients who don’t believe they are intelligent. This is as a result of their school experience which largely measures only two. My hope is that by reading it, you will have a better appreciation of your own intelligence and that of others.

‘All is drama for drama is doing’

These words sum up not just the universality of drama, but its accessibility. My thesis is that the space where drama takes place is one of the few in which every aspect of human intelligence is challenged and developed . Howard Gardener, a psychologist, introduced the theory of multiple intelligence in the 1980’s . He did not intend to cause a revolution in the world of education but it did. Since then, it has been acknowledged that people learn in different ways and the educational systems around the world have been gradually evolving to cater for this. As a result, drama is being used increasingly in schools as part of the teaching system.

The limitation or problem with the traditional schooling system based on conventional IQ tests is that without the correct nurturing, many children grow up feeling inferior or stupid. However, if we look at many of the world’s successful people, Albert Einstein and Richard Branson to name two, we know that IQ is a very limited measuring tool . In my lessons, I have sought to use Gardener’s theory to facilitate learning through the 7 different intelligences identified by him. Since his paper was published, 30 more have been identified as finer distinctions, but I believe there is enough scope in the 7 of his original paper.

The first is verbal-linguistic, which is the intelligence used to read and write words, and used to measure IQ. This is adequately catered for within the school system, but drama helps the learner explore this genius in a creative way. Secondly, numerical intelligence is the intelligence referred to when someone has ‘a good head for figures’ . Drama consists of problem solving on an ongoing basis – how to express emotions, how to communicate to fellow players as well as the audience are two examples. The third is spatial or creative intelligence or ‘artistic genius’. The stage, theatre or creative space is a three-dimensional canvas for this genius to be explored. Fourthly, physical intelligence can be seen in people who learn by doing or ‘hands on’ learners – the essence of which may be seen in Peter Slade’s quotation above. The fifth – intrapersonal intelligence, otherwise know as emotional intelligences (EQ) or intuition. The drama class nurtures people’s ability to think for themselves. It also encourages the sixth, interpersonal intelligence, the genius found in people who can talk easily with others. The seventh and final intelligence named by Gardener is environmental: the genius that allows a person to relate to the natural world around them. This is effectively incorporated into lessons through imagination games and the use of the senses.

Through making the drama lesson accessible by appealing to all these different intelligences, the learner can be brought closer to realising their full potential because drama is such an effective means of bringing out the strengths of the individual for the benefit of self and society. In order to optimise this, the drama class will become a play area where learning takes place.

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