is the theory of multiple intelligences (M.I.)?
Howard Gardner claims that all human beings have
multiple intelligences. These multiple intelligences
can be nurtured and strengthened, or ignored and weakened.
He believes each individual has nine intelligences:
Intelligence -- well-developed verbal skills and
sensitivity to the sounds, meanings and rhythms of
Intelligence -- ability to think conceptually
and abstractly, and capacity to discern logical or
Intelligence -- ability to produce and appreciate
rhythm, pitch and timber
Intelligence -- capacity to think in images and
pictures, to visualize accurately and abstractly
Intelligence -- ability to control one's body
movements and to handle objects skillfully
Intelligence -- capacity to detect and respond
appropriately to the moods, motivations and desires
Intelligence -- capacity to be self-aware and
in tune with inner feelings, values, beliefs and thinking
Intelligence -- ability to recognize and categorize
plants, animals and other objects in nature
Intelligence -- sensitivity and capacity to tackle
deep questions about human existence, such as the
meaning of life, why do we die, and how did we get
defined the first seven intelligences in FRAMES OF
MIND (1983). He added the last two in INTELLIGENCE
REFRAMED (1999). Gardner is a psychologist and Professor
at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education,
as well as Co-Director of Harvard
Based on his study of many people from many different
walks of life in everyday circumstances and professions,
Gardner developed the theory of multiple intelligences.
He performed interviews with and brain research on
hundreds of people, including stroke victims, prodigies,
autistic individuals, and so-called "idiot savants."
According to Gardner,
- All human beings possess all nine intelligences
in varying amounts.
- Each person has a different intellectual composition.
- We can improve education by addressing the multiple
intelligences of our students.
- These intelligences are located in different areas
of the brain and can either work independently or
- These intelligences may define the human species.
To help understand how you learn best, take this
short Multiple Intelligences Self-Inventory. There
are just a few questions to answer, which should take
approximately five minutes to complete.
Click here to see our Multiple
How does this theory differ from the traditional definition
Gardner's multiple intelligences
theory challenged traditional beliefs in the fields
of education and cognitive science.
According to a traditional definition, intelligence
is a uniform cognitive capacity people are born with.
This capacity can be easily measured by short-answer
According to Howard Gardner, intelligence is:
- The ability to create an effective product or
offer a service that is valued in a culture;
- A set of skills that make it possible for a person
to solve problems in life;
- The potential for finding or creating solutions
for problems, which involves gathering new knowledge.
An educational system based on national standards
and efficient, relatively cheap, universal multiple
choice testing is central to the traditional concept
of intelligence. In practice a student's score on
an I.Q.2 test or WISC3 ranks his or her strengths and weaknesses.
It qualifies students for special services (such as
programs for the gifted or for those with learning
disabilities). An unfortunate use of IQ tests in schools
is that it often results in labeling students.
Many educators, researchers, students and parents
have long rejected multiple choice testing as a measure
of intelligence. Multiple intelligence theory has
served as a rallying point for a reconsideration of
the educational practice of the last century.
|Intelligence can be measured
by short-answer tests:
Stanford-Binet Intelligence Quotient
Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISCIV)
Woodcock Johnson test of Cognitive Ability
Scholastic Aptitude Test
Assessment of an individual's
multiple intelligences can foster learning
and problem-solving styles. Short answer
tests are not used because they do not measure
disciplinary mastery or deep understanding.
They only measure rote memorization skills
and one's ability to do well on short answer
tests. Some states have developed tests
that value process over the final answer,
such as PAM (Performance Assessment in Math)
and PAL (Performance Assessment in Language)
People are born with a
fixed amount of intelligence.
Human beings have all of
the intelligences, but each person has a
unique combination, or profile.
Intelligence level does
not change over a lifetime.
We can all improve each
of the intelligences, though some people
will improve more readily in one intelligence
area than in others.
Intelligence consists of
ability in logic and language.
There are many more types
of intelligence which reflect different
ways of interacting with the world
In traditional practice,
teachers teach the same material to everyone.
M.I. pedagogy implies that
teachers teach and assess differently based
on individual intellectual strengths and
Teachers teach a topic
Teachers structure learning
activities around an issue or question and
connect subjects. Teachers develop strategies
that allow for students to demonstrate multiple
ways of understanding and value their uniqueness.
What do multiple
intelligences have to do with my classroom?
There are numerous ways to express oneself, and probably
even more ways to gain knowledge and understand the
universe. Individuals are capable, the theory of multiple
intelligences advocates, of deep understanding and
mastery in the most profound areas of human experience.
Even long before the theory emerged and was named
in 1983 by Howard Gardner, numerous teachers fostered
the intelligences of their students.
Think of it this way: J.K. Rowling, Richard Feynmann,
Lauryn Hill, Julian Schnabel, Mia Hamm, Colin Powell,
Deepak Chopra, Jane Goodall, and Gary Larson are students
on your seating chart.
- J.K. is writing the next Harry Potter adventure
on scraps of paper.
- Richard is daydreaming the equations enabling
a quantum computer.
- Lauryn softly hums the tunes for the sequel to
"The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill."
