Multiple Intelligences

Many years ago, I was funded to do some in-depth research into the practical application of Howard Gardner’s then-new theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI).  As a veteran classroom teacher, I already understood that children have all kids of “smarts,” not just “book smarts.” I knew that every student had inclinations towards (or away from) certain types of classroom activities and had begun to design units of study that incorporated music, art, language, movement, and mathematics.  Howard Gardner’s work gave me the vocabulary and understanding to discuss various intelligences with other teachers, students, and parents. I was excited to have a framework to design better lessons and to train other teachers to recognize and utilize MI theory. 

Gardner originally identified seven types of intelligence:

 Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence -- well-developed verbal skills and sensitivity to the sounds, meanings and rhythms of words

 Mathematical-Logical Intelligence -- ability to think conceptually and abstractly, and capacity to discern logical or numerical patterns

 Musical Intelligence -- ability to produce and appreciate rhythm, pitch and timber

 Visual-Spatial Intelligence -- capacity to think in images and pictures, to visualize accurately and abstractly

 Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence -- ability to control one's body movements and to handle objects skillfully

 Interpersonal Intelligence -- capacity to detect and respond appropriately to the moods, motivations and desires of others.

 Intrapersonal Intelligence -- capacity to be self-aware and in tune with inner feelings, values, beliefs and thinking processes

 Then he added two more intelligences:

 Naturalist Intelligence -- ability to recognize and categorize plants, animals and other objects in nature

 Existential Intelligence -- sensitivity and capacity to tackle deep questions about human existence, such as the meaning of life, why do we die, and how did we get here.

There is ongoing discussion about potentially identifying two more intelligences:

Spiritual Intelligence -- sensitivity and capacity to tackle deep questions about faith.

Moral Intelligence -- sensitivity and capacity to tackle deep questions about morality.

Good teachers were implementing lessons with an MI focus. They were including a wide variety of ways for students to learn the required material.  Innovative teachers began to use Gardner’s list as a checklist for lesson planning.  Instruction was becoming more diverse and involving students more actively.  Great teachers were not only identifying the strengths and weakness of students, but encouraging students to know themselves as learners.  They encouraged students to develop more strength in their areas of weakness and challenging themselves to learn in new ways. 

But we continued to go back to paper-and-pencils tests to assess whether the material had been mastered.  These tests were great for the students that were linguistically strong, but the rest of the kids were not being assessed fairly.  Thus began the movement to make assessment also reflect MI Theory.  Teachers learned to allow students to show their mastery of the material in a variety of ways.  This led to the development of project-based learning (for a later blog) approaches and the use of rubrics (also to be discussed later) for assessments.

At PCIS, we proudly implement the MI approach to lesson planning and assessment. We teach material in multiple ways and allow students to express mastery using various intelligences. This year we will begin the discussion of multiple intelligences with students and parents to enhance learning for all.

For more, see the links about the multiple intelligences on our links page.


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