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The Theory of Multiple Intelligences and Education

Updated on April 5, 2012

The theory of intelligences has been around for some time and there were likely some believers and non-believers. The theory of multiple intelligences originally began with focusing on individuals containing seven intelligences. Initially, the seven intelligences included: linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. As time has progressed, Howard Gardner began to speak about an eighth intelligence. The eighth intelligence being naturalist. With all these intelligences present in students, are these needs being addressed in education?

The Presence of Multiple Intelligences

Students are given very similar styles of state testing that focus on one method, paper and pencil. The paper and pencil method is used to test students to determine if they are learning what they need to learn during the school year. At the end of the year, all students in grades 3-12 are given a paper and pencil state test to show what they have learned that school year. The paper and pencil method does not address the issues of the achievement gap. Although the gaps have decreased over time, on average, white students scored higher on all assessments (United States Department of Education, 2009). Is every students needs being addressed on state standardized tests? Gardner’s research has shown the presence of various intellectual strengths (Gardner, 1993). The intelligences include: linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. Linguistic intelligence focuses on relating to the meaning and order of words. The logical-mathematical intelligence focuses on being able to be successful in mathematical and logical applications. Musical intelligence focuses on the ability to create music, usually people who are musically gifted. Spatial intelligence focuses on visual learners who have no difficulty creating pictures on paper, usually architects and artists. Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence focuses on the ability to use one’s body successfully toward a goal or purpose, usually athletes. Interpersonal intelligence focuses on the ability to interact successfully with other people. Intrapersonal intelligence focuses on the ability to comprehend the complexity of one’s own emotions. The eighth intelligence Gardner added focused on the naturalist intelligence, which focuses on the extensive knowledge on things that deal with nature (Gardner, 1993).

Multiple Intelligences and Education

Multiple intelligences have not always been accepted by everyone but for educators he seems to make sense. Educators and educational theorists have embraced the theory of multiple intelligences and have moved towards gearing curriculum around the idea (Smith, 2008). With educators realizing the eight intelligences, it provides and opportunity to include eight different ways to teach, which in turn keeps learning interesting and fun. Being able to identify the intelligences allows the teacher to validate his/her own everyday experiences that not all students learn in the same manner (Kornhaber, as cited in Smith, 2008). Realizing the differences in students provides the opportunity for the teacher to create individualized instruction that addresses students’ needs, which is what many districts are pushing. Treat students as if they are individual complex units, not as a whole. Teachers identifying the students’ individual learning styles can allow teachers to address individual students’ needs. Students who possess the linguistic intelligence should focus on language as a whole, whether it is with reading or writing. When a teacher addresses the needs of a linguistic learner, the focus should be using language the student can comprehend and relate to. Students who possess musical intelligence learn best by musically conveying their emotions. When teaching, teachers can use music as a form of expression, a display of understanding, and a connection to other intelligences (Nolen, 2003). Students who possess the mathematical-logical intelligence are strong in math and are able to think logically. Strengthening this intelligence can also assist in spatial intelligence. Students with spatial intelligence can manipulate images to solve problems. As a teacher, focusing on the child's ability to use pictures and photographs will provide an opportunity for the students to express and strengthen their intelligence. Students who possess the bodily-kinesthetic intelligence learn best through the body (Nolen, 2003). As a kindergarten teacher, it seems as if many of the students focus on using movement to learn. Kindergartners are taught using manipulatives, and physical movement. Many kindergartners have a difficult time sitting for a long period of time, so the movement allows them to retain information through their body. Students who possess an interpersonal intelligence have no difficulty interacting with other people as a whole. As a kindergarten teacher, strengthening the students’ interpersonal intelligence is a huge goal because the students still tend to be self-centered. Having the students working together and sharing strengthens this intelligence. Students who possess intrapersonal skills are able to deal with their own emotions. Kindergartner’s intrapersonal intelligence is developed by constant praise and self evaluation. Students who possess the naturalistic intelligence have respect for everything involved with the earth. Teachers can address these students’ needs by including outdoor lessons or hands on nature experiences. When the various intelligences are acknowledged, the students’ learning is optimized. Teachers who identify and nurture these intelligences create successful learners. All of the intelligences are innate in every learner and it is the teacher's job to help each child's intelligences flourish (Nolen, 2003). Students will benefit from a teacher acknowledging the multiple intelligences by including the changes in the lesson's designs, interdisciplinary units, students’ projects, assessments, and apprenticeships (Guignon, 2004).

Questioning Multiple Intelligences

With every scholarly theory, there will always be people who question the theory. Some of the questions regarding Gardner’s theory question criteria in which the intelligences are selected, Gardner’s conceptualization of intelligences and if there is evidence to support Gardner's theory (Smith, 2008). Gardner himself had identified some criticisms that he had chosen to respond to, to maintain the credibility of the theory. The issues on which he focused on were: correlation among intelligences processes of intelligences, and terminology. When focusing on the correlation of intelligences it is an issue that is still being worked on because an unbiased assessment has not been created. The processes of intelligences were brought up by people who were not familiar with the scientific information on intelligences. As a psychologist, the processes were laid out in the correct manner. Although Howard Gardner made the seven intelligences famous he is sometimes not seen as the originator. His theory is seen as a combination of Ryle, intelligent action, and Hirst, different domains of knowledge (Williams, 2000). With Gardner’s work preceding Ryle and Hirst, many people believe his originality is lacking.


As an educator, the theory of multiple intelligences needs to be acknowledged. Realizing the eight intelligences should impact the way teachers meet the needs of students, thus making learning eight times more interesting. One thing that must be acknowledged is that intelligence is a “general capacity that every human being possesses to a greater or lesser extent.” Teachers must realize the innate intelligences and work to strengthen each one.


Gardner, H. (1993). The Theory of Multiple Intelligences: Tenth Anniversary Edition. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Guignon, A. (2004). Multiple Intelligences: A Theory for Everyone. Education World. Retrieved September 28, 2009.

Nolen, J. (2003). Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom. Education, 124 (1), 115-119. Retrieved September 28, 2009.

Smith, M. (2008). Howard Gardner, Multiple Intelligences and Education. Infed. Retrieved September 28, 2009.

Vanneman, A., Hamilton, L., & Anderson, J. (2009). Achievement Gaps, How Black and White Students in Public Schools Perform in Mathematics and Reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress: Statistical Analysis Report. National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved September 27, 2009.

Williams, K. (2000). "Do Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences Add Up? (Book Review)." British Journal of Educational Studies, 48(1), 107.


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    • fullheartteacher profile image

      fullheartteacher 5 years ago from Philippines

      I really loved this topic in your hub. The multiple intelligence approach of teaching has helped me a lot in my career as a teacher. With this info my knowledge was added and I am sure it will help me to be more effective in my call. More power to you.......

    • profile image

      Savannah5 5 years ago

      Thank you kindly!

    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 5 years ago from United States

      As a special education teacher for many years, I have employed most of the intelligences and addressed them with my children K-12 and have been greatly rewarded myself over the years in witnessing how successful these approaches may well be in many students. I have always tried to follow the basic methods in teaching and dealing with those who learn best by sight, hearing, kinesthetically,or tactically(Fleming'sVAK-VARK method)As an art teacher initially, in my career, I found that the arts were valuable tools to enhance the education of my educationally handicapped children. I appreciated this hub greatly and I want to commend you on your work.