- Julian has painted brilliant fall leaves on each
- Mia can't wait to get to PE.
- Colin has organized the school's charity fund
- Deepak provides in-class spiritual counseling.
- Jane adds a new animal to the class menagerie
- Gary scrawls witty absurdities in the margins
of his notebook.
The next time you have a chance to reflect on
your class, imagine your students as individuals who
have fully realized and developed their intelligences.
How has M.I. theory developed since it was introduced
Multiple intelligence theory
has evolved and been embraced widely. After the publication
of FRAMES OF MIND in 1983 (See our Resources),
Howard Gardner became a celebrity among many teachers
and school administrators. In addition to writing
many more books and articles on multiple intelligences
theory, Gardner has served as a consultant to a variety
of school districts. The multiple intelligences movement
now includes publishers, symposiums, Web sites, "how-to"
manuals, educational consultants who consider themselves
"M.I. specialists", as well as a number of critics.
Howard Gardner and others have
revised and expanded the theory
Howard Gardner, formulator of the theory, continues
to be its chief spokesperson. He has been acclaimed
as the most influential educational theorist since
Gardner has written and published 18 books and hundreds
of articles. Chief among them are:
- FRAMES OF MIND (1983) introduced the theory of
- THE DISCIPLINED MIND: WHAT ALL STUDENTS SHOULD
UNDERSTAND (1999) proposes a pedagogical approach
centered around profoundly important topics and
shows how they might be taught with a "multiple
- INTELLIGENCE REFRAMED: MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCE FOR
THE 21st CENTURY
(1999) reports on the evolution of and revisions
to the theory of multiple intelligences.
Among the many prominent professors,
teacher educators, consultants and expert teachers
who have made valuable contributions to the field
of multiple intelligences are:
Stephen Jay Gould, Vincent Astor Research
Professor of Biology at NYU, most recently authored
FULL HOUSE: THE SPREAD OF EXCELLENCE FROM PLATO TO
DARWIN. His National Book Award-winning THE
PANDA'S THUMB, and National Critic's Award-winning
THE MISMEASURE OF MAN are among his many other distinguished
works in the areas of science, evolution and human
Robert J. Sternberg, IBM Professor of Psychology
and Education at Yale University proposes a Triarchic
Theory of Intelligence, which is complementary to
M.I. His book in the area of cognitive psychology
is BEYOND IQ: A TRIARCHIC THEORY OF INTELLIGENCE.
Carolyn Chapman is a consultant and trainer
who has authored IF THE SHOE FITS . . . : DEVELOPING
MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES IN THE CLASSROOM and co-authored
MULTIPLE ASSESSMENTS FOR MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES. She
and Lynn Freeman, another consultant, wrote MULTIPLE
INTELLIGENCES CENTERS AND PROJECTS.
Ellen Weber, Director of Secondary Education
at Houghton College, is one of this workshop's experts.
She is the author of recent works STUDENT ASSESSMENT
THAT WORKS: A PRACTICAL APPROACH and ROUNDTABLE LEARNING:
BUILDING UNDERSTANDING THROUGH ENHANCED M.I. STRATEGIES.
Thomas Armstrong is an author and speaker
whose books include MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES IN THE
CLASSROOM, AWAKENING YOUR CHILD'S NATURAL GENIUS,
and AWAKENING GENIUS IN THE CLASSROOM.
Jane Carlson-Pickering developed the M.I.Smart!
Program for the Chariho Regional School District.
She teaches a graduate course about multiple intelligences
at Rhode Island College. She is also one of this workshop's
Countless educators have incorporated
multiple intelligence theory into their work.
The multiple intelligences approach encourages teachers
to regard intellectual ability more broadly. Teachers
are able to see that visual arts, music and dance
can be just as valuable to students' understanding
of the world they live in as traditional academic
subjects. Numerous teachers and administrators have
applied aspects of multiple intelligence theory in
their classrooms and schools.
Through the serious and in-depth study of just a
few subjects, rather than a minimal amount of attention
to many subjects, Howard Gardner believes that students
will develop a passion for exploring truly profound
Click above to view a video
of Howard Gardner talking with students
at the Ross School in
New York about the advantages of a curriculum
The multiple intelligences movement includes book
and software publishers, symposiums, literally thousands
of Web sites (We provide our selected best choices
in the workshop's M.I.Resources
section), "how-to" manuals, and educational consultants.
Who are the
critics of this theory and what do they say?
E.D. Hirsch Jr., author of CULTURAL LITERACY: WHAT
EVERY AMERICAN NEEDS TO KNOW (1988), and others have
argued that multiple intelligence theory doesn't encourage
educators to teach "core knowledge" -- a common collection
of "essential facts that every American needs to know."
Hirsch and Gardner most recently "debated" the state
of education today in the New York Times (9/11/99).
Each submitted an article responding to the issue
of what and how students should be taught. You can
find information about the article in the M.I.
Resources section of this workshop.
Responding to advocates of core cultural knowledge,
Gardner proposes that the K-12 curriculum be organized
around the most fundamental questions of existence.
