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.
intelligence is the ability to solve problems, or to create products,
that are valued within one or more cultural settings (Gardner 1983 p.
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)
complete list of multiple intelligences, suggested by Gardner is
Logical-mathematical, which deals with numbers and
· Verbal/Linguistic, which deals mainly
· 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
· Interpersonal, which deals with
understanding other people and working with them.
· Intrapersonal, which deals with the inner self and one's
· Naturalist, which deals with
classification and understanding phenomena of nature.
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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
theory of Multiple Intelligence, though widely accepted in schools in
the United States and Australia has met with some opposition.
(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
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.
brain is a democracy of ten thousand million nerve cells yet it
provides us with a unified experience. (Eccles 1996)
(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 )
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
"it seems strange to describe someone who is tone deaf or
physically uncoordinated as unintelligent" (Sternberg 1988 cited in
Eysenck 1994 p.193).
calls the MI model "a theory of talents, not one of intelligences"
(Sternberg 1988 p.42.)
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
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 )
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
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
expectations of teachers, who adopt Gardner's non-hierarchical view of
multiple intelligences, differ in nature from those of teachers, who
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
Multiple Intelligences - Teaching and
Levels of Introduction of MI Theory in
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
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.
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)
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
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.
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
The school's mission, culture, and curriculum promote
intellectual diversity. (Campbell & Campbell 1999
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
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
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.
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
General MI Teaching
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
/Collaborative, where there is interaction with others to access the
understanding or knowledge. (Gardner 2000)
& 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
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
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
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
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)
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 )
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
Incorporating each level of complexity of
Bloom's(1956) cognitive domain, ensures that higher order thinking
skills will be developed in the students.
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
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
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
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.
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
Teaching/Learning in MI, with specific reference to some of the
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)
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.
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
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
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
have opportunities to personalize their educational experiences while
also acquiring basic skills. (Armstrong 2000 p )
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.
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 )
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.
implication of this research is staggering, for it essentially says
that if we talk six minutes less, students learn more.(Hughes
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.
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"
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
was imparted from generation to generation through the medium of
singing or chanting. (Armstrong 2000)
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
again, Moran warns that listening to music while studying may be
detrimental to examination performance, as examinations take place in
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)
musical, visual, intrapersonal, interpersonal and all the other
intelligences for teaching subject matter in any domain reinforces the
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
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
classroom can become a global classroom, which stimulates authentic
communication and learning through new curricular-related
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