Multiple Intelligences

Multiple Intelligences

According to Richard and Rodgers “ multiple intelligences refers to a learner-based philosophy that characterizes human intelligence as having multiple dimensions that must be acknowledged and developed in education.” Some researchers claimed that our intelligence or the ability to understand the world around us is complex. It is commonly known that some people are better at some things than others. They can be perceived as the array of intelligences. Intelligence is usually affiliated with score on IQ tests designed by Alfred Binet. The aim of the test was to gauge the ability to do well at school with accuracy, but it does not mention anything about the performance outside school (Christison: 1998). The way the test deals with intelligence is considered as too narrow because it measures only linguistic and logical- mathematical intelligence (Berman: 2001). Talking  the narrow view into consideration, one can notice that it can be detrimental to some students especially to those who are smart but not encouraged by teachers. In result, due to the lack of incentives, stimuli, they lose their motivation.

The theory of multiple intelligences which was introduced by Howard Gardner for the first time, presents the array of different kinds of intelligences exhibited by human beings. Gardner distinguishes seven types of intelligence: logical- mathematical, linguistic, bodily-kinesthetic, spatial, musical, intrapersonal, interpersonal. After some time in 1999, he added an eighth intelligence called: the naturalistic intelligence, and showed that investigation continues on whether there is an existential intelligence he introduced naturalist intelligence.”Gardner identifies kinds of intelligences based upon eight criteria. His eight criteria for describing something as an independent kind of intelligence (rather than merely one of the skills or abilities included in a kind of intelligence, or a synonym for, or combination of other kinds of intelligence) include”(Gardener:1983:7).

  1. Neurological evidence. It is connected with brain damage studies. When some areas of brain specialised for particular capacities have been destroyed or damaged, so a person  loses a capacity in one area but not in the other.
  2. Case studies of individuals possessing outstanding talents, abilities such as: child prodigy.
  3. Evolutionary history-  Throughout the history, intelligence was also present in the past.
  4. Developmental history- It presents stages of human growth and learning. This set of stages  of growth with a mastery level existing as an end state in human development. There are examples of people who reached the Mastery Level for each intelligence.
  5. Psychological Tasks- It shows a set of tasks concerning different domains for human behaviour.
  6. Set of Core Operations- set of procedures and practices which are unique to each true intelligence.
  7. Symbol System- it relates to a set of procedures and practices, which seem to be unique to each true intelligence.
  8. Supported Psychometric Tasks- it refers to psychometric instruments used to measure intelligence e.g. IQ tests. They have been used to measure specific types of ability. Nevertheless, they have been designed and used to identify true intelligences.

Let’s briefly analyse the intelligences.

Logical mathematical intelligence:

This type of intelligence is associated with logic, abstraction, inductive, deductive reasoning and numbers. People who possess this type of intelligence are able to work with numbers easily. They are good at mathematics, chess, computer programming and other logical or numerical activities, a more accurate definition places emphasis less on traditional mathematical ability and more reasoning capabilities, abstract pattern recognition, scientific thinking and investigation, and the ability to perform complex calculations. People with highly developed mathematical intelligences understand the underlying principles of some kind of a causal system, the way a scientist or a logician does; or can manipulate numbers, quantities, and operations, the way a mathematician does. They can predict things because they think logically.

Linguistic or verbal intelligence

People with verbal-linguistic intelligence easily memorise words easily. They are good at listening and reading skills, writing stories. They tend to learn best from reading and taking notes, listening to lectures and via discussion, debates. They are very skilled at explaining. People who posses this type of intelligence usually learn languages quickly, have good verbal memory. They can easily manipulate syntax and structures. This intelligence involves: lawyers, politicians, writers, teachers.
Musical intelligence: People with this intelligence display greater sensitivity to sounds, tones, music. It  is the capacity to think in music, to be able to hear patterns, recognize them, and perhaps. People who have strong musical intelligence do not just remember music easily, they cannot get it out of their minds, it's so omnipresent. It is commonly known that such people learn via lecture. They can use songs to memorise information. Nolen stated that this type of intelligence helps people to express their feelings. Careers with this type of intelligence include: singers, composers.

Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence:

In this intelligence, people are good at sports or dance. Besides, they enjoy acting and performing, they are very skilful at building and creating various things. They learn best by physically doing something rather than hearing. It is the capacity to use your whole body or parts of your body: (your hands, your fingers, your arms), to solve a problem, make something, or put on some kind of production. People who possess this type of intelligence are usually a type of memory called : muscle memory. It means that they remember things through their body rather than through words.
Interpersonal intelligence: This intelligence is responsible for interacting. People who belong to this type of intelligence are extroverts characterised by their sensitivity to others’ moods and feelings. They can communicate effectively and may be leaders. As far as Richard and Rodgers state people with this type of intelligence can easily become teachers, politicians.

Intrapersonal intelligence:

This intelligence relates to self effective capacities. People who belong to this type of intelligence are introverts. They are capable of comprehending their own feelings, emotions, goals, motivations and prefer to work alone. Such people are well-organised.

Visual-spatial intelligence:

This intelligence deals with vision and spatial judgement. It refers to the ability to represent the spatial world internally in your mind. Spatial intelligence can be used in the arts or in the sciences. People with this intelligence thanks to their visual memory are good at visualising objects, they like to draw, do jigsaw puzzles, read maps, daydream. They can be taught through drawings, verbal and physical imagery. Tools include models, graphics, charts, photographs, drawings, 3-D modelling, video, videoconferencing, television, multimedia, texts with pictures/charts/graphs. They are characterised by a very good sense of direction.

Naturalistic intelligence:

This intelligence is connected with nature. Those with this intelligence are said to have greater sensitivity to nature and their place within it. They are also good at recognizing and classifying different species. Naturalists learn best when the subject relates to something important in nature. They can easily notice changes in weather, are good at distinguishing among, classifying, and using features of the environment. One may call such students: explorers, experimenters, classifiers, and ecologists. Naturalists do not enjoy learning useless subjects that are not connected with nature. They learn by drawing conclusions upon known data. According to Richards and Rodgers it is “the ability to understand and organize the patterns of nature.”

Gardner,  as part of his theory on multiple intelligences, used case studies of Autistic Savants. People with severe learning disabilities who possess some extraordinary mental abilities not found in most people. Take an example of Derek Paravicini, who is a blind English autistic savant and a musical prodigy. Although he has severe learning disability, he can remember every song he has ever heard. Another person was Alonzo Clemons, a regular child until he suffered brain damage as a result of a fall. Afterwards he learned to create accurate animal sculptures from clay using his photographic memory. Karen Rubado, who wrote an article “Empowering students through multiple intelligences,” presents her personal experience she gained thought educating students with learning disabilities. She wanted to increase her students’ motivation. Thus, she firstly introduced all the theories and told the students that they possessed all of them but at a different level. Then, she asked the students to devise various tasks, assignments directly related to the intelligences. Besides, the students represented their unique mixture of intelligences by designing colourful bracelets. Different colours represented different intelligences. The students noticed their weak and strong points. The teacher wanted the students to be autonomous and confident. The results were surprising.

In 1991, Lazaer proposed four stages of using the MI theory.

  1. Awaken the intelligence- Sensitizing learners to events, objects that surround them in the outside world.
  2. Amplify the intelligence: Students strengthen and improve the intelligence by objects that they choose. Then they define them with others.
  3. Teach with or for intelligence: at this stage the intelligence and the focus of the class are connected with language learning.
  4. Transfer of the intelligence:  The information that has been acquired during lessons is linked with the outside world.

Multiple intelligence was used in different types of classrooms. Nicholson Nelson created five projects according to which, students develop intelligences working individually or in pairs.

  1. Multiple intelligence projects: They are related to one or more intelligences and are responsible for activating particular intelligences.
  2. Curriculum based-projects: the projects are based on curriculum
  3. Thematic based projects: they are based on the theme and are divided into different intelligences.
  4. Resource-based intelligences: Students research a topic using multiple intelligences.
  5. Student choice projects:  Created by students and based on multiple intelligences.

