Educating Multiple Intelligences through Technology

St. Brigid's Secondary School, Killarney, Co. Kerry

TY and 1st Year Maths
MI Theory




Theory of Multiple Intelligences ©M. O'Shea

Criticisms of MI Theory Adapting MI in Schools MI Strategies Bibliography

For more almost two decades Howard Gardner, an educational psychologist at Harvard, has been developing the theory of Multiple Intelligences, which he first introduced in his book, Frames of Mind (1983). His initial definition of intelligence emphasizes the creative as well as the problem solving aspects of intelligence.

An intelligence is the ability to solve problems, or to create products, that are valued within one or more cultural settings (Gardner 1983 p. xiv)

More recently he has accepted the need to include words from psychology and biology in his definition.

Intelligence is a bio-psychological potential to process information that can be activated in a cultural setting to solve problems or create products that are of value in a culture (Gardner 1999a pp 33 - 34)

  • The complete list of multiple intelligences, suggested by Gardner is
    · Logical-mathematical, which deals with numbers and logic.
    · Verbal/Linguistic, which deals mainly with words.
    · Bodily-kinesthetic, which deals with body movements and the handling of objects
    · Musical, which deals with rhythms and melodies.
    · Visual/Spatial, which deals with pictures and images.
    · Interpersonal, which deals with understanding other people and working with them.
    · Intrapersonal, which deals with the inner self and one's feelings.
    · Naturalist, which deals with classification and understanding phenomena of nature.

In his recent research, Gardner has thought about adding a ninth intelligence, the Existentialist or Spiritual, which deals with the big questions of life and harmonising.

This term denotes the human proclivity to ask fundamental questions about life: Who are we? Where do we come from? Why do we die? (Gardner 1999b )

And because he has not yet definitely made up his mind about this intelligence, he states that as yet there are eight and a half intelligences.

According to Thomas Armstrong, who has written extensively on the application of Gardner's theory

we're each unique in the way that the seven intelligences express themselves in our lives. It's the rare person who achieves high levels of competence in six or seven of the intelligences. We have a few intelligences, that stand out, some that seem average, and others that we've had difficulty with all our lives

Criticisms of MI Theory Adapting MI in Schools MI Strategies Bibliography Top of Page


The theory of Multiple Intelligence, though widely accepted in schools in the United States and Australia has met with some opposition.
White (1998) argues that Gardner supported his theory with criteria based on the physiology of the brain, on developmental psychology and on a theory of symbols. However, having challenged Gardner's idea of symbols, White uses his own inability to find symbols in the Interpersonal intelligence as a basis for questioning the interpersonal as an intelligence. He further queries why having established eight criteria for inclusion as an intelligence, that Gardner later concedes that if an "intelligence" satisfies the majority of the criteria that it can be included as an intelligence.
One of the criteria for inclusion as an intelligence is its potential isolation by brain damage. Gardner argues that eight relatively autonomous brain systems exist, each of which accommodates its respective intelligence. But Eyesenck advises that assuming a relationship between cognitive performance and brain damage may be unwarranted. He claims that

some of the impact of brain damage on cognitive functioning may be camouflaged because patients develop compensatory strategies, designed to help them cope with their brain damage (Eyesenck 1999)

which suggests that each side (of the brain) may have a dormant capacity to assume functions of the other. This idea of compensation and/or transfer challenges Gardner's idea of an intelligence being situated in a specific area of the brain. But, whereas Eyesenck's argument seems to be based on a dichotomy of right brain/ left brain theory, Gardner suggests that there are at least eight specific areas in the brain. However proponents of the right brain/left brain theory would clarify that though the right-brain/left-brain model of learning suggests two distinct main areas, that each of these has forty or fifty delineable regions, which in turn are divided.

