Theories of Intelligence in Transformative Learning

Intelligence, as a concept, has become a topic for many debates providing ground for new ideas in psychology. The very notion of intelligence is a point of controversy as there are various definitions, and each of them focuses on different topics. Some researchers suggest that intelligence is a general ability to think logically, while others debate that this idea is too limited. Thus, several different approaches were brought by such researchers as Gardner, Sternberg, Goleman. They focused on the topics of human emotions, experience, and abilities that play a role in the way people think and act. These theories may have great potential when integrated with learning activities and may teach students to explore their strengths and weaknesses.

First of all, different approaches to intelligence may be integrated into the process of transformative learning. According to Merriam and Bierema (2013, para. 23), it concerns “change in perspective usually at the individual level, but sometimes with an added goal of changing an organization or society itself.” A learning goal or a purpose of transformative learning lies in the reinterpretation of one’s experience.

While coherently presenting their own ideas, learners also receive new information and reevaluate their worldview with critical reflection. It means that the topic for learning activity should involve a debatable issue where learners may apply their personal experience as a basis for discussion. For example, the subject may concern “ecological changes” as a global problem that involves both individual and social perspectives. Theories of intelligence may be combined in the activity as they show the difference in learners’ ways of processing information.

One possible way of conducting such activity may be a debate or discussion, where students present their ideas and argue over some topic. The already mentioned topic of “ecological changes” provides a suitable ground for various activities. For example, a learning activity may be conducted in the form of a conference. Each of the participants may represent a single country, but it would be better for the participants to work in small groups in order to assess not only themselves but also their peers. The idea of the assignment is to present the state of the ecological situation in one’s country and discuss the countermeasures applied.

In conclusion, the respondent may include their personal experience of contribution to environmental protection. The others may criticize the ideas of the respondent or share their thoughts on the matter. The assignment follows the principles of transformative learning described by Merriam and Biereme (2013). Participants are forced to explore the unusual situation relying on their experience, and, as a result, their worldview may change.

Such learning activity may provide a chance for each learner to explore their natural strengths. Personal experience may be applied while preparing for the answer, and participants may choose any form of presentation in order to provide the best result. For example, the reports may involve PowerPoint presentations, clips from documentaries, compiled data tables, pictures, or employ musical ambiance. According to the theories of intelligence, different participants choose different forms of answers that reflect their personal experiences. It is essential for respondents to feel comfortable during the response and employ their natural strengths.

The instructional approach should be indirect, and the teacher only monitors the progress acting as the facilitator. The teacher’s main task during such learning activity is to observe and investigate the answers of respondents and to create the necessary atmosphere for the debate. The teacher’s knowledge or personal experience may be required to instigate the discussion. As for the assessment methods, it would be better for the participants to ask the other students to enter the debate.

The exchange of experiences and ideas contributes to the natural growth and the shift in one’s worldview, which is the main idea of transformative learning. Participants may as well prepare quizzes for their reports if it is necessary to provide some background knowledge. As for the teacher, it is important not to criticize respondents but to force them into the prolonged discussion and present their personal opinions.

It would be appropriate for the accommodations to hold the conference in the classroom equipped with computers and projectors necessary for presentations. It may also contain a whiteboard for various notes or graphs. However, today all the presentations may be shown online with special programs’ help. Participants may use notes, but it would be better to prompt a debate based on participants’ personal experiences.

The learning activity of “conference” provides a way for students to evaluate their answers compared to the other respondents. From the emotional intelligence theory perspective, the learners working in groups may assess their social skills and see how well they manage relationships and build networks. Such work towards the common goal may bring together people who otherwise would have never approached each other. Practical intelligence may also be traced in the way learners share their personal experiences.

There is no need for them to rehearse the answer for this type of question, as they share their personal thoughts and ideas. Finally, multiple intelligence theory has also found its way into the activity, as all the learners may present information in the most suitable way. Students themselves provide different situations during the learning activity where the learning process may be achieved through visual, verbal, musical, and other types of intelligence. Thus, combining these theories in the described activity may provide valuable experience both to teachers and students.


Merriam, S. B., & Bierema, L. L. (2013). Adult learning: Linking theory and practice. Wiley. Web.

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PsychologyWriting. "Theories of Intelligence in Transformative Learning." January 25, 2023.