Analysing Multiple Intelligences, one can notice that there is a certain connection between them and two fundamental methods like: TPR method and CLT method. TPR method focuses on providing language input comprehensible to the listener. Gestures allow for rapid understanding without the need to speak. One can see that this method is good for developing kinaesthetic intelligence. Students remember words immediately and know the meaning of them. The second method is CLT method, which refers to Communicative Language Teaching and Counseling Learning (CL). CLT can be defined as an approach to the teaching foreign languages. This method attributes to interpersonal intelligence. Students are involved in communication. Counseling Learning links principles of learning theory with counseling attitudes and techniques. This method can be applied to any learning situation. Counseling Learning can be easily associated with intrapersonal intelligence presents students’ experience.

The Multiple Intelligence theory met with criticism. Opponents argue that the theory may lead to intellectual relativism, wherein students' failures are explained away as being an example of a different kind of intelligence, not one. As a result, there are those in the Gifted and Talented community who have criticized Gardner's theory, because any support of the idea that all children are equally gifted, just in different ways, might lead to the reduction of Gifted and Talented programs. What is more, critics of multiple intelligence theory maintain that Gardner's work is not groundbreaking  that what he calls intelligences are primary abilities that educators and cognitive psychologists have always acknowledged. Besides, Some of these criticisms arise from the fact that Gardner has not settled on a single definition of intelligence and many of his intelligences actually correlate with the g factor, supporting the idea of single dominant type of intelligence. More to the point, opponents believe that notions such as bodily-kinesthetic or musical ability represent individual aptitude or talent rather than intelligence. Gardner’s theory also suffers from a lack of supporting empirical research. Another major criticism of multiple intelligences lies in an application in schools is that there is a risk of teachers excusing students from doing well in an area in which they are weak. Students who may not naturally learn to read and write well nevertheless need to read and write well. There is an inherent risk of students developing a sense of inferiority in given areas.  Students who are identified as not being "musical" learners may have less incentive to become musical learners. Nevertheless, there are proponents of MI theory.

Supporters of the MI theory would counter that such dependency is to be expected as this point, as scientific methodology aimed at uncovering intelligence was created under the traditional theory of intelligence, thus leaving a new theory the necessity of initially having to utilize the methodology of the old theory until new modes of scientific inquiry can be developed. Schools have emphasized the development of logical intelligence and linguistic intelligence mainly reading and writing. While many students function well in this environment, there are those who do not. Gardner's theory argues that students will be better served by a broader vision of education, wherein teachers use different methodologies, exercises and activities to reach all students, not just those who excel at linguistic and logical intelligence. Many teachers see the theory as simple common sense. Some say that it validates what they already know: that students learn in different ways. Many schools in the USA uses the MI theory. For example, New City School, in St. Louis, which has been using the theory since 1988.The school remains a valuable resource for teachers interested in implementing the theory in their own classrooms. The application of the theory of multiple intelligences varies widely The good news is that the theory of multiple intelligences has grabbed the attention of many educators around the country, and hundreds of schools are currently using its philosophy to redesign the way it educates children. The bad news is that there are thousands of schools still out there that teach in the same old dull way, through dry lectures, and boring worksheets and textbooks. Gardener says that teachers should be trained to present their lessons in a wide variety of ways using music, cooperative learning, art activities, role play, multimedia, field trips, inner reflection. The theory of multiple intelligences also has strong implications for adult learning and development. Many adults find themselves in jobs that do not make optimal use of their most highly developed intelligences, for example, the highly bodily-kinesthetic individual who is stuck in a linguistic or logical desk-job when he or she would be much happier in a job where they could move around, such as a recreational leader, a forest ranger, or physical therapist). The theory of multiple intelligences gives adults a whole new way to look at their lives, examining potentials that they left behind in their childhood (such as a love for art or drama) but now have the opportunity to develop through courses, hobbies, or other programs of self-development.


1. Berman, M. 1998. A Multiple Intelligences Road to an ELT Classroom. Carmarthen : Crown House Publishing.
2. Christison, M. A. 1998. ‘ Applying Multiple Intelligences Theory in Preservice and In-service TEFL Education Programs
3. Howard Gardner 1983 Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences  Basic Books
4. Richards, J. C. and T. S. Rodgers. 1995. Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching: a description and analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
5. Rubado, K. 2002. ‘Empowering students through multiple intelligences


AUTHOR Adam Cendrowski


  • supporter- zwolennicy
  • opponents- przeciwnicy
  • detrimental- szkodliwy