1. Talent-based learning

1.1- Our knowledge about the brain

The latest discoveries in Cognitive Science and Neuroscience revealed that we have physically and genetically different brains. Moreover, they disclosed that our life experiences and how we record our memories influence brain development and operation. Both findings, neurodiversity and neuroplasticity, proved that we do not learn in the same way.

1.2-Historical unidimensional intelligence perspective

However, throughout history, we have assessed people’s minds from a unidimensional perspective. The Intellectual Coefficient test (IQ) of the psychologist Alfred Binet became a valued “scientific” quantitative tool of pupil’s intelligence and academic success in 1905. Since then, similar tests such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) punctuate verbal and mathematics skills to classify people on an intellectual scale. This method has worked well for some students and elite academic institutions. Nevertheless, it does not consider the wide range of cognitive styles (neurodiversity), excluding equally apt students outstanding in other areas.

That is because, traditionally, the occidental culture has valued mathematical logic and language above other subjects. Besides, it held the IQ test in high regard. Consequently, intelligence was considered the ability to solve problems, like the presented in IQ test, find an answer to specific questions and learn new content quickly and efficiently. Furthermore, it was treated as an innate attribute, practically invariable with age, training or experience (the opposite that neuroplasticity has determined). As a result, schools have offered a closed curriculum, fact-focus, and periodical standard exams.

1.3-Theory of Multiple Intelligences

In 1983, despite the extended uniform school vision, the evolution psychologist Howard Gardner and his Project Zero Harvard research group put on the table the Multiple Intelligences Theory (IM) with the publication of Frames of Mind. This pluralist mind perspective theory identifies a set of intelligence that everyone possesses in different amounts. When one or two prevail, we call them talents. Therefore, it considers that we are the compound of our bits of intelligence, which are understood like our abilities to solve problems or mobilize knowledge to construct a valuable cultural product for our society. As well as, a means of expression.

1.3.1- The eight intelligences 

Visual-Spatial: People strong in this intelligence is more aware of images and objects properties in our environment: shapes, colours, patterns, designs and textures. They usually enjoy jigsaw puzzles, reading maps and finding their way around new places. They also fancy drawing, painting, working with clay, constructions or fabric. They think forming mental pictures. Consequently, it is easy for them to imagine, visualize and pretend.

Naturalistic: A naturalistic inclined person interprets the events in our natural world skilfully: discern and classify different spices, read the weather, have an affinity with animals, and admire and respect all living beings. They have fun spending time outdoors and collecting natural objects, among others.

Musical: Those keen on musical intelligence are sensitive to sounds of our daily life and are likely to recognize the tones and the musical instruments of a composition, identify and reproduce rhythmic patterns and musical sentences, etc. They love listening to different music styles, singing, playing instruments, etc. Moreover, music may affect their emotions, facial expressions and movements more than others.

Logical-Mathematical: This intelligence facilitates the understanding of numbers, math, logic, patterns and relationships. It goes from concrete to increasingly abstract concepts. Individuals with a developed logical-mathematical intelligence like working with mathematical formulas and operations, solving complex problems or puzzles, conducting experiments, analysing information and asking cosmic questions. They are systematic, organized and their thoughts’ and actions’ arguments are rationales.

Body-Kinaesthetic: People with this intelligence as strength have a sharp sense of body awareness and exceptional body language. Generally, they learn better after seeing someone modelling the task and when actively involved in it. They adore physical movement: dancing, role playing, inventing things with their hands, etc.

Verbal-Linguistic: A verbal-linguistic minded person is marvellous at language comprehension through reading, writing and speaking. They relish literature, creative writing, debating with people, learning new words and linguistically based humour. They think in words, thus expressing their self precisely.

Intrapersonal: This intelligence involves self-reflective skills that allow managing our emotions, values, beliefs and spirituality. For intrapersonal people, it is important to know the significance, meaning and purpose of things. Also, to be in tune with their inner world. They are creative, and although they are good at advising others, they appreciate some solo time.

Interpersonal: Those who have acute interpersonal intelligence have excellent social abilities: efficient communication, empathy, mediation, deal closing, conflict resolution, etc. Habitually, they have a lot of friends, enjoy teamwork and are great group members. They learn through personal interactions.

1.3.2- Intelligence development

As pointed before, every human shows independently of their education or cultural support, nuclear skills related to each intelligence at a basic level. For that reason, they are considered universal. Yet, the intellectual potential that people reach is tightly linked with their training and cultural environment. But, which is the natural growth of an intelligence?

The natural evolution of each intelligence begins with a row modelling ability, a universal skill manifested during the first year of a person’s life, such as discerning the different sounds of a language. In the next stage, children develop, and posterior will show, their intelligence through the acquisition of a symbolic system, for instance, oral communication and storytelling (linguistic intelligence). Then, through formal education, they learn the notational system linked to its symbolic. Carrying on with the previous illustration, literacy and literature. Finally, teenagers and adults can express their intelligence through their vocational careers or hobbies. In due course, ideally, the imaginary person of the example would end up performing as a writer, librarian, journalist, TV or radio announcer, speech pathologist, politician or lawyer, among others.

1.3.3- Talent Promotion benefits

The combination of our intelligences make us unique. If we value this diversity, bringing into play all the human abilities, not only individuals would feel better themselves and more qualified, but they would also feel more compromised and capable of collaborating with others to achieve the common good. In other words, when people reach their vocational goals, adjusted to their strengths and constraints, they feel supported and more engaged, therefore more likely to assist society constructively. To sum up, we need people doing what they do best: being themselves.

1.4-A good practice: The Talents Project in Escola El Pla

El Pla is a public primary school located in Salt (Spain) with the 98% of pupils with Catalan, Spanish or both as second language. The necessities of its pupils made the management board reorganize the school schedule from structured lessons in the morning to gradually hands-on activities in the afternoon. Accordingly, one afternoon per week, they conduct the Talents project. This project offers a wide variety of workshops, representative of the teacher’s talents and the IM, that children choose concerning their strengths, passions and interests. For example, cooking, sewing, gardening, arts and craft, etc. These workshops contribute to overcoming the language barrier, mobilize scholars’ knowledge and allow children to express and nourish their intelligences.