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 practices.
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 successfully.
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.
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).
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)
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