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Efficiency of application of gardner’s multiple intelligence theory in the classroom

The use of principles of individualization and differentiation in teaching are fundamental requirements of contemporary education.

Individualization represents taking into account personal peculiarities of students, and supplying every learner with professional pedagogic support on the purpose of development of students’ psychological potential. An integral part of the process of individualization is the principle of differentiation which demands application of different techniques and methods of teaching (depending on stage of learning and students’ age-specific peculiarities). Modern teacher should be able to work simultaneously with all types of students (having different initial knowledge, turn of mind, attitude to study, intelligence etc.), and design the special line of teaching for every specific learner. This approach to teaching can be realized with the help of Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences.

Multiple Intelligence Theory was developed in 1983 by Dr. Howard Gardner, a psychologist and professor of neuroscience from Harvard University. The theory challenged traditional beliefs in the fields of education and cognitive science. Unlike the established understanding of intelligence (that people are born with a uniform cognitive capacity that can be easily measured by short-answer tests), MI reconsiders our educational practice of the last century and provides an alternative. The original Multiple Intelligence theory was first published in the book, ‘Frames of Mind.’

Gardner strongly suggests that everybody has a different mind, and no two profiles of intelligence are the same. He defines intelligence as the ability to create an effective product or offer a service that is valued in a culture; a set of skills that make it possible for a person to solve problem in life; or the potential for finding or creating solutions for problem, which involves gathering new knowledge (1, p. 4-5).

According to Howard Gardner, human beings have nine different kinds of intelligence that reflect different ways of interacting with the world. Each person has a unique combination, or profile. Although we each have all nine intelligences, no two individuals have them in the same exact configuration, similar to our fingerprints. The theory suggests that traditional ways of testing for intelligence may be biased to certain types of individuals depending on their perception of the world. The perception still exists that intelligence can be measured in relation to reading, writing and arithmetic skills alone, and a person’s future success is judged accordingly. Here are intelligences that people can possess:

  1. Linguistic Intelligence involves the capacity to use language to express what's on your mind and to understand other people. It includes students’ sensitivity to spoken and written language, the ability to learn and use languages for accomplishing certain goals. Language is a means to remember information. Any kind of writer, orator, speaker, lawyer, or other person for whom language is an important stock in trade has great linguistic intelligence.
  2. Logical-Mathematical Intelligence consists of the capacity to understand the underlying principles of some kind of causal system, the way a scientist or a logician does; or to manipulate numbers, quantities, and operations, the way a mathematician does. In Howard Gardner's words, it entails the ability to detect patterns, reason deductively and think logically. Therefore, it involves the capacity to analyze problems logically, carry out mathematical operations, and investigate issues scientifically.
  3. Musical Rhythmic Intelligence involves skill in the performance, composition, and appreciation of musical patterns. It encompasses the capacity to recognize and compose musical pitches, tones, and rhythms, and perhaps manipulate them. People who have strong musical intelligence don't just remember music easily, they can't get it out of their minds, it's so omnipresent. According to Howard Gardner musical intelligence runs in an almost structural parallel to linguistic intelligence.
  4. Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence entails the potential of using one's whole body or parts of the body (your hands, your fingers, your arms) to solve problems, make something, or put on some kind of production. It is the ability to use mental abilities to coordinate bodily movements. Howard Gardner sees mental and physical activity as related. The most evident examples are people in athletics or the performing arts, particularly dancing or acting.
  5. Spatial Intelligence involves the potential to recognize and use the patterns of wide space and more confined areas. It’s the ability to represent the spatial world internally in your mind the way a sailor or airplane pilot navigates the large spatial world, or the way a chess player or sculptor represents a more circumscribed spatial world. Spatial intelligence can be used in the arts or in the sciences.
  6. Naturalist Intelligence describes the ability to discriminate among living things (plants, animals) and sensitivity to other features of the natural world (clouds, rock configurations). It enables human beings to recognize, categorize and draw upon certain features of the environment. It 'combines a description of the core ability with a characterization of the role that many cultures value'. This ability was clearly of value in our evolutionary past as hunters, gatherers, and farmers; it continues to be central in such roles as botanist or chef.
  7. Intrapersonal Intelligence consists of having an understanding of yourself; knowing who you are, what you can do, what you want to do, how you react to things, to appreciate one's feelings, fears and motivations, which things to avoid, and which things to gravitate toward. We are drawn to people who have a good understanding of themselves. They tend to know what they can and can't do, and to know where to go if they need help. In Howard Gardner's view it involves having an effective working model of ourselves, and to be able to use such information to regulate our lives.
  8. Interpersonal Intelligence is concerned with the capacity to understand other people, their intentions, motivations and desires. It allows people to work effectively with others. It's an ability we all need, but is especially important for teachers, clinicians, salespersons, religious and political leaders, counselors and anybody who deals with other people.
  9. Existential Intelligence: the ability materials.

