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Multiple Intelligence: Putting it into Practice


The term and theory of multiple intelligences was coined by Howard Gardner, professor of education at Harvard University. Howard Gardner believed that intelligence was not just a single entity to be measured by intelligence quotient (IQ) testing. His first listing of seven intelligences was developed in 1983 and published in his book Frames of Mind. In 1999, another intelligence was added to the list and published in Intelligences: Multiple perspectives. The impact of this theory for education has been substantial.

The intelligences are:

  • Linguistic intelligence
  • Logical-mathematical intelligence
  • Spatial intelligence
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence
  • Musical intelligence
  • Interpersonal intelligence
  • Intrapersonal intelligence
  • Naturalist intelligence
Good classroom instruction and assessment builds on the strengths of the students. Although all students benefit from using a multiple intelligences approach in the classroom, students with special needs can really benefit. Teachers deliver instruction and assessment based the the strengths of students based on the seven intelligences. When teachers use the multiple intelligence approach, they can teach students to learn almost any concept by using the different ways.

For example, let's take the concept of learning the continents on earth and show what the learning activity could look like to address the intelligences.

Verbal Linguistic: The child could prepare a report, essay, concept web, teach somebody else about the continents or listen to an audio or video about the continents.

Logical-mathematical intelligence: The child could rank the continents by size and name and or population, would analyze why there may be six or seven continents, would design a quiz or game about the continents, or could compare each of the continents using a specific rationale.

Spatial intelligence: The child could create a mural, poster or drawing. The child could make a diagram or fill in a graphic organizer or story board.

Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence: The child could construct a model of each of the continents, role play a skit about the continents, play guess the continent by drawing in the air the outline of the continent, or make a paper mache of each of the continents.

Interpersonal intelligence: This student could work in pairs or triads to discover and learn about the continents, could discuss and brainstorm with peers, could survey individuals to gather information or do a group project related to the continents.

Intrapersonal intelligence: The student could work alone on a report, narrative, diagram or journal and consider the various reasons as to why there may be 6 or 7 continents.

Naturalist intelligence: Studying about land is a naturalist's strength. The student could conduct their own research about the continents and make discoveries and comparisons between the continents and his/her own continent. The student could classify the continents based on specific criteria, find out about the habitat and wildlife throughtout the continents.

The 8 intelligences provides educators with a way to observe students to discover which areas of strength/intelligence they prefer. Learning activities can then be individualized for groups of different intelligences. Initially it may seem like a bit of work but one size doesn't fit all and various activities with the same outcome is a great first step to meeting the varied needs in a classroom.

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