Our brain is a democracy of ten thousand million nerve cells yet it provides us with a unified experience. (Eccles 1996)

Ceci (1996), a developmental psychologist at Cornell, also questions the validity of Gardner's theory and its lack of supporting scientific data and he points out that
Gardner's approach of constructing criteria and then running candidate intelligences through them, while suggestive, provides no hard evidence -- no test results, for example -- that his colleagues could evaluate. (Ceci 1996 )

Neither does Sternberg(1998) find Gardner's criteria for defining intelligences satisfactory. He argues in favour of using the word "talents" rather than the word "intelligences". He asks why Gardner includes some human abilities as intelligences and omits other human abilities

"it seems strange to describe someone who is tone deaf or physically uncoordinated as unintelligent" (Sternberg 1988 cited in Eysenck 1994 p.193).

Sternberg calls the MI model "a theory of talents, not one of intelligences" (Sternberg 1988 p.42.)

As well as questioning Gardner's criteria for deciding on specific intelligences, White(1998) is also sceptical of the similarities between Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences and Hirst's (1965) theory of knowledge, which divides the content of a liberal education into seven areas of understanding.
The forms of understanding definitely identified are (in the original version): mathematics, the natural sciences, the human sciences, history, philosophy, moral knowledge, literature and the fine arts…

Curiously, both Hirst's and Gardner' theory have the same grey area, where each writer is not clear-cut about whether to admit a particular candidate into the favoured circle. Hirst was unsure from the start whether there is a distinctive form of religious understanding… Gardner in his restatement writes… I continue to think that some form of "spiritual intelligence" may well exist. (White 1998 p33)

White fails to add the fact that numerous other educational researchers have also defined intelligence as a multi faceted phenomenon. Thurstone isolated six components of intelligence. Guildford identified one hundred and eighty facets. Raymond Cattell and John Horn, two other psychometricians, believed that a more general distinction could be made between forms of intelligence. The first they termed Fluid Intelligence, which includes biologically based mental abilities such as memorization, chunking, grouping and recall, which are free of cultural influence. The second they called Crystallized Intelligence, which involves skills such as vocabulary use, working knowledge of the world and how to be productive and survive in a given cultural climate. Crystallized intelligence is acquired as a consequence of special living conditions or cultural circumstances. These biological and cultural components of intelligence are also incorporated into Gardner's theory. It was his rejection of the idea of defining intelligence as a single, general capacity that gave rise to most criticisms of his theory.
Criticisms of MI theory are unlikely to have surprised Howard Gardner, as he freely admits his intention to be provocative, as cited in Armstrong (2000)

I'm deliberately being provocative. If I'd said that there's seven kinds of competencies, people would yawn and say 'Yeah, yeah'. But by calling them intelligences, I'm saying that we've tended to put on a pedestal one variety called intelligence, and there's actually a plurality of them, and some are things we've never thought about as being intelligence at all. (Armstrong 2000 )

In accepting the theory of Multiple Intelligences, teachers abandon traditional perspectives on intelligence. These new beliefs about intelligence(s) influence the operation of schools within society

The operation of schools within societies provides a window on how those societies think about the realm of the intellect (Gardner 1995)

As teachers begin to believe in new concepts of intelligence, they find themselves in a transitional phase in the classroom. During this transitional phase their changing beliefs are reflected in their practice. And, as Rosenthal and Jacobsen's studies conclude, teachers' beliefs significantly affect student performance

The evidence suggests rather strongly that children who are expected by their teachers to gain intellectually in fact do show greater intellectual gains after one year than do children of whom such gains are not expected. (Rosenthal & Jacobsen 1968 p121)

The expectations of teachers, who adopt Gardner's non-hierarchical view of multiple intelligences, differ in nature from those of teachers, who view intelligence

as a single, general capacity that every human being possesses to a greater or lesser extent(Gardner 1993 a p xiii )

Teachers, who adopt Gardner's view of intelligence, accept that each student has an individual profile of multiple intelligences, which has the potential to be fully developed.