Teaching with MI often necessitates and proclivity to pose (and ponder) questions about life, death, and ultimate realities. However, empirical evidence is sparse and although a ninth intelligence might be attractive, Howard Gardner is not disposed to add it to the list. 'I find the phenomenon perplexing enough and the distance from the other intelligences vast enough to dictate prudence at least for now' (2, p.66).

The traditional concept of measuring intelligence by I.Q testing is far too restricted. From the 9 primary intelligences, an individual may excel in one, two or even three of these, but nobody’s good at them all. Equally the same rule applies to a child prodigy or mentally/physically disadvantaged person. A brain damaged child could have a severely impaired use of language, but be able to paint or play music magnificently. A child may wish to express his or her knowledge of that content in one of many different ways (i.e., puppetry, model making, classroom demonstrations, songs, plays, etc.). Learning through a variety of unique experiences allows children to better understand themselves as lifelong learners, and to see how others acquire knowledge and apply their skills. Dr Gardner indicates that by introducing a broader range of learning methods, (known as the intelligences) educators and indeed parents, can home in on an individual’s strengths and weaknesses by determining their preferred learning style. This would consequently give them the opportunity to learn in ways more productively to their unique minds.

It goes without saying it’s challenging to teach all intelligences at the same time. Think positively: nine kinds of intelligence would allow nine ways to teach, rather than one. Powerful constraints that exist in the mind can be mobilized to introduce a particular concept (or a whole system of thinking) in a way that children are most likely to learn it and least likely to disfigure it. The key to implementing MI successfully is to design your classroom and the particular lesson so that students are able to participate in learning and understand the material in a variety of ways.

There are some tips that the teacher should keep in mind:

Provide the students with sufficient that students work together in groups and/or on projects that employ many materials. Be sure that you adapt your classroom space as best you can to the parameters of the lesson. For example, if the lesson plan asks students to work with computers and you do not have enough in your classroom, try to schedule time in the computer lab in advance. If the lesson plan involves drawing or acting, be sure to arrange your classroom so that there is sufficient space and materials.

Make clear instructions and strict limitations for carrying out the given task.

Be prepared not only to encourage collaboration and "thinking outside the box," but also to maintain some control by setting specific boundaries for students. For example, if the assignment calls for the students to work together to develop a presentation, be sure to define exactly how they should work together (perhaps by asking them to muck in the task among the members of a group, or encouraging them to assign different roles within the group) and what to do if they have trouble cooperating.

  1. Be ready for getting different ways of students’ performance. One "answer" or outcome is not the only acceptable measure of a child's understanding. For example, if your objective is for students to understand the literary elements of a story or novel (e.g., rising action, conflict, climax, etc.), different learners might grasp the concept in different ways. One student might illustrate them through drawing, another might be able to re-create the elements through acting, and yet another might better be able to summarize them in writing.
  2. Let students know the criteria of assessment. They need to have a clear understanding of how their work will be evaluated. Be sure to lay out the exact objectives and expectations of your lesson before beginning. Because MI allows for many different means of learning and expression, children need to understand that there may be many different forms of evaluation and that one style of work is not necessarily more demanding or time consuming than another. For example, if a project gives participants a choice between writing and illustrating, the outcomes will ob-

viously be very different, but they may be given the same grade for meeting the same objective.

There are multiple benefits to employing MI in your classroom. The Multiple Intelligence classroom acts like the "real" world in that, for example, the author and the illustrator of a book or the actor and the set builder in a play are equally valuable creators. Students become more active, involved learners. Such activities as drawing a picture, composing or listening to music, watching a performance, etc can be vital to learning, as important as writing and mathematics. Therefore, you may come to regard intellectual ability more broadly. Studies show that many students who perform poorly on traditional tests are turned on to learning when classroom experiences incorporate artistic, athletic, and musical activities.

