The theory of multiple intelligences suggests that there are a number of distinct forms of intelligence that each individual possesses in varying degrees. Gardner proposes seven primary forms: linguistic, musical, logical-mathematical, spatial, body-kinesthetic, intrapersonal (e.g., insight, metacognition) and interpersonal (e.g., social skills).
According to Gardner , the implication of the theory is that learning/teaching should focus on the particular intelligences of each person. For example, if an individual has strong spatial or musical intelligences, they should be encouraged to develop these abilities. Gardner points out that the different intelligences represent not only different content domains but also learning modalities. A further implication of the theory is that assessment of abilities should measure all forms of intelligence, not just linguistic and logical-mathematical.
Gardner also emphasizes the cultural context of multiple intelligences. Each culture tends to emphasize particular intelligences. For example, Gardner (1983) discusses the high spatial abilities of the Puluwat people of the Caroline Islands, who use these skills to navigate their canoes in the ocean. Gardner also discusses the balance of personal intelligences required in Japanese society.
The theory of multiple intelligences has been focused mostly on child development although it applies to all ages. While there is no direct empirical support for the theory, Gardner (1983) presents evidence from many domains including biology, anthropology, and the creative arts and Gardner (1993a) discusses application of the theory to school programs. Gardner (1982, 1993b) explores the implications of the framework for creativity (see also Marks-Tarlow, 1995).
Gardner (1983, p 390) describes how learning to program a computer might involve multiple intelligences:
"Logical-mathematical intelligence seems central, because programming depends upon the deployment of strict procedures to solve a problem or attain a goal in a finite number of steps. Linguistic intelligence is also relevant, at least as long as manual and computer languages make use of ordinary language...an individual with a strong musical bent might best be introduced to programming by attempting to program a simple musical piece (or to master a program that composes). An individual with strong spatial abilities might be initiated through some form of computer graphics -- and might be aided in the task of programming through the use of a flowchart or some other spatial diagram. Personal intelligences can play important roles. The extensive planning of steps and goals carried out by the individual engaged in programming relies on intrapersonal forms of thinking, even as the cooperation needed for carrying a complex task or for learning new computational skills may rely on an individual's ability to work with a team. Kinesthetic intelligence may play a role in working with the computer itself, by facilitating skill at the terminal..."
1. Individuals should be encouraged to use their preferred intelligences in learning.
2. Instructional activities should appeal to different forms of intelligence.
3. Assessment of learning should measure multiple forms of intelligence.
Gardner, H. (1982). Art, Mind and Brain. New York: Basic Books.
Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of Mind. New York: Basic Books.
Gardner, H. (1993a). Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice. NY: Basic Books.
Gardner, H. (1 993b). Creating Minds. NY: Basic Books.
Marks-Tarlow, T. (1995). Creativity inside out: Learning through multiple intelligences. Reading , MA: Addison-Wesley.
To learn more about Gardner's work, see his homepage
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