Criticisms of MI Theory Adapting MI in Schools MI Strategies Bibliography Top of Page

Multiple Intelligences - Teaching and Learning
Levels of Introduction of MI Theory in Schools

For over ten years after proposing the theory of Multiple intelligences, Gardner did not involve himself with MI practice in schools. Levin(1994) criticizes Gardner for not offering a clear program for educators to use in implementing MI theory in everyday classroom conditions, but Gardner counter argues by stating that the practitioners of Piaget's and Dewey's theories had little guidance from their originators. He also says that it would be impossible for him to try to control how his theory would be used.

It is not possible or appropriate for the originator of a theory to attempt to control the ways in which it is used. (Gardner 1993b p.24)

Nonetheless, Gardner does advocate a whole school approach to the introduction of an MI teaching and learning environment in a school. His description (1993b) of a MI school describes a very utopian situation, where education is individually configured for each student. The shaping of a whole school approach to the introduction of MI can be very gradual. Hyland (2000) maintains that the easy introduction of MI in second level schools in Ireland is inhibited by several factors, such as the prevailing view of intelligence, the influence of terminal examinations, rigid subject boundaries and short class periods. (Hyland 2000). On the other hand, Hanafin (2000), while agreeing with McNiff, Fleischmann & FitzGibbon(2000) that many external factors such as lack of planning time, dominance of traditional examinations, timetabling restrictions and lack of whole school support can have a negative impact on the introduction of MI into secondary schools, also sounds a note of caution in stating that external factors are not really as significant as internal resistances in the minds of partners in education to the theory of MI. She believes that some, who may regard themselves as advocates of MI would still use phrases such as "weak pupils" or "poorly motivated", which show that their mindsets have not yet fully accepted the theory of MI.

However, advocates of MI theory have proposed many approaches for introducing MI practice in a school. Armstrong demonstrates how a MI approach can take place informally in a traditional style class, where the teacher

lectures with rhythmic emphasis (musical), draws pictures on the board to illustrate points (spatial), makes dramatic gestures as she talks (bodily-kinesthetic), pauses to give students time to reflect (intrapersonal), asks questions that invite spirited interaction (interpersonal), and includes references to nature in her lectures (naturalist) (Armstrong 2000 p40)

Another scenario is where individual teachers intentionally incorporate MI theory into their regular classes. For example, Cindy Hoban, a P.E. teacher from North Carolina, wished to incorporate M.I. theory into her instruction. She managed to combine technology and physical education by using Poser 3, which is
a 3D-character animation and design tool for artists and animators

Cindy's individual efforts later opened up into much collaboration with Wake Education Partnership and with a stage designer, named David Beavers. The persevering spirit of Cindy developed and permeated into a whole school and county project, where she collaborated with other experts from the performing arts.
A planned whole-school approach to the introduction of MI in the majority of the six schools, surveyed by Campbell and Campbell, proved to be one of the predictors of success for the implementation of the new theory and one of the criteria for optimum success of MI programs was that

The school's mission, culture, and curriculum promote intellectual diversity. (Campbell & Campbell 1999 p6)

Two of the schools restructured their curricula. One school promoted integrated studies courses and the second made student graduation contingent upon the successful completion of a community-mentored interdisciplinary project.
Integration of subjects, an interdisciplinary approach to learning, whole school and district support, combined with a strong conviction about the educational value of MI seem to be indicators of success of MI programs. But, in Ireland, at Departmental level, conviction about and support for MI theory and practice seem to be negligible. The "reforms of the junior- and senior-cycle curricula", promised by the 1995 White Paper on Education, do not include any references to the theory of Multiple Intelligences, and a rather traditional approach to the concept of intelligence is portrayed in the following

A fundamental objective of these reforms is to ensure that the curriculum caters adequately for the wide range of ability levels now participating in second-level education and prepares students fully for effective participation in a rapidly changing society.

where, the phrase "range of ability" suggests a hierarchy of levels of intelligence. Neither is the paper clear on its theory or theories of intelligence. However, the later review by the NCCA in 1999 does reflect the influence of MI theory and states that assessment procedures should reflect the active learning methodologies advocated for Junior Cert. Also, the fact that over thirty Cork-based schools took part in the MI Curriculum and Assessment Project, organised by UCC, and found that it was feasible within the framework of the national curriculum to apply MI approaches in their teaching across a range of subject areas, illustrates that MI theory is currently being introduced successfully into some Irish schools.