Teachers may provide opportunities for authentic learning based on your students' needs, interests and talents. The multiple intelligence classroom acts like the "real" world: the author and the illustrator of a book are equally valuable creators. Students become more active, involved learners.

Parent and community involvement in your school may increase. This happens as students demonstrate work before panels and audiences. Activities involving apprenticeship learning bring members of the community into the learning process.

Students will be able to demonstrate and share their strengths. Building strengths gives a student the motivation to be a "specialist." This can in turn lead to increased self-esteem.

When you "teach for understanding," your students accumulate positive educational experiences and the capability for creating solutions to problems in life.

Gardner’s approach imparts alternative way of thinking and entails some advantages of using this theory in education:

A broad vision of education. All seven intelligences are needed to live life well. Teachers, therefore, need to attend to all intelligences, not just the first two that have been their tradition concern. As Kornhaber has noted it involves educators opting 'for depth over breadth'. Understanding entails taking knowledge gained in one setting and using it in another. 'Students must have extended opportunities to work on a topic' (4, p. 276).

Developing local and flexible programmers. Howard Gardner's interest in 'deep understanding', performance, exploration and creativity are not easily accommodated within an orientation to the 'delivery' of a detailed curriculum planned outside of the immediate educational context. 'An "MI setting" can be undone if the curriculum is too rigid or if there is but a single form of assessment' (3, p. 147).

Looking to morality. 'We must figure out how intelligence and morality can work together', Howard Gardner argues, 'to create a world in which a great variety of people will want to live' (1, p. 4).

In conclusion, I’d like to refer to Howard Gardner’s thoughts about human uniqueness, “I want my children to understand the world, but not just because the world is fascinating and the human mind is curious. I want them to understand it so that they will be positioned to make it a better place. Knowledge is not the same as morality, but we need to understand if we are to avoid past mistakes and move in productive directions. An important part of that understanding is knowing who we are and what we can do... Ultimately, we must synthesize our understandings for ourselves. The performance of understanding that try matters are the ones we carry out as human beings in an imperfect world which we can affect for good or for ill (2, p. 180-181).

Therefore, our teachers should create conditions to change the world. Always remember that intelligence is like people’s capacity to solve problems in their own way. They can fashion products that are valued in one or more cultural setting by choosing different methods and techniques that are easier and more effective for problem solving. That’s why it’s important for every teacher to adapt to every student, know his/her perception of the world. Educators should take advantage of the uniqueness of their students.

Explore your students’ interests in world cognition. Be creative, use your skills to maintain your students’ potential and help them understand the world easier and more consciously.

If a child is not learning the way you are teaching, then you must teach in the way the child learns. Do make difference in teaching!



  1. Gardner, Howard (1983; 1993) Frames of Mind: The theory of multiple intelligences, New York: Basic Books. The second edition was published in Britain by Fontana Press. 466 pages.
  2. Gardner, Howard (1999) Intelligence Reframed. Multiple intelligences for the 21st century, New York: Basic Books. 292 pages.
  3. Gardner, Howard (1999) The Disciplined Mind: Beyond Facts And Standardized Tests, The K-12 Education That Every Child Deserves, New York: Simon and Schuster (and New York: Penguin Putnam).
  4. Kornhaber, M. L. (2001) 'Howard Gardner' in J. A. Palmer (ed.) Fifty Modern Thinkers on Education. From Piaget to the present, London: Routledge.
  5. Project SUMIT (2000) SUMIT Compass Points Practices. [http://pzweb.harvard.edu/ Research/SUMIT.htm. Accessed June 15, 2008]
  6. Gardner, Howard, and Hatch, Thomas. "Multiple Intelligences Go to School" CTE Technical Report Issue No. 4 (March 1990) http://www.edc.org/CCT/ccthome/reports/tr 4.html
  7. MITA (Multiple Intelligence Teaching Approach) http://www.houghton. edu/ personnel/eweber/ellen.html
  8. Multiple Intelligences http:// www. chariho. k12. ri .us/ curriculum/ MISmart/ MImapDef.HTM

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