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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
Credit: iStockphoto

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 Edutopia.org, which includes a quick personal-assessment test that could help you discover a sense of your own native MI brilliance.

Comments (63)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Ismael Mendez's picture

this was very true and actualy found my learning style and hope to do an other survey like this.

Ms. Diaz's picture
Ms. Diaz
Teacher trainer of future secondary school English teachers (Normal School)

This information is great. I love how it is very much detailed and the tips given according to the way we learn depending on the intelligence. I'll use this article in class to discuss it with my Normalista trainees.

Pamela's picture
single mother of 2 and grandmother of 1

I really enjoyed learning the styles of how a I learn things in life. It was very helpful and also right on target of how I learn in life on a daily basis.

cheryl capozzoli's picture
cheryl capozzoli
Instructional Technology Specialist, Pennsylvania School Board Director

I have been developing learning style interventions and learning opportunities for years. There are many types of online resources that can be used to help facilitate learning in all areas of Gardner's MI framework. If you are interested in using the resources visit my wiki at Web20guru http://web20guru.wikispaces.com/Strategies make sure to check out other pages for research and other tools for brain based and MI based learning strategies.

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.

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