Understanding Adult Learning Theories

AMTA's Master the Classroom online course "Building Blocks: Basics of Effective Teaching" provides an overview of learning theories and principles as they apply to the adult learner, crucial knowledge for any effective massage therapy educator. Lessons cover foundational and theoretical material including theories of learning, learning styles, learning strategies, collaborative learning techniques, and motivational theories of learning. Check out one popular theory: multiple intelligences.

Howard Gardner, PhD’s Multiple Intelligence Theory

Gardner’s research on multiple intelligences is one way to look at learning preferences. Gardner expanded the definition of intelligence. His work has influenced how many people approach teaching. The traditional IQ definition of intelligence characterizes intelligence as something that is singular, genetically based and predictable (from a young age). In other words, we are stuck with what we are born with and there is little, if anything, we can do to change it.

Gardner’s research countered this idea with a view that intelligence is multi-faceted and malleable. Gardner’s expanded idea of intelligence divides intelligence into eight categories and proposes that each person may have a number of different intelligences. These different intelligences or learning styles/abilities are another way to look at how to meet the needs of your students.

Gardner’s Eight Categories of Intelligence[1]


Core components

Teaching Strategies


Use of language—sensitive to sounds, ability to manipulative words

Use writing, journaling, discussions


Use of mathematics—ability to use logical or numerical patterns

Use problem-solving, critical thinking


Sensitive to the spatial world—ability to perceive, create patterns and images

Use of visualization, mind-mapping


Body movement—ability to control body movements skillfully

Use of tactile and hands on activities


Ability to produce and appreciate rhythm, pitch timbre and forms of musical expression

Integration of music and sound into activities


Relates to people

Use cooperative learning and social activities


Self-understanding—knowledge of one’s own strengths and weaknesses

Use of individual instruction and independent study opportunities


Understanding of nature. Ability to make distinctions in the natural world

Use of activities that relate to the natural world and biological sciences


AMTA's online courses are a convenient and cost-effective resource for gaining knowledge to better lead your school. Check out all of AMTA's online learning solutions

| Share

"Being a member of AMTA has totally opened my business and career wide open."

Kelly L., AMTA member since 2010

We are AMTA

AMTA has long been the leading choice among massage therapists looking to establish themselves within the profession. We provide our members with the strongest benefits and promote massage therapy to the public and health care community.

Learn more

Contact us
500 Davis Street, Suite 900 Evanston, IL 60201 1-877-905-0577 8am–5:30pm CST M–F
Contact us
Stay connected

Read mtj »