When I was at school, the vast majority of our learning was “curriculum material” – English, maths, science, and so on. These days, though, the teaching encompasses areas that may not be part of the typical curriculum. Take “I accept your apology,” for example – I remember being informed by a grave-faced 6 year old that you should NEVER say “That’s okay” when someone apologises, because it WASN’T okay at all when they did it. This is the overt discussion that is helping our children to interact better with others and become more confident in those interactions and more assertive in their relationships..
Leading on from this, Biggie’s class’s main focus for the term is “How we learn”. They’ve been talking overtly about how they approach tasks, as well as more explicit discussion about learning. Last week, she came home with a set of categories that describe the way children learn – clearly based on Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences.
Gardner, a professor of education at Harvard, believed that traditional definitions of intelligence were too limited. He suggested a set of seven different types of intelligence:
- Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence
- Interpersonal intelligence
- Intrapersonal intelligence
- Logical-mathematical intelligence
- Musical intelligence
- Spatial intelligence
- Verbal or Linguistic intelligence
Later, Gardner suggested an eighth intelligence be added to the set:
- Naturalistic intelligence
There is also discussion of a possible ninth “Existentialist” intelligence – defined as “asking the big questions”. In the classroom, this led to the following conversation:
L (child in the class): “Why are we even learning about
Biggie (smartass in the making): “If you ask that, then you
are an existentialist learner.”
Now, I’m a novice at Gardner and at educational psychology, but it is interesting to apply Gardner’s theories to games – more specifically, to classify games into these ‘intelligence’ categories. This may also help to suggest why some people are naturally drawn to games where others lack interest, and why different gamers are drawn to different types of game.
These people learn best by using their body. This is the home of dexterity games – Make ‘n’ Break, Bamboleo, Tier auf Tier, Carabande, Hamsterrolle. Also of children’s games like Dancing Eggs and Balance. This is a very under-represented part of Fraser’s and my games collection, and one which I’m trying to build up at the moment.
This category is concerned with the ability of the individual to relate to others – to “understand the intentions, motivations and desires of other people.” I think this is the province of co-operative games (including those with a traitor, like Shadows over Camelot) as well as ‘psychology’ games like Werewolf. This is also where the diplomacy elements in negotiation and alliance-building games like Diplomacy belongs.
This is the ability to understand yourself and your own motivations and desires. It’s also my stumbling block – I can’t think of a single game that you play with yourself in order to get to know yourself better! Except for working out whether you cheat, that is …
According to Gardner, this ability enables someone to detect patterns, reason deductively and think logically. As well as games addressing direct mathematical concepts like Halli Galli and Plus and Minus, the deductive quality of this ‘intelligence’ includes games like Cluedo (Clue) or Mystery of the Abbey.
This is the intelligence associated with recognising musical notes and patterns. I found it hard to identify games in this domain, but I think that listening games like Igloo Pop and Hear ‘n’ Seek probably fit this category. Musical trivia games would also suit this category.
This is the ability to recognise and use patterns. I’d say that Carcassonne and other tile-laying games fit this category very clearly. Other games that include a spatial element include movement planning games like The Amazing Labyrinth and Fearsome Floors as well as games with limited playing area like Princes of Florence. And I think this is also the place for Blink and Set. (Is it also the place for Settlers? I think so)
Verbal or linguistic intelligence
It’s easy to find games that explore verbal or linguistic intelligence. Apples to Apples, Attribut, Scrabble, Boggle, Scattergories spring to mind immediately, but there are so many word games out there it would take days to list them all.
This is the “nature smarts” intelligence, and seems to be less clearly defined than the other intelligences that Gardner identifies. I can think of games with a theme of nature, but I’m drawing a blank in identifying games that actually apply the skills of naturalistic intelligence (“a proficiency in identifying, understanding, organizing, and classifying patterns in the natural environment or the plant, animal and human world.”) – and I need to read more about this intelligence to see whether general classification and organisation skills are included here (and, if so, what its relation to logical/mathematical intelligence would be). It's possible that the "guess the animal's bottom" game that I picked up today (Popolino, from Selecta - not yet on the 'Geek) might fit this category.
The ability to be sensitive to, or have the capacity for, conceptualizing or tackling deeper or larger questions about human existence, such as the meaning of life, why are we born, why do we die, what is consciousness, or how did we get here. Again, I’m not sure that this is reflected in any games – or maybe I’m playing the wrong kids of games!
Of course, individual games don’t belong to one category exclusively. I proposed Apples to Apples as a verbal/linguistic game, but it’s definitely also a game of interpersonal skills, guessing which card the judge will pick. Similarly, Attribut is a verbal/linguistic game with bodily-kinaesthetic elements (grabbing the card first) as well as interpersonal elements. Make ‘n’ Break involves pattern recognition (spatial) as well as dexterity (bodily/kinaesthetic skills) and many games involve interpersonal skills, not only in negotiating but also in predicting what others will do.
Sources & Further reading: