Watch the video below to hear a few words from Howard Gardner himself!
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Welcome back to the blog! This week, I will be discussing the theory of multiple intelligences (MI) from psychologist Howard Gardner and why schools must support all intelligences.
You have an opportunity to discover your strongest intelligences! Click the button below to take the quiz!
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How do you define intelligence?
Is it a trait or an idea? Is it general or specific? Is it singular or plural?
Do you associate it with the great scientists of history, like Albert Einstein or the literary geniuses like Margaret Atwood? Have you ever considered artists such as Pablo Picasso and Leonardo Da Vinci or composers like Beethoven and Mozart to be “intelligent”? How about Hall of Fame’s Babe Ruth or basketball player Michael Jordan?
Traditionally, the only people to be considered intelligent would be Albert Einstein and Margaret Atwood. Schools teach us the importance of literature and mathematics from the beginning and music, art, and sports as a side project.
However, psychologist Howard Gardner has begun to reshape society’s and school’s approach to intelligence to be more inclusive. Gardner defines intelligence as the “ability to solve a problem, fashion a product, devise a process or provide a service that members of a culture would value.”
According to Gardner, intelligence is plural. In his mind, everyone is intelligent because they hold different strengths — or in his words, no one is a flat zero. As I will explain further, these strengths are now recognized as multiple intelligences.
What is the theory of multiple intelligences?
The theory of multiple intelligences looks beyond the traditional definition and idea of success: wit and grit. In the past (and still sometimes today), success was measured by wit — how smart you are — and grit: how hard you work and persevere. In this traditional definition, intelligence was simple and singular. In other words, a child could be good at one thing (eg. math) but not another thing (eg. reading). According to Gardner, wit and grit are not a guarantee of success. Instead, people must ponder applications of grit and work to ensure they are used in a positive way (such as through their intelligences).
But what really is the theory of multiple intelligences?
Simply put, the theory of multiple intelligences states that human beings have more than one strength, or intelligence. Additionally, no two people have the same combination of intelligences. In essence, humans have wits, not wit.
To help better understand the theory of multiple intelligences, let’s explore the 8.5 intelligences Gardner has identified.
The 8.5 intelligences
Yep, you read that right. Howard Gardner has identified 8.5 intelligences (so far).
Before I discuss them, I want to reiterate that humans have more than one intelligence. So, they do not just identify with just one of the intelligences listed below. It is common to identify with three or four intelligences (the quiz identifies your top three), but it depends on the person. The most important thing to remember is that everyone has some intelligence.
Now the moment you’ve all been waiting for. . .a list of the 8.5 intelligences (with characteristics, sample professions, and real-life examples)!
How to best support MI
Currently, 10% of the population identifies themselves as verbal-linguistic learners, but 80% of instruction is verbal-linguistic. Additionally, 75% of the population self-identifies as bodily-kinesthetic learners even though physical education is often seen as a side project in education.
In a perfect world, classroom instruction would equally support all of the represented intelligences and strengths. However, this is simply not the case.
As I have discussed in past posts, schools often strive to teach core subjects, such as math and English, but forget to integrate creative expression, physical activity, musical expression, etc. in the classroom. This form of instruction only supports a small percentage of learners in the class.
Instead, schools must start advocating for more inclusive instruction, assessment, and representation in classrooms.
Benefits for all learners
One benefit for all learners is physical activity. Essentially, when children’s bodies are engaged, their brains are engaged. During physical activity or movement, the cerebellum, the part of the brain located at the base (or by the neck), is responsible for memory and other basic body functions. Physical brain stimulation is an essential element of a classroom routine, and allows children to relieve energy, take a break, encourage focus, and, of course, have fun!
Benefits for specific intelligences
When it comes to the specific benefits for each kind of intelligence, the classroom’s instruction should reflect components of all intelligences. At the start of the year, teachers should observe students’ strengths and weaknesses and talk with parents/caregivers about how to best support them. As the school year progresses, teachers should start to mold instruction around students’ learning and interests.
When it comes to assessment, incorporate all of the represented strengths into the style of assessment. Here is an example of assessment for preschool:
You and your preschool class have just discussed the topic of fall and have just reviewed basic fall-related vocabulary. In your class, you have children who show bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, musical, and naturalist intelligences.
You could give the following options for assessment or divide the class into their appropriate strengths:
If you would like more ideas on how to best support multiple intelligences in the classroom, check out the “Sources/Additional Resources” section at the end of this post!
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Everyone is intelligent. Everyone has their own strengths, and everyone has value in society. Our education system must change to reflect those values and create a more inclusive community of learners.
I encourage you to take the MI quiz (linked at the beginning of this post) to help you understand your learning style and to help you recognize your strengths.
What are your strongest intelligences? Leave a comment below or fill out a contact form to share the results of your MI quiz!
My strongest intelligences/scores:
Nature = 4.29
Self (Intrapersonal) = 4.14
Social (Interpersonal) = 4.14
My other scores:
Musical = 4
Body movement (Kinesthetic) = 4
Language (Linguistic) = 3.17
Spatial = 1.86
Logic/Math = 1.29
NExt week'S Post: Let's Talk About it (Facebook Livestream)
I have not yet decided on the topic of next Monday's livestream, but I will update this page updated and sent an email when I have made it official. What would you like me to talk about? Leave me a comment below!
Last week's post: Let's Talk about it: The block application (Facebook livestream)
The "blocks" are a major milestone on the pathway of an education student and future teacher. Learn more about the application process, the purpose of the blocks, the requirements, and more by clicking here!
Click on the links below to explore the sources mentioned in this post!
Howard Gardner Ted Talk: "Beyond Wit and Grit: Rethinking the Key's to Success"
Multiple Intelligences Quiz
"Adapting Instruction to Multiple Intelligences"
"12+ Ways to Teach Using Multiple Intelligences"
"Understanding Multiple Intelligences for the Classroom"
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If you like this post, have any questions, or have ideas on how I can improve my blog, leave me a comment below! Your input is always appreciated. As always, thank you for your support!
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Meghan Hesterman (she/her) is a child advocate and education blogger. While a student at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD), she created Journal of a Future Teacher to share her journey in becoming an early childhood teacher.