An Introduction to the Multiple Intelligence Theory
††††††††† In 1983 a psychologist from Harvard named Howard Gardner challenged the commonly held belief that intelligence could be measured objectively and reduced to a single number (the IQ score). In his book Frames of Mind, he proposed that our culture defines intelligence too narrowly, and suggested that there are at least seven basic intelligences Gardner delineated. He has since added an eighth and is exploring a ninth intelligence. Gardner has worked to broaden the scope of individual potential beyond the traditional IQ measurement. He suggests that human intelligence has more to do with problem solving capacity in the real world than a single test situation can demonstrate. Gardner established certain basic criteria for each intelligence to distinguish from simply a talent or aptitude. A brief overview of each of the intelligences proposed by Gardner will follow.
The ability to use words effectively through writing or in oral format. This intelligence includes the ability to manipulate language structure or syntax, semantics or meaning of language, language sounds or phonology and the practical/pragmatic uses of language.
The ability to reason well and to use numbers effectively. It includes an understanding of logical patterns, functions, abstractions, as well as statements and propositions (if-then, cause-effect).
The ability to use oneís hands to produce or transform things, or to use the whole body to express ideas and feelings. This intelligence encompasses specific physical skills like balance, coordination, dexterity, strength, flexibility, speed, as well as proprioceptive and tactile capabilities.
The capacity to perceive the visual-spatial environment accurately and to use the capacity to transform those perceptions. It involves sensibilities regarding color, line, shape, form, space and the relationship of all of those elements.
The ability to perceive, transform, discriminate and express musical forms. It includes sensibility about the pitch, rhythm, melody, tone or timbre of a musical piece.
The ability to perceive and distinguish the moods, intentions, motivations, and feelings of other people. This implies sensitivity to facial expressions, voice, and gestures that allow the individual to respond in a pragmatic way (influence a group of people to follow a specific course of action).
The capacity for self-knowledge and the ability to act in an adaptive way based on that knowledge. It implies a capacity for having an accurate picture of oneself, an awareness of inner moods, intentions, motivations, and having self-discipline, self-knowledge and self-esteem.
The ability to recognize numerous species in an individualís environment and to classify them. It includes the observation of other natural phenomena and in an urban environment a sensitivity to discriminate among nonliving forms like trucks, cars and brands.
Why is an understanding of Gardnerís theory of Multiple Intelligenceís important?
In any given classroom there are children who learn best by using the variety of intelligences listed above. A traditional classroom is heavily weighted towards those students whose strongest intelligence is Linguistic or Logical-Mathematical. In a classroom where a teacher incorporates all of the multiple intelligences while teaching a subject it is more likely the students will absorb the information. This is especially true of ďat riskĒ students who do not perform well in a traditional classroom. Thomas Armstrong provides good information on teaching strategies for the multiple intelligences in his book Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom (Armstrong, 2000). Much of the information presented above can be found in his book in much greater detail. He encourages us to remember that all students, all people, have all of the multiple intelligences. The issue for classroom teachers is that all children have some intelligence that is stronger or weaker than others, and we should teach so all children can learn in their strongest intelligence.
Books for further study on the Howard Gardnerís Multiple Intelligences Theory:
Gardner, H. (1982). Art, Mind and Brain. New York:† Basic Books.
Gardner, H. (1989). To Open Minds. New York: Basic Books.
Gardner, H. (1991). The Unschooled Mind. New York: Basic Books.
Gardner, H. (1999). The Well Disciplined Mind: What All Students Should Understand.
†††††††††††† New York: Simon and Schuster.