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Use of Multiple Intelligences in Schools: Its Positive Effect

Updated on January 27, 2017

Using Multiple Intelligences in Your Classroom

What's My MI Profile?
What's My MI Profile?

What are Multiple Intelligences?

Multiple intelligence theory states that individuals possess at least seven different intelligences, and possibly an eighth and ninth intelligence. According to Gardner’s theory, all people possess each of the multiple intelligences to some degree. However, some individuals possess higher intellect on certain areas of intelligence. Gardner (2006) and others (Armstrong, 1994; Armstrong, 2000; Fisher & Fry, 2008; Keogh, 2003; Orlich et al, 2007; Ridnouer, 2006; Sