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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

Stacie's picture

[quote]You now have my permission to apply these two insights to whatever grade with which you are involved.[/quote]

I will be starting my PhD in August 2011, but am already planning for my dissertation and related research. Your post has given me another interesting perspective to consider. Thank you, Don Hagelberg!

Natasha's picture

I enjoy this website it teaches me alot about myself as far as my learning abilities and studying habits go.

Le'roy James (THE FIRECRACKER)'s picture

After careful analises of the questions and answers that I've given. I was amazed at the accuracy of the quize. I always try to improve myself so that I can be a better serve those that use my srevices. At this point I am thrilled to be taken this course.

Sacha Luria's picture
Sacha Luria
Teacher and mother of three children

I think this is best summarized by Sharon Elementary School's "How are you smart?" instead of the more often-heard "How smart are you?". It delivers a pretty solid, highly encouraging message out there to the kids that they do not have to be limited by traditional pencil-and-paper fare in order to become the best that they can be.

I hope that other schools will adapt this practice very soon. The MI approach is brimming with so many exciting possibilities for us teachers and our students!


jacobs mantha's picture

This is a really nice post. I have been looking for details on this subject for some time now. I was beginning to lose any hope that I will find what I need. And then I find your awesome post. What can I say, I am a lucky fellow. Thanks a lot for taking the time to make this for us and giving us the opportunity to read it.Too bad Google doesn't show great content like yours first. It keeps showing old posts that don't have good information in them. Anyway, thanks a lot for doing this and keep up the good work. I will return here once I am done with this.

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Antonio B. Jenkins's picture
Antonio B. Jenkins
Middle grades Science and Social Studies teacher

I am starting a new curriculum this school year to development authentic creative learning in the classroom to improve student achievement for at-risk youth.

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 make sure to check out other pages for research and other tools for brain based and MI based learning strategies.

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