Multiple Intelligences Explained

There have been many educators that have had trouble reaching some of their students and have had to find different ways to present information or provide different options for student expression. One student may write very well while another really struggles but may be able to express themselves in a more artistic manner. Because of this, the multiple intelligences theory is something that resonates with lots of teachers. The multiple intelligences theory supports the thought that a one size fits all approach to education does not work for all students. The theory of multiple intelligences is sometimes confused with learning styles. While the theory can be a good way to think about learning, it is important to understand the theory and the research that has been done to support it.

The traditional idea that a single IQ test result is the only way to identify intelligence is challenged by the multiple intelligences theory. A Harvard professor by the name of Howard Gardner, originally proposed the multiple intelligences theory which states that there are multiple types of human intelligence that each represent a different way of processing information. Gardner identified eight different intelligences.

  • Logical-Mathematical intelligence refers to the ability to make calculations, develop equations, and solve abstract problems.
  • Verbal-Linguistic intelligence describes an individual who can analyze information and produce work that includes written and oral language including books, speeches, and emails.
  • Musical intelligence allows individuals to make and produce meaning from different types of sound.
  • Visual-Spatial intelligence refers to the ability to comprehend graphical information such as maps.
  • Interpersonal intelligence deals with the ability to recognize and understand people's desires, intentions, moods, and motivations.
  • Naturalistic intelligence describes the ability to both identify and distinguish between different types of things found in the natural world such as animals, plants, or weather formations.
  • Intrapersonal intelligence reflects a person's ability to assess and recognize people that share the same characteristics as themselves.
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence involves using a person's own body to solve problems or create products.

How Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences Differ

Multiple intelligences and learning styles are often confused as the same thing however the terms cannot be used interchangeably. While multiple intelligences represent the different intellectual abilities, learning styles describe the ways in which a person actually approaches a range of tasks. Gardner determined that people have all eight intelligences at varying levels of aptitude and all of a person's learning experiences do not necessarily have to relate to the person's strongest area of intelligence.

More research on the multiple intelligences theory is necessary to determine exactly how to assess, measure, and then support all eight intelligences in schools. While more research is needed, the theory has still provided educators with an opportunity to explore new approaches to learning. It is also important to remember that while people will always have one intelligence that is strongest, they should not necessarily be labeled as a specific kind of learner with a fixed type of intelligence. Even with more research needed, there are approaches teachers can take to support the multiple intelligences of students. For example, they can provide students with several ways to access material in an effort to improve learning. Teachers can also provide students with several ways to demonstrate their skills and knowledge.

Multiple Intelligences Resources