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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Redefining Smart: Multiple Intelligences

Edutopia reports on the resurgent relevance of Howard Gardner's ground-breaking theory, which changed the game for students and teachers.
By Edutopia
Edutopia Team
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Editor's Note (2013): There is no scientific evidence, as of yet, that shows that people have specific, fixed learning styles or discrete intelligences, nor that students benefit when teachers target instruction to a specific learning style or intelligence. However, providing students with multiple ways to learn content has been shown to improve student learning (Hattie, 2011). Read more about the research on multiple intelligences and learning styles.

In his landmark book Frames of Mind: The Theory Of Multiple Intelligences, published in 1983, Harvard University education professor Howard Gardner unveiled a theory of multiple intelligences that famously rejected the traditional and long-held view that aptitude consists solely of the ability to reason and understand complex ideas.

Instead, he identified seven separate human capacities: musical, verbal, physical, interpersonal, visual, logical, and intrapersonal. And not all of them, including the category he added years later -- naturalistic -- could be easily evaluated by the standard measuring stick of the time: the IQ test.

Psychologists, unimpressed with Gardner's mold breaking, mostly looked the other way. Teachers, on the other hand, were electrified. The book supported what educators had known for a long time: Kids in their classrooms possess natural aptitudes for music, sports, emotional understanding -- strengths that cannot be identified in traditional tests. Gardner had given voice to their experience. Boston University education professor Scott Seider describes the reaction as a "grassroots uprising" of educators at all levels who embraced multiple intelligences (MI) theory "with a genuine passion."

In the articles that follow, we cast our light on places where the passion awakened by Gardner burns brightest today -- in schoolwide curricula, in the hearts and minds of individual teachers, in the continuing research on intelligences, and, as ever, in the evolving philosophy of Gardner himself. Like so many education reforms, the theory of multiple intelligences still is the subject of vociferous and ever-changing debate. Such is the bumpy path to change.

In keeping with our mission to illuminate what works in public education, we look at the specific ways MI enriches the experience of students and advances the goals of their teachers. Be sure to look for more of our MI coverage here on, which includes a quick personal-assessment test that could help you discover a sense of your own native MI brilliance.

Comments (67)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Austin Bacon's picture
Austin Bacon
I am so Ready to learn!.

This was very insightful, I've learned something new about myself. The results were dead on.

Yolanda Smith's picture

I learn a lot about my learning and it help me a lot to understand what type of learner I am and I am not going to stop getting all that I need to get my degree in business GOD BLESS YOU ALL

Donald Cresap Sr.'s picture
Donald Cresap Sr.
Student at Ashford University

I was strongest in the naturalistic catagory. I also rate above 50% in many other. So what does this say about my learning ability. Is 75% average, about ave, or is 63% below average and what if I am just 50% in one catagory.
Still found this to be quit a good way to judge the catagories in which we learn. I am still trying to figure out thing in the way in which I learn because, there are time when I have photo graphic memory and times when I can not remember the simplest this.

Eunice Butler's picture

Thanks i didn't think that i posess these intelligences. I've learned new things about myself.

Jessie Davison - 95002's picture

I now understand how this multiple intelligence thing has evolved. It was inetersting to find out bout my learning style and my partners. Last of all, I will one day be rich and i will fund furter studies on this terrific subject.

Victor's picture

Thanks in the effort to proceed with the objective to further illustrate the gifted limits of the individual comprehension. Acknowledging different levels of intelligence fuels the effort to strive extra for the ultimate excellence. Remembering we all may be subject to full utilization of our utmost capabilities.

Chris McA's picture

I can't begin to describe how disappointed I am that Edutopia would join in the promotion of this baseless fad. A few years ago when I was a professor, (I've since returned to the public school classroom) I would offer students $50 at the start of the semester if they could find even one study that simply provided valid, public, observable evidence that Mult Intell is a valid empirical notion (never mind the higher standard of it actually helping school children) I never had to pay. I'm glad to read that I still don't.
While Mult Intell sounds scientific, and has great emotional appeal (both important signs of pseudoscience (e.g., astrology, communication with the dead)), honest, knowledgeable people know it has no evidence.
So I still don't understand, why would Edutopia promote this 25 year old idea that has never been scientifically supported?

"Professor" Paul O. Briones's picture
"Professor" Paul O. Briones
Host and Co-Creator of Virtual Science University

I've been a student of the work of Howard Gardner Ph. D. for the last twenty three years. To learn more of what I have done and how I have the taken the musical rhythmic intellect and the other six intelligences to a different level, visit my blog at: I am continuing the work of this project now by searching for funding to get these materials to high school students across the nation who have difficulty learning biology thru traditional methods. For more info contact us at

Shunta's picture

I learn that I'm smarter than I thought I was, however this is a learning experience, and I'm ready to get my life on the roll!

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