Multiple Intelligences

Educational experiences at The Strong reflect the many ways students learn. The Theory of Multiple Intelligences—put forth initially by Howard Gardner—describes eight intelligences that everyone has and uses in various combinations to know, understand, and learn about the world.

In his book, Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom, Thomas Armstrong describes the eight intelligences this way:

Linguistic Intelligence: The ability to use words effectively, whether orally (e.g., as a storyteller, orator, or politician) or in writing (e.g., as a poet, playwright, editor, or journalist).
Logical-Mathematical Intelligence: The capacity to use numbers effectively (e.g., as a mathematician, tax accountant, or statistician) and to reason well (e.g., as a scientist, computer programmer, or logician).
Spatial Intelligence: The ability to perceive the visual-spatial world accurately (e.g., as a hunter, scout, or guide) and to perform transformations upon those perceptions (e.g., as an interior decorator, architect, artist, or inventor).
Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence: Expertise in using one's whole body to express ideas and feelings (e.g., as an actor, a mime, an athlete, or a dancer) and facility in using one's hands to produce or transform things (e.g., as a craftsperson, sculptor, mechanic, or surgeon).
Musical Intelligence: The capacity to perceive (e.g., as a music aficionado), discriminate (e.g., as a music critic), transform (e.g., as a composer), and express (e.g., as a performer) musical forms.
Interpersonal Intelligence: The ability to perceive and make distinctions in the moods, intentions, motivations, and feelings of other people.
Intrapersonal Intelligence: Self-knowledge and the ability to act adaptively on the basis of that knowledge.
Naturalistic Intelligence: The ability to easily recognize and classify plants, animals, and other things in nature.

Key Points in Multiple Intelligences Theory

As Armstrong points out in Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom, beyond the descriptions of the eight intelligences and their theoretical underpinnings, additional points of the model are important to remember:

  1. Each person possesses all eight intelligences. Of course, the intelligences function together in ways unique to each person. Most people fall somewhere in between two poles—being highly developed in some intelligences, modestly developed in others, and relatively underdeveloped in the rest.
  2. Most people can develop each intelligence to an adequate level of competency. Although an individual may complain about his deficiencies in a given area and consider his problems innate and intractable, Gardner suggests that virtually everyone has the capacity to develop all eight intelligences to a reasonably high level of performance if given the appropriate encouragement, enrichment, and instruction.
  3. Intelligences usually work together in complex ways. Gardner points out that no intelligence exists by itself in life (except perhaps in very rare instances in savants and brain-injured individuals). Intelligences are always interacting with each other. To cook a meal, one must read the recipe (linguistic), possibly divide the recipe in half (logical-mathematical), develop a menu that satisfies all members of a family (interpersonal), and placate one's own appetite as well (intrapersonal). Similarly, when a child plays a game of kickball, he needs bodily-kinesthetic intelligence (to run, kick, and catch), spatial intelligence (to orient himself to the playing field and to anticipate the trajectories of flying balls), and linguistic and interpersonal intelligences (to successfully argue a point during a dispute in the game).
  4. There are many ways to be intelligent within each category. A person may not be able to read, yet be highly linguistic because he can tell a terrific story or has a large oral vocabulary. Similarly, a person may be quite awkward on the playing field, yet possess superior bodily-kinesthetic intelligence when she weaves a carpet or creates an inlaid chess table. The Theory of Multiple Intelligences emphasizes the rich diversity of ways in which people show their gifts within intelligences as well as between intelligences.