Criticisms of MI Theory Adapting MI in Schools MI Strategies Bibliography Top of Page

General MI Teaching Strategies

As a teacher begins to adopt the concept of MI, he/she begins to examine preconceptions and beliefs regarding concepts of intelligence and the ensuing implications for classroom practice. This re-conceptualisation of teaching and learning is a gradual process and its implications for classroom practice is even more gradual. MI Practitioners are very concerned with ensuring understanding in the minds of their students. MI practice focuses on the process and on the quality of learning and teaching. Various prepositions have been used to describe different MI lesson types. Lessons have been described as teaching "to or through" an intelligence and teaching "for, with or about" an intelligence. MI practice is also very closely associated with Active Learning techniques. While Gardner did not prescribe any specific methodology for teaching in the MI classroom latterly he has recommended using the "Entry Point" strategy for introducing content in any domain. And though he lists eight and a half intelligences, he specifies just six entry points, which are

· Narrative, whereby a story is used to introduce subject content.
· Quantitative, where numbers and logic form the entry point.
· Existensial, which takes a philosophical approach.
· Aesthetic , which approaches a topic from an artistic viewpoint.
· Hands On approach, which especially suits the young
· Interpersonal /Collaborative, where there is interaction with others to access the understanding or knowledge. (Gardner 2000)

Campbell & Campbell(1999) agree that a Multiple Intelligences approach to teaching and learning can take many formats, and can be implemented in many different ways and at many different levels.

Because MI is a construct about human intelligence, it does not mandate any prescriptive educational approach (Campbell & Campbell 1999 p.91)

However, while there is no prescriptive approach to teaching and learning among MI practitioners, there is much agreement among them with regard to suitable strategies and techniques. Lazear (1991), Bellanca(1998), Armstrong (2000), and Dickinson(2000) believe that any subject content can be taught with any of the intelligences and they use many of the same practical techniques, methods, tools and media for accessing the eight intelligences though with different emphases. Lazear distinguishes between different lesson types by describing them as teaching for an intelligence, teaching with an intelligence and teaching about an intelligence. Armstrong differentiates between teaching to an intelligence and teaching through an intelligence. On the other hand, Bellanca does not make any distinctions between different MI lesson types. His examples rely heavily on visual/spatial and interpersonal activities to teach with/through an intelligence.
Lazear's approach shows a concern with the process of learning and incorporates four stages of using an intelligence in his three lesson types. The following are his descriptions of the three lesson types.

· Teaching for multiple intelligences,
where each of the intelligences can be taught as a subject in its own right: music skills, language, art as a formal discipline, mathematical calculation and reasoning, skilful body movement (P.E., Dance and Drama) and various social skills.

· Teaching with multiple intelligences
where each intelligence can be used to gain knowledge in areas beyond itself, e.g. art (drawing, painting and sculpture) to bring to life different periods of history.

· Teaching about multiple intelligences
which are lessons, that are concerned with teaching students about their own multiple intelligences and how to actively use them in learning and everyday life. (Lazear 1994 pp 201-202)

He recommends that when teaching with an intelligence, that firstly an activity to awaken that intelligence be used, secondly that the use of that intelligence be amplified, thirdly that the content of the class be taught with that intelligence and fourthly that the knowledge gained be transferred and integrated into daily living. This idea of integration and transfer into everyday living concurs with Saljo's definition of deep learning

Learning is interpreting and understanding reality in a different way. Learning involves comprehending the world by reinterpreting knowledge.(Saljo )