Possible courses of study that he recommends would
examine in depth profound topics such as Darwin's
theory of evolution and the Holocaust. In his book
THE DISCIPLINED MIND: WHAT ALL STUDENTS SHOULD UNDERSTAND,
Gardner writes, "students should probe with sufficient
depth a manageable set of examples so that they come
to see how one thinks and acts in the manner of a
scientist, a geometer, an artist, an historian."
Advocates of psychometric evaluation who criticize
M.I. include Linda S. Gottfredson, Richard Lynn, Hans
Eysenck, and Charles Murray. Linda Gottfredson, a
sociologist by training, is currently professor of
educational studies at the University of Delaware.
She states that most mainstream psychologists have
concluded that there is such a thing as "g", or general
intelligence. In other words, Gottfredson argues that
all of us do differ in intelligence and this difference
can be scrupulously measured.
Critics of the theory say that:
- It's not new. Critics of multiple intelligence
theory maintain that Gardner's work isn't groundbreaking
-- that what he calls "intelligences" are primary
abilities that educators and cognitive psychologists
have always acknowledged.
- It isn't well defined. Some critics wonder
if the number of "intelligences" will continue to
increase. These opposing theorists believe that
notions such as bodily-kinesthetic or musical ability
represent individual aptitude or talent rather than
intelligence. Critics also believe that M.I. theory
lacks the rigor and precision of a real science.
Gardner claims that it would be impossible to guarantee
a definitive list of intelligences.
- It's culturally embedded. M.I. theory states
that one's culture plays an important role in determining
the strengths and weaknesses of one's intelligences.
Critics counter that intelligence is revealed when
an individual must confront an unfamiliar task in
an unfamiliar environment.
- It defeats National Standards. Widespread
adoption of multiple intelligence pedagogy would
make it difficult to compare and classify students'
skills and abilities across classrooms.
- It is impractical. Educators faced with
overcrowded classrooms and lack of resources see
multiple intelligence theory as utopian.
What are some benefits of using the multiple intelligences
approach in my school?
You may come to regard intellectual ability
more broadly. Drawing a picture, composing, or listening
to music, watching a performance -- these activities
can be a vital door to learning -- as important as
writing and mathematics. Studies show that many students
who perform poorly on traditional tests are turned
on to learning when classroom experiences incorporate
artistic, athletic, and musical activities.
Take music, for example. As educator, David Thornburg
of the Thornburg Institute notes,
"The mood of a piece of music might communicate,
clearer than words, the feeling of an era being studied
in history. The exploration of rhythm can help some
students understand fractions. The exploration of
the sounds of an organ can lead to an understanding
of vibrational modes in physics. What caused the great
scientist Kepler to think of the motions of planets
in musical terms? Astronomy students could program
a synthesizer to play Kepler's 'music of the spheres'
and explore history, science, math and music all at
You will provide opportunities for authentic learning
based on your students' needs, interests and talents.
The multiple intelligence classroom acts like the
"real" world: the author and the illustrator of a
book are equally valuable creators. Students become
more active, involved learners.
and community involvement in your school may increase.
This happens as students demonstrate work before panels
and audiences. Activities involving apprenticeship
learning bring members of the community into the learning
Students will be able to demonstrate
and share their strengths. Building strengths gives
a student the motivation to be a "specialist." This
can in turn lead to increased self-esteem.
When you "teach for understanding,"
your students accumulate positive educational experiences
and the capability for creating solutions to problems
How can applying M.I. theory help students learn better?
Students begin to understand how they are intelligent.
In Gardner's view, learning is both a social and psychological
process. When students understand the balance of their
own multiple intelligences they begin
- To manage their own learning
- To value their individual strengths
Teachers understand how students are intelligent as
well as how intelligent they are. Knowing which students
have the potential for strong interpersonal intelligence,
for example, will help you create opportunities where
the strength can be fostered in others. However, multiple
intelligence theory is not intended to provide teachers
with new IQ-like labels for their students.
Students approach understanding from different angles.
The problem, "What is sand?" has scientific, poetic,
artistic, musical, and geographic points of entry.
Students that exhibit comprehension through rubrics5,
or demonstrations come to have an authentic understanding
of achievement. The accomplishment of the lawyer is
in winning her case through research and persuasive
argument, more than in having passed the bar exam.
Students become balanced individuals who can function
as members of their culture. Classroom activities
that teach to the intelligences foster deep understanding
about the essential questions of life, such as: Where
do we come from? What's the world made of? What have
humans achieved? What can we achieve? How does one
lead a good life?
Howard Gardner asks
students at the Ross School to ponder a question.
How can I find out more about M.I. theory?
There is certainly no shortage of books, articles
and Web sites.
To help you on your journey as you explore this topic
we have compiled an annotated list of M.I.
In addition to participating in this online workshop,
you are encouraged to contact nearby schools that
are already implementing M.I. theory into their programs.
To help find such schools, you can start by contacting
the Department of Education at a local university
Many undergraduate and graduate schools of education
publicize M.I. initiatives on their Web pages.
There are numerous elementary, middle and high schools
- public and private - which focus their Web pages