Multiple Intelligence (MI) – Howard Gardner


Background of Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner is a psychologist and Professor at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education.  Based on his study of many people from many different walks of life in everyday circumstances and professions, Gardner developed the theory of multiple intelligences. He performed interviews with and brain research on hundreds of people, including stroke victims, prodigies, autistic individuals, and so-called "idiot savants." 


Gardner defined the first seven intelligences in Frames of Mind in 1983.  He added the last two in Intelligence Reframed in 1999.  


Theory Behind the Model

Gardner's MI Theory challenged traditional beliefs in the fields of education and cognitive science.  According to a traditional definition, intelligence is a uniform cognitive capacity people are born with.  This capacity can be easily measured by short-answer tests.  According to Gardner, intelligence is:

§      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 problems in life

§      The potential for finding or creating solutions for problems, which involves gathering new knowledge


In addition, Gardner claims that:

§      All human beings possess all intelligences in varying amounts

§      Each person has a different intellectual composition

§      We can improve education by addressing the multiple intelligences of our students

§      These intelligences are located in different areas of the brain and can either work independently or together

§      These intelligences may define the human species

§      Multiple intelligences can be nurtured and strengthened, or ignored and weakened 

§      Each individual has nine intelligences (and maybe more to be discovered)


Multiple Intelligences

According to MI Theory, identifying each student’s intelligences has strong ramifications in the classroom.  If a child's intelligence can be identified, then teachers can accommodate different children more successfully according to their orientation to learning.  Teachers in traditional classrooms primarily teach to the verbal/linguistic and mathematical/logical intelligences.  The nine intelligences are:


§      VISUAL/SPATIAL - children who learn best visually and organizing things spatially. They like to see what you are talking about in order to understand.  They enjoy charts, graphs, maps, tables, illustrations, art, puzzles, costumes - anything eye catching.

§      VERBAL/LINGUISTIC - children who demonstrate strength in the language arts: speaking, writing, reading, listening. These students have always been successful in traditional classrooms because their intelligence lends itself to traditional teaching.

§      MATHEMATICAL/LOGICAL - children who display an aptitude for numbers, reasoning and problem solving. This is the other half of the children who typically do well in traditional classrooms where teaching is logically sequenced and students are asked to conform.

§      BODILY/KINESTHETIC - children who experience learning best through activity: games, movement, hands-on tasks, building. These children were often labeled "overly active" in traditional classrooms where they were told to sit and be still!

§      MUSICAL/RHYTHMIC - children who learn well through songs, patterns, rhythms, instruments and musical expression. It is easy to overlook children with this intelligence in traditional education.

§      INTRAPERSONAL - children who are especially in touch with their own feelings, values and ideas. They may tend to be more reserved, but they are actually quite intuitive about what they learn and how it relates to themselves.

§      INTERPERSONAL - children who are noticeably people oriented and outgoing, and do their learning cooperatively in groups or with a partner. These children may have typically been identified as "talkative" or " too concerned about being social" in a traditional setting.

§      NATURALIST - children who love the outdoors, animals, field trips. More than this, though, these students love to pick up on subtle differences in meanings. The traditional classroom has not been accommodating to these children.

§      EXISTENTIALIST - children who learn in the context of where humankind stands in the "big picture" of existence. They ask "Why are we here?" and "What is our role in the world?" This intelligence is seen in the discipline of philosophy.


The 9 Intelligences of MI Theory in table form.

Link to Multiple Intelligence Tests

To help understand how you learn best, take this Multiple Intelligence Inventory test. There are just a few questions to answer and  the test should take approximately five minutes to complete.


This MI test can be printed and used in a classroom to determine your students’ intelligences.