In order to ensure deep learning, understanding and the development of critical thinking skills in students, Armstrong suggests that Bloom's "taxonomy of educational objectives" provides a kind of quality-control mechanism through which teachers can judge how deeply students' minds have been stirred by a multiple intelligences curriculum. He illustrates this idea by constructing a matrix based on a thematic unit on ecology. The matrix has a row for each intelligence and a column for each level of complexity of Bloom's(1956) cognitive domain, for example, when teaching with the Musical intelligence, the Knowledge level deals with remembering songs that deal with trees, the Comprehension level deals with explaining how old tree songs came into being, the Application level challenges the students to change the lyrics of an old tree song to reflect current issues, the Analysis level requests students to classify songs by issue and historical period, the Synthesis level asks students to create their own tree song based on information in the unit and the final level, Evaluation, requires the songs to be rated from best to worst, giving reasons for the choices.
Incorporating each level of complexity of Bloom's(1956) cognitive domain, ensures that higher order thinking skills will be developed in the students.

MI practice also draws on the techniques of Active Learning methodologies to engage students in their own learning. Bellanca(1997) and McCarthy (2000) agree that MI practice is related to an active learning methodology. Campbell and Campbell (2000) also concluded that active learning was one of the elements of successful MI Programs. Active learning strategies have long been considered advantageous in education. Biggs and Telfer(1987) suggest that the following kinds of teaching foster deep approaches (to learning)

an appropriate motivational context, a high degree of learning activity; interaction with others, both peers and teachers, and a well-structured knowledge base. (Biggs and Telfer1987)

Bellanca considers Active Learning as very suited to the MI classroom. He frequently uses Body/Kinesthetic techniques to teach with an intelligence. In many of his recommended teaching strategies, the Bodily/Kinesthetic intelligence is engaged, if only by using a simple "thumbs up" gesture to indicate agreement. However, he does not advocate activity for its own sake. He distinguishes between different levels of activity in the classroom. According to him

active learning has a threefold meaning, firstly that the students engage in some form of physical activity in the class, secondly that students gain "hands-on" experience and thirdly, at the highest level that active learning uses the active engagement of the students' thinking processes in learning and applying knowledge. (Bellanca 1997 pxxiii)

His approach veers towards the socially oriented Constructivist approach to education of the last decade, where the focus is on learning, rather than on activity for its own sake.
Other innovative teaching methodologies, such as Project Based Learning, Collaborative Learning, Computer Supported Collaborative Learning, Outcomes Based Learning, Discovery Learning, Teach the Whole Child, and Emotional Intelligence also incorporate various aspects of Multiple Intelligences practice in their methodologies.

Criticisms of MI Theory Adapting MI in Schools MI Strategies Bibliography Top of Page

Modes of Teaching/Learning in MI, with specific reference to some of the Multiple Intelligences

Proponents of MI teaching and learning generally urge teachers to incorporate techniques and strategies to suit each particular intelligence into the classroom. However, Gardner recommends that teachers should not contrive to use all of the intelligences all of the time. Lazear informs us that in his own classes he usually tries to incorporate three other intelligences beyond the verbal/linguistic and the logical/mathematical. Distinctive techniques, methods, tools and media suit each of the specific intelligences. However, it must be borne in mind that in real life the eight intelligences "are linked together in complex ways."(Lazear 1993 p221)

Gardner's practitioners, including Armstrong, Dickinson, Lazear, Campbell & Campbell and Bellanca advocate instructional methods that appeal to all the intelligences, including cooperative learning, individual learning, reflection, visualization, musical performance, story telling, and role playing.

The recommended Interpersonal strategies, include all the hallmarks of cooperative learning such as small group instruction, with defined roles for group members, who perform assigned roles, assist others and share responsibility for the group task. This social aspect of learning was first pointed out by Vygotsky (1978) and has been developed by many others including Johnson & Johnson(1998). Co-operative learning has proved very successful in Japan especially with regard to mathematical education

The outstanding performance of Japanese students in Mathematics may be attributed to the fact that they spend much time in the classroom, solving problems in a co-operative manner. (Gardner 1996)

But while advocating the benefits of collaboration in education, MI theory also points to the need to cater for individuality. Gardner believes that individually configured education may be more relevant to today's student than is uniform schooling, where each student is expected to learn the same material in the same way. In one of the schools, surveyed by Campbell and Campbell, this idea was introduced by organising "elective pods", where the students chose particular areas of interest for themselves. Armstrong also highlights the importance of giving the student choices and reports that more engagement in learning occurs when

Students have opportunities to personalize their educational experiences while also acquiring basic skills. (Armstrong 2000 p )

This involvement of students in their own learning in an MI environment is also regarded by Wilson(19 ) as a means of improving learning experiences and increasing motivation.

Through creating educational experiences based on natural talents and gifts, teachers are more likely to increase opportunities whereby students can become actively engaged in learning experiences that are pleasurable, heightened or magnified. Such experiences can be highly motivative. Many practicing teachers report that the flow phenomenon often occurs when students are participating in MI related activities, and that these experiences are often self-motivating and very pleasurable for students. (Wilson )

Other strategies, recommended under Intrapersonal intelligence include silent reflection methods, meta-cognition techniques, plus/minus charts, and life timeline. The benefits of silent reflection time have been endorsed by the findings of Hughes, who did research on the influence of lecturers, who decided to use the "intentional silent pause" frequently during their lectures.

The implication of this research is staggering, for it essentially says that if we talk six minutes less, students learn more.(Hughes )

The personal and social aspects of learning help in the construction of ideas and internal representations in the mind of the learner. During learning these internal representations are needed to help the learner with concept building.

The use of the visual, as an aid to concept-building, features highly in the writings of the proponents of MI in the classroom. They suggest using visualization, colour cues, picture metaphors, graphic symbols, graphs, Venn diagrams, collages, model building storyboards, cartoon strips, model building and posters. There is a long history of using diagrams in instruction. A concept mapping technique, developed in the nineteen sixties, by Dr. Joseph D. Novak( ), Cornell University, who based his work on the theories of David Ausubel(1968), regarding the importance of prior knowledge as the key to learning new concepts, forms the basis for graphic organisers and mind maps. Champagne also supports the use of diagrams as a pedagogical tool, and states that concepts maps are effective in "probing, describing and comparing" (Champagne 1984).

As well as concept building, another important cognitive process is remembering. In suggesting rhythms, songs, raps and chants, as memory aids, Armstrong reminds us that for thousands of years that

Knowledge was imparted from generation to generation through the medium of singing or chanting. (Armstrong 2000)

And though the success of mnenomics techniques, which use rhyme to aid memory is well documented (Cohen 1989), their use is primarily as a recall mechanism. For example, Bellanca and Armstrong suggest music as an aid to memory
Baroque and classical music selections in 4/4 time were found to be particularly effective (Armstrong 2000 p59)

Furthermore, Armstrong (2000) also suggests musical techniques, which lead to higher order thinking skills and to increased understanding of the learning material. He advocates the use of musical concepts, for example, conflicting rhythms to denote conflict and quiet rhythms to signify harmony. He also advocates using "discographies" to illustrate, embody or amplify the content you want to convey.

Then again, Moran warns that listening to music while studying may be detrimental to examination performance, as examinations take place in silence.

The best way to recall something, which happened in the past, is to recreate the actual conditions under which the original learning occurred. And because examinations are done in silence, it would be impossible for students to recreate their habitual learning environment. (in an examination hall) (Moran 1997 p25)

Using the musical, visual, intrapersonal, interpersonal and all the other intelligences for teaching subject matter in any domain reinforces the idea that

MI theory essentially encompasses what good teachers have always done in their teaching: reaching beyond the text and the blackboard to awaken students' minds. (Armstrong 2000 p39)

The world, beyond the blackboard, now includes a worldwide bank of information on the Internet. Students and teachers are full of expectations as they are promised dynamic interactive personalised education on the Internet.

Of all the educational technologies the Web offers the most opportunities for interaction and learning engagement (Shotsberger 1996 ).

The classroom can become a global classroom, which stimulates authentic communication and learning through new curricular-related interactions. (Berenfeld)


Criticisms of MI Theory Adapting MI in Schools MI Strategies Bibliography Top of Page

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