Multiple Intelligence Theory

Howard Earl Gardner first proposed his theory of Multiple Intelligence or MI Theory in 1983. MI Theory proposes seven primary forms of intelligence, instead of a single intelligence. These are Visual-spatial, Bodily-kinesthetic,.Musical, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Linguistic, Logical-mathematical, and Naturalistic. The theory allows the educational community to adapt the teaching processes to fit the individual student’s intelligence.

The theory is supported in the education community, partly because it emphasis the student-centric model of teaching. It has assisted educators in questioning their approaches, or evaluating the activities and strategies they use, and selecting alternatives which are outside the recognized approaches. MI theory itself is not an educational tool, that is to say it is on its own, not an educational goal. Rather, the theory promotes different assessment strategies that are not limited to standard tests.

Before we discuss the intelligences, we need to mention there is limited support for the theory. For example, the psychology community doesn’t support the theory as it cannot be measured using standardized tests, nor is their any valid measurement tool. The criteria to determine if something should be categorized is an “intelligence” varies from case to case, and difficult to uniformly apply, further hampering the development of any consistent measurement tool. Additionally, critics of the theory who believe that intelligence can only be measured through an IQ test will always challenge this theory.

Despite the potential benefits to the educator and the student, Gardner never fully considered the implications for educators. MI Theory is primarily focused on child development, put applicable to all ages. It emphasizes that students think and learn in many different ways, not just one way. This in itself is not new, as other research has identified various learning modalities, auditory, visual and kinesthetic, as key to the learning process. However, the emphasis on creating learning situations which are specific to the intelligence involved is also not unique. Gardner’s theory promotes presenting the information to the students in a manner which is relevant to their intelligence factor(s), known as Individualizations, and .presenting the key learning points in multiple ways, known as pluralization.

The intelligences proposed by Gardner in MI theory are:

  • Visual-spatial – addressing this intelligence requires the teacher to include various tools like models, graphics, photographs, and multimedia.
  • Bodily-kinesthetic – the teacher needs to use real objects, physical activity, acting, role-plays and hands-on-learning.
  • Musical – Students learn through activities like turning lessons into lyrics, tapping out rhythms, musical instruments and multimedia.
  • Interpersonal – Accommodating this intelligence requires teachers include group activities, seminars, audio and video conferencing, and support from the instructor.
  • Intrapersonal – these students are very in tune with their inner feelings, are intuitive and motivated. They can be taught through independent studies, diaries, books, and time.
  • Linguistic -these students are very good with words. They can learn through auditory activities, reading, multimedia, tapes and lectures.
  • Logical-mathematical – these are the conceptual thinkers challenged by puzzles, patterns and experiments. Logic games, and investigations are good ways for them to learn.
  • Naturalistic – these students interact highly with and are curious about the natural world. They can learn through hands-on-learning such as experiments and field trips, multimedia and reading.

Taking advantage of the various multiple intelligence requires the teacher to try different strategies. The teacher or instructor assists the student in identifying and encouraging the use of their specific intelligence preferences. The instructor should structure the content and presentation to appeal to different intelligences and cover as many of them as possible in the learning activity. Assessments should also cover a wide range of intelligences.

With a range of intelligences to consider, teachers can more easily consider different ways to teach the material to engage the different intelligence preferences. Although, the teacher needs to emphasize all seven intelligences in the learning process and not focus only on the linguistic and logical-mathematical.

From the instructor’s perspective, MI Theory offers several strategies.

  • Lesson Design, where multiple intelligences are incorporated into the learning activity.
  • Assessments can be tailored to the student, possibly even the students designing the assessment strategy with the teacher.
  • Students can work on complex projects.
  • Apprenticeships, where appropriate can help students master a set of complex skills.
  • Using multimedia engages various intelligences
  • Implementing presentation strategies using multimedia

If you want more information on MI Theory, you can check out these references.

Gardner, H. (2003). Multiple Intelligences after Twenty Years, 1–15.

Gardner, H. (2004). Notes for Scientific American, 1–12.

Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences. (n.d.). Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences. Mind Tools. Retrieved February 12, 2013, from

Guigon, A. (2010). Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences:

A Theory for Everyone. Education World. Retrieved February 18, 2013, from

Multiple Intelligences. (n.d.). Multiple Intelligences. Theory Into Practice. Retrieved January 19, 2013, from

Multiple Intelligences. (n.d.). Multiple Intelligences. The Education Coalition. Retrieved February 18, 2013, from

Smith, M. K. (2008). howard gardner, multiple intelligences and education. Infed. Retrieved February 10, 2013, from

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