The Theory of Multiple Intelligences
Often “smart” is defined as doing well on a standardized test or being a good reader, writer, and calculator. Standardized tests are important and students must be strong in the 3 R’s. But a realistic definition of intelligence is much broader than this.
The theory of multiple intelligences (MI) brings a very pragmatic approach to how we define intelligence and allows us to use our students’ strengths to help them learn. Students who read and write well are still smart, but they are joined by other students who have different talents. Being smart is no longer determined by a score on a test but, rather, by how well students learn in a variety of ways.
Howard Gardner set out the theory of multiple intelligences (MI) in his 1983 book, Frames Of Mind. He defines intelligence as the ability to solve a problem or create a product that is valued in a society. Gardner’s eight intelligences are:
- Linguistic: sensitivity to the meaning and order of words
- Logical-Mathematical: the ability to handle chains of reasoning and to recognize patterns and order
- Musical: sensitivity to pitch, melody, rhythm and tone
- Bodily-Kinesthetic: the ability to use the body skillfully and handle objects adroitly
- Spatial: the ability to perceive the world accurately and to recreate or transform aspects of that world
- Naturalist: the ability to recognize and classify the numerous species, the flora and fauna, of an environment
- Interpersonal: the ability to understand people and relationships
- Intrapersonal: access to one's emotional life as a means to understand oneself and others
At New City School, we work to build on all of the intelligences. Students learn to read, write, and calculate, but they also learn how to use other strengths in solving problems. Our faculty has written extensively about how MI can help students learn (and teachers grow) in Celebrating Every Learner (Jossey-Bass, 2010).