Multiple Intelligences: Gardner's Theory
by Amy C. Brualdi
Gardner defines intelligence as "the capacity to solve problems or
to fashion products that are valued in one or more cultural setting"
(Gardner and 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
- 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 activities are
- 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 result 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
skills. Another implication is that teachers should structure the presentation
of material in a style that 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.
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