Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence
First detailed by Harvard professor Howard Gardner in 1983, Multiple Intelligence theory rejects the notion that intelligence is a single, fixed measurement. Rather, Gardner argues – in a theory that has since had a major impact on education around the world – “I believe that human cognitive competence is better described in terms of a set of abilities, talents, or mental skills, which I call intelligences. All normal individuals possess each of these skills to some extent; individuals differ in the degree of skill and in the nature of their combination … [I]ntelligences always work in concert, and any sophisticated adult role will involve a melding of several of them.” (Gardner, Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons, 2006.)
Our emphasis on Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence theory embraces the notion that an educated person in the 21st century is one who has developed a broad range of skills interests across each of Gardner’s eight areas of intelligence:
- Linguistic intelligence involves sensitivity to spoken and written language, including the ability to use language to accomplish certain goals; to listen perceptively and read critically; to learn languages; to express oneself persuasively or poetically.
- Logical-mathematical intelligence is most often associated with scientific and mathematical thinking: the ability to detect patterns, reason deductively and think logically, conceptually, and abstractly; the interest in experimentation, puzzles, investigations and cosmic questions.
- Musical intelligence involves the capacity to distinguish the whole realm of sound and, in particular, to discern, appreciate and apply the various aspects of music (pitch, rhythm, timbre and mood), both separately and holistically.
- Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence involves the ability to use one’s body in highly differentiated and skilled ways, for both goal-oriented and expressive purposes; the capacity to exercise fine and gross motor control of one’s body.
- Spatial intelligence involves the ability to accurately perceive the visual world and to re-create, manipulate and modify aspects of one’s perceptions, even in the absence of the relevant visual stimuli.
- Interpersonal intelligence relates to the ability to work cooperatively and communicate, verbally and non-verbally, with other people; the insight to understand others’ intentions, motivations and desires; and the judgment to recognize the biases underlying sources of information.
- Intrapersonal intelligence involves the ability to understand oneself; the motivation and focus to study independently; and the wisdom to reflect. “The first, and most important, ability you can develop in a flat world is the ability to ‘learn how to learn’ – to constantly absorb, and teach yourself… ” (Friedman)
- Naturalist intelligence (added to Gardner’s theory in 1997) involves the ability to recognize, collect, analyze and classify plants, minerals, animals, flora, fauna and even cultural objects such as cars and sneakers. Those who excel in naturalist intelligence exhibit a greater sensitivity to nature and their place within it, the ability to nurture and grow things, and care for animals.
- “[Multiple Intelligence] theory is an agent of cognitive equity: it enables a greater diversity of individuals to use their minds well. In turn, the theory is a democratizing tool: it facilitates the development and expression of ideas by those who might otherwise remain largely unheard in their communities or in the wider society.” (Kornhaber, 2009.)