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A ‘Holistic’ Curriculum at Wycombe Abbey

School News September 27, 2021
A ‘Holistic’ Curriculum at Wycombe Abbey

The theory of ‘Multiple Intelligences’ was first proposed by the American psychologist Howard Gardner in his book “Frames of Mind” in 1983. Howard Gardner is currently a leading Research Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Gardner’s theory challenged the notion that there only exists one form of intelligence, a general intelligence, often linked with logical abilities and scored as ‘IQ’. Gardner proposed there are instead a number of spheres of intelligence, none necessarily of greater importance than any other.

In many independent schools in the UK, Gardner’s theories have now been accepted as the educational model, because it allows educationalists to take all forms of intelligence as seriously as any other, so there is no definitive scale of intelligence and children can be nurtured and praised for different forms of learning and development across many fields.

 Gardner suggests there are at least eight forms of intelligence:

Linguistic

Logical

Spatial

Kinesthetic

Musical

Interpersonal

Intrapersonal

Naturalistic

This approach in education is often referred to as the ‘holistic’ approach, a word embraced by Wycombe Abbey as we seek to develop children in a multi-dimensional way.

Traditionally, it was the first two categories (linguistic and logical) which were put on a pedestal in schools. Linguistic and logical intelligence is generally manifested in subjects like Reading, Writing and Mathematics, and it was the students who excelled in these who used to be classed as the ‘brightest’ or ‘smartest’. However, with the notion of ‘multiple intelligences’, teachers had to re-think their definitions of ‘bright’ and ‘smart’ as intelligence suddenly took on a much wider definition.

By placing all these intelligences on an equal footing, teachers can nurture and develop all aspects of the student’s character, endeavouring to enrich the child holistically across all disciplines.

In the UK, a child who has developed holistically, is often termed a ‘well-rounded’ individual, showing that he/she has skills, knowledge and experience in many fields - academic, physical social and more. And it is precisely this type of student who is the most appealing to international universities as they seek to recruit young people who can contribute to every aspect of university life, whether it is on the sports field, on the stage, in a research laboratory or on the student council.

In the Primary School at Wycombe Abbey, we are very proud of our diverse and colourful curriculum which has been designed specifically to develop children in a holistic way. Along with the core-curricular subjects of English, Chinese and Maths, which greatly enhance linguistic and logical thinking, there are also the subjects of Science, Moral Education (PSHE) and Topic which lean towards the naturalistic, interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligences. In addition, Physical Education and Music involve the kinesthetic, spatial and musical forms of intelligence. The remaining subjects of Art, DT and ICT often combine spatial and logical thinking.

On top of these, we offer a vast array of ECAs (extra-curricular activities), which will help nurture any one of these spheres of intelligence. For example, chess club and board games club will no doubt develop the logical and spatial intelligences in the student, whereas rollerblading, fencing and golf will predominantly be developing kinesthetic and spatial awareness. Creative story writing, on the other hand, will not only help develop linguistic awareness, but also expand interpersonal and intrapersonal thinking, as the students consider plot, character and motivation in their stories.

Children’s development remains the most fascinating and rewarding part of our profession as educators, and at Wycombe Abbey we see every student first and foremost as an individual who needs an education specifically personalized to his/her needs and requirements on the long and exciting journey of learning.

By drawing on the theory of multiple intelligences, we are able to nurture every aspect of the student’s educational growth, with the sole aim of developing happy, fulfilled students who walk with a smile and a spring in their step.

Photographs from Marketing…

Linguistic

(picture of reading)

Logical

(maths picture)

Spatial

(rugby)

Kinesthetic

(running)

Musical

(orchestra -musicians)

Interpersonal

(play time)

Intrapersonal

(drama)

Naturalist

(planting trees/painting flowers)

*The theory of ‘Multiple Intelligences’ was first proposed by the American psychologist Howard Gardner in his book “Frames of Mind” in 1983. Howard Gardner is currently a leading Research Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.)