Multiple Intelligences Research Paper Starter

Multiple Intelligences

Multiple intelligence is a theory developed by Howard Gardner and first published in his 1983 book “Frames of Mind.” This theory views human intelligence as a complex web of abilities that are evident in one's products and preferences for learning. Gardner developed his theory after careful review in various fields that study the values and the potential of mankind. Though Gardner is a psychologist, his theory has been embraced by many educators as an explanation for the many ways their students learn and achieve. They are accordingly adapting classroom instruction so that students can demonstrate their strengths and improve upon their weaknesses.

Keywords Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence; Existential Intelligence; Intelligence Profile; Interpersonal Intelligence; Linguistic Intelligence; Logical-Mathematical Intelligence; Multiple Entry Points; Musical Intelligence; Naturalistic Intelligence; Spatial Intelligence

Educational Theory: Multiple Intelligences


Multiple Intelligences (MI) theory is based on the belief that human beings posses a complex set of abilities beyond what is measured through traditional Intelligence Quotient (IQ). The theory was developed by Howard Gardner in 1983 not as an educational model but as a way to explain the way the mind works. Supporters of the theory believe that intelligence, as it is traditionally defined, does not take into consideration the wide range of abilities human beings use to solve problems. Though the theory has been criticized for having its basis in intuition rather than empirical evidence, Gardner and his supporters argue otherwise. According to Chen (2004) the theory is grounded in comprehensive review of studies in biology, neuropsychology, developmental psychology, and cultural anthropology.

The theory appeals to educators because it articulates what they experience on a daily basis; that students learn and succeed in different ways and have an individual profile of strengths and weaknesses that can be exploited to deliver effective instruction (Moran, Kornhaber, & Gardner, 2006). Key to the application of multiple intelligence theory in the classroom is the intentional use of multiple entry points into instruction and providing students with various ways to show what they have learned.

MI is often confused with the notion of learning styles, which became popular in the 1950's. However, learning styles refers to personality characteristics or preferences that are evident in the process of learning. Intelligence refers to the ability to solve a problem, perform a skill, or deliver a service (Shearer, 2004). Multiple intelligences theory differs from learning styles theory in that both the ability to learn and apply new material in various individualized ways is considered in multiple intelligences theory.

Gardner's Seven Intelligences

Originally, Gardner defined seven key intelligences:

• Linguistic

• Logical-mathematical

• Musical

• Bodily-kinesthetic

• Spatial

• Interpersonal

• Intrapersonal

The first two are those that are traditionally valued in schools. Linguistic intelligence refers to the ability to use words and language and to use language as a means of thinking and learning. Those with a high level of linguistic intelligence may succeed at careers such as writing, teaching, and law. Logical-mathematical intelligence refers to the ability to discern patterns, think logically, and perform mathematical operations. This intelligence is typically associated with mathematical and scientific thinking.

Three of the intelligences are associated with the arts. Musical intelligence involves the ability to express and feel ideas and feelings musically. It includes the ability to recognize and produce a variety of rhythms, tones, and pitches. Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence refers to the ability to use one's body to solve problems and the ability to organize oneself in space, such as in dance. Such learners typically are most comfortable with a hands-on approach rather than lectures. Spatial intelligence is the ability to visualize and use space. Such people are often artistically inclined.

The final two intelligences are described by Gardner (2000) as personal intelligences. They are associated with one's relationship with oneself and others. Interpersonal intelligence is the ability to discern the feelings, desires, and motivations of other people. Counselors, salespeople, and leaders require a strong interpersonal intelligence. Intrapersonal intelligence refers to the understanding of one's self. They are successful with subjects such as philosophy and learn best when given opportunities for careful reflection.

Other Intelligences

In 2000 Gardner described two additional intelligences: naturalistic and existential. People with a high level of naturalistic intelligence have a high level of sensitivity to the natural world and their place within it. They are typically successful with growing and caring for plants and animals. Existential intelligence refers to the understanding of life's profound and universal questions, such as the meaning of life and death. The last two intelligences were not as well accepted as the first seven. Other intelligences suggested by Gardner are moral and spiritual.

Intelligence Integration

Advocates of multiple intelligences claim that every person has all types of intelligence to some degree, and, if given the appropriate environment, can develop their weaker areas to a level of competency. Each type of intelligence functions and interacts within each person in different ways, and the interaction is essential to completing various tasks. For example, to cook a meal, one must use linguistic intelligence to read the cookbook, logical-mathematical to measure the correct portions, and bodily-kinestetic intelligence to mix to the desired consistency.

Gardner did not intend the theory to be used to categorize people. He wanted multiple intelligences to be a way of disaggregating people, showing ways in which they differ from one another, and not a way of putting labels on them (Gardner, 2007). According to Gardner's research, there are greater variations within groups of people than there is between groups of people.


Proponents of this theory argue that more children would learn successfully and with efficiency if a wide variety of methodologies, activities, and assessments were used. Contrary to the MI way of teaching is the traditional skill based curriculum in which all students learn the same thing in the same way and the same measures are used to evaluate their competency with the material. MI teaching requires that students be given a variety of ways to show their understanding of a concept, and the emphasis is on application and ownership of information rather than on rote memorization.

A study of English-language learners in Malaysia supports intelligence integration. Findings from this study suggest that in a learning environment where multiple intelligences may not be actively used, there is a tendency to have “weak and negative correlation between multiple intelligences and English language achievement” (Pour-Mohammadi, Zainol Abidin, & Yang Ahmad, 2012).

Intelligence Profiles

Central to the application of MI theory is the concept of the profile of intelligences. An individual's profile is the combination of strengths or weaknesses among and between the different types of intelligences. This orientation eliminates the delineation between high, medium, and low achieving children, as all areas in which a child may achieve are considered and valued. Instead of looking at a child as simply capable or not capable of learning, the profile of intelligences takes into consideration how a child learns best and what sorts of products children may create that reflect their learning. Educational researcher Micheal Rettig (2005) has found that this approach is successful from the earliest years of schooling and applies to teaching children of various abilities, including those with cognitive and physical disabilities. The MI approach to intelligence requires the educator to ask "not how smart a child is, but how they are smart" (Rettig, 2005, p. 255).

Most people, according to Gardner and his colleagues, have jagged profiles. This refers to a profile in which a student processes some types of information better than other types. Students with "laser" profiles have a wide variety in their profile with strength in one or two types of intelligence. Other areas may be weak by comparison. These students can follow a clear path dictated by their intelligence that leads to success in a particular field. Those with "searchlight" profiles have less pronounced differences between their intelligences, and such students will have a greater challenge in choosing a suitable career (Moran, Kornhaber, & Gardner, 2006).

Assessing Intelligences

There exists no single tool that assesses a...

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