ERIC Identifier: ED410226
Publication Date: 1996-09-00
Author: Brualdi, Amy C.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation Washington
Multiple Intelligences: Gardner's Theory. ERIC Digest.
Arguing that "reason, intelligence, logic, knowledge are not synonymous...," Howard Gardner (1983) proposed a new view of intelligence that is rapidly
being incorporated in school curricula. In his Theory of Multiple Intelligences,
Gardner expanded the concept of intelligence to also include such areas
as music, spacial relations, and interpersonal knowledge in addition to
mathematical and linguistic ability.
This digest discusses the origins of Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences,
his definition of intelligence, the incorporation of the Theory of Multiple
Intelligences into the classroom, and its role in alternative assessment
Gardner defines intelligence as "the capacity to solve problems or to fashion
products that are valued in one or more cultural setting" (Gardner & Hatch, 1989). Using biological as well as cultural research, he formulated
a list of seven intelligences. This new outlook on intelligence differs
greatly from the traditional view which usually recognizes only two intelligences,
verbal and computational. The seven intelligences Gardner defines are:
Logical-Mathematical Intelligence--consists of the ability to
detect patterns, reason deductively and think logically. This intelligence
is most often associated with scientific and mathematical thinking.
Linguistic Intelligence--involves having a mastery of language. This
intelligence includes the ability to effectively manipulate language to
express oneself rhetorically or poetically. It also allows one to use language
as a means to remember information.
Spatial Intelligence--gives one the ability to manipulate and create
mental images in order to solve problems. This intelligence is not limited
to visual domains--Gardner notes that spatial intelligence is also formed
in blind children.
Musical Intelligence--encompasses the capability to recognize and compose
musical pitches, tones, and rhythms. (Auditory functions are required for
a person to develop this intelligence in relation to pitch and tone, but
it is not needed for the knowledge of rhythm.)
Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence--is the ability to use one's mental
abilities to coordinate one's own bodily movements. This intelligence challenges
the popular belief that mental and physical activity are unrelated.
The Personal Intelligences--includes interpersonal feelings and intentions
of others--and intrapersonal intelligence--the ability to understand one's
own feelings and motivations. These two intelligences are separate from
each other. Nevertheless, because of their close association in most cultures,
they are often linked together.
Although the intelligences are anatomically separated from each other,
Gardner claims that the seven intelligences very rarely operate independently.
Rather, the intelligences are used concurrently and typically complement
each other as individuals develop skills or solve problems. For example,
a dancer can excel in his art only if he has 1) strong musical intelligence
to understand the rhythm and variations of the music, 2) interpersonal
intelligence to understand how he can inspire or emotionally move his audience
through his movements, as well as 3) bodily-kinesthetic intelligence to
provide him with the agility and coordination to complete the movements
BASIS FOR INTELLIGENCE
Gardner argues that there is both a biological and cultural basis for the
multiple intelligences. Neurobiological research indicates that learning
is an outcome of the modifications in the synaptic connections between
cells. Primary elements of different types of learning are found in particular
areas of the brain where corresponding transformations have occurred. Thus,
various types of learning results in synaptic connections in different
areas of the brain. For example, injury to the Broca's area of the brain
will result in the loss of one's ability to verbally communicate using
proper syntax. Nevertheless,this injury will not remove the patient's understanding
of correct grammar and word usage.
In addition to biology, Gardner (1983) argues that culture also
plays a large role in the development of the intelligences. All societies
value different types of intelligences. The cultural value placed upon
the ability to perform certain tasks provides the motivation to become
skilled in those areas. Thus, while particular intelligences might be highly
evolved in many people of one culture, those same intelligences might not
be as developed in the individuals of another.
USING MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES IN THE CLASSROOM
Accepting Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences has several implications
for teachers in terms of classroom instruction. The theory states that
all seven intelligences are needed to productively function in society.
Teachers, therefore, should think of all intelligences as equally important.
This is in great contrast to traditional education systems which typically
place a strong emphasis on the development and use of verbal and mathematical
intelligences. Thus, the Theory of Multiple Intelligences implies that
educators should recognize and teach to a broader range of talents and
Another implication is that teachers should structure the presentation
of material in a style which engages most or all of the intelligences.
