Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences makes people think about “IQ,” about being “smart.” The theory is changing the way some teachers teach.
When Howard Gardner’s book, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences (Basic Books, 1983) burst on the scene, it seemed to answer many questions for experienced teachers. We all had students who didn’t fit the mold; we knew the students were bright, but they didn’t excel on tests. Gardner’s claim that there are several different kinds of intelligence gave us and others involved with teaching and learning a way of beginning to understand those students. We would look at what they could do well, instead of what they could not do.
Later Gardner books, such as The Unschooled Mind: How Children Think and How Schools Should Teach (Basic Books, 1991) and Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice (Basic Books, 1993) helped us understand how multiple intelligences could help us teach and evaluate our students in new and better ways.
WHO IS HOWARD GARDNER?
Howard Gardner, Ph.D. is a professor at Harvard University and the author of many books and articles. His theory of multiple intelligences has challenged long-held assumptions about intelligence — especially about a single measure of intelligence. Dr. Gardner also co-directs Harvard’s Project Zero.
HOWARD GARDNER TALKS ABOUT AN EIGHTH INTELLIGENCE
Gardner discussed the “eighth intelligence” with Kathy Checkley, in an interview for Educational Leadership, The First Seven… and the Eighth. Gardner said, “The naturalist intelligence refers to the ability to recognize and classify plants, minerals, and animals, including rocks and grass and all variety of flora and fauna. The ability to recognize cultural artifacts like cars or sneakers may also depend on the naturalist intelligence. …(S)ome people from an early age are extremely good at recognizing and classifying artifacts. For example, we all know kids who, at 3 or 4, are better at recognizing dinosaurs than most adults.”
Gardner identified Charles Darwin as a prime example of this type of intelligence.
The naturalist intelligence meshed with Gardner’s definition of intelligence as “…the human ability to solve problems or to make something that is valued in one or more cultures.” And the naturalist intelligence met Gardner’s specific criteria:
- “Is there a particular representation in the brain for the ability?
- “Are there populations that are especially good or especially impaired in an intelligence?
- “And, can an evolutionary history of the intelligence be seen in animals other than human beings?”
IMPLEMENTING GARDNER’S THEORY IN THE CLASSROOM
When asked how educators should implement the theory of multiple intelligences, Gardner says, It’s very important that a teacher take individual differences among kids very seriously … The bottom line is a deep interest in children and how their minds are different from one another, and in helping them use their minds well.”
An awareness of multiple-intelligence theory has stimulated teachers to find more ways of helping all students in their classes. Some schools do this by adapting curriculum. In “Variations on a Theme: How Teachers Interpret MI Theory,” (Educational Leadership, September 1997), Linda Campbell describes five approaches to curriculum change:
- Lesson design. Some schools focus on lesson design. This might involve team teaching (“teachers focusing on their own intelligence strengths”), using all or several of the intelligences in their lessons, or asking student opinions about the best way to teach and learn certain topics.
- Interdisciplinary units. Secondary schools often include interdisciplinary units.
- Student projects. Students can learn to “initiate and manage complex projects” when they are creating student projects.
- Assessments. Assessments are devised which allow students to show what they have learned. Sometimes this takes the form of allowing each student to devise the way he or she will be assessed, while meeting the teacher’s criteria for quality.
- Apprenticeships. Apprenticeships can allow students to “gain mastery of a valued skill gradually, with effort and discipline over time.” Gardner feels that apprenticeships “…should take up about one-third of a student’s schooling experience.”
With an understanding of Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, teachers, school administrators, and parents can better understand the learners in their midst. They can allow students to safely explore and learn in many ways, and they can help students direct their own learning. Adults can help students understand and appreciate their strengths, and identify real-world activities that will stimulate more learning.
Instrument: Multiple Intelligences Test
- Armstrong, Thomas. Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1994.
- Armstrong, Thomas. 7 Kinds of Smart: Identifying and Developing Your Many Intelligences, New York: Plume, 1993.
- Armstrong, Thomas. In Their Own Way: Discovering and Encouraging Your Child’s Personal Learning Style, New York: Tarcher/Putnam, 1987.
- Armstrong, Thomas, “Utopian Schools,” Mothering, Winter, 1996.
- Armstrong, Thomas. “Multiple Intelligences: Seven Ways to Approach Curriculum,” Educational Leadership, November, 1994.
- Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Multiple Intelliaences CD-ROM, and Multiple Intelligences Video Series; 1250 N. Pitt St., Alexandria, VA 22314-1453 (800-933-2723).
- Gardner, Howard. Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. New York: Basic,1983
- Gardner, Howard. Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice. New York: Basic, 1993.
- Gardner, Howard. Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century. New York: Basic, 2000.
- National Professional Resources, 25 South Regent St., Port Chester, NY 10573, 914-937-8879. Producer of several videos on MI including, Howard Gardner, “How Are Kids Smart?” Jo Gusman, “MI and the Second Language Learner”, and Thomas Armstrong, Multiple Intelligences: Discovering the Giftedness in All”.
- New City School, Celebrating Multiple Intelligences ( 5209 Waterman Ave., St. Louis, MO 63108).
- Skylight Publications, 200 E. Wood St., Suite 250, Palatine, IL 60067 (div. Simon and Schuster). Publisher of many MI materials.
- Zephyr Press, PO Box 66006, Tucson, AZ 85728 (602-322-5090). Publisher of many MI materials.