For example, when teaching about the revolutionary war, a teacher can show
students battle maps, play revolutionary war songs, organize a role play
of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and have the students
read a novel about life during that period. This kind of presentation not
only excites students about learning, but it also allows a teacher to reinforce
the same material in a variety of ways. By activating a wide assortment
of intelligences, teaching in this manner can facilitate a deeper understanding
of the subject material.
Everyone is born possessing the seven intelligences. Nevertheless, all
students will come into the classroom with different sets of developed
intelligences. This means that each child will have his own unique set
of intellectual strengths and weaknesses. These sets determine how easy
(or difficult) it is for a student to learn information when it is presented
in a particular manner. This is commonly referred to as a learning style.
Many learning styles can be found within one classroom. Therefore, it is
impossible, as well as impractical, for a teacher to accommodate every
lesson to all of the learning styles found within the classroom. Nevertheless
the teacher can show students how to use their more developed intelligences
to assist in the understanding of a subject which normally employs their
weaker intelligences (Lazear, 1992). For example, the teacher can suggest
that an especially musically intelligent child learn about the revolutionary
war by making up a song about what happened.
TOWARDS A MORE AUTHENTIC ASSESSMENT
As the education system has stressed the importance of developing mathematical
and linguistic intelligences, it often bases student success only on the
measured skills in those two intelligences. Supporters of Gardner's Theory
of Multiple Intelligences believe that this emphasis is unfair. Children
whose musical intelligences are highly developed, for example, may be overlooked
for gifted programs or may be placed in a special education class because
they do not have the required math or language scores. Teachers must seek
to assess their students' learning in ways which will give an accurate
overview of the their strengths and weaknesses.
As children do not learn in the same way, they cannot be assessed
in a uniform fashion. Therefore, it is important that a teacher create
an "intelligence profiles" for each student. Knowing how each student learns
will allow the teacher to properly assess the child's progress (Lazear,
1992). This individualized evaluation practice will allow a teacher to
make more informed decisions on what to teach and how to present information.
Traditional tests (e.g., multiple choice, short answer, essay...) require
students to show their knowledge in a predetermined manner. Supporters
of Gardner's theory claim that a better approach to assessment is to allow
students to explain the material in their own ways using the different
intelligences. Preferred assessment methods include student portfolios,
independent projects, student journals, and assigning creative tasks. An
excellent source for a more in-depth discussion on these different evaluation
practices is Lazear (1992).
Schools have often sought to help students develop a sense of accomplishment
and self-confidence. Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences provides
a theoretical foundation for recognizing the different abilities and talents
of students. This theory acknowledges that while all students may not be
verbally or mathematically gifted, children may have an expertise in other
areas, such as music, spatial relations, or interpersonal knowledge. Approaching
and assessing learning in this manner allows a wider range of students
to successfully participate in classroom learning.
Gardner, H. (1983). Frames
of Mind. New York: Basic Books Inc.
Gardner, H. (1991) The
unschooled mind: how children think and how schools should teach. New
York: Basic Books Inc.
Gardner, H., & Hatch, T. (1989). Multiple intelligences go to school:
Educational implications of the theory of multiple intelligences. Educational
Researcher, 18(8), 4-9.
Kornhaber, M., & Gardner, H. (1993, March). Varieties of excellence:
identifying and assessing children's talents. A series on authentic assessment
and accountability. New York: Columbia University, Teachers College, National
Center for Restructuring Education, Schools, and Teaching. (ED 363 396)
Lazear, David. (1991). Seven ways of teaching: The artistry of teaching
with multiple intelligences. Palatine, IL: IRI Skylight Publishing Inc.
(ED 382 374) (highly recommended)
Lazear, David (1992). Teaching
for Multiple Intelligences. Fastback 342 Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta
Kappan Educational Foundation. (ED 356 227) (highly recommended)
Martin, W.C. (1995, March). Assessing multiple intelligences. Paper
presented at the meeting of the International Conference on Educational
Assessment, Ponce, PR. (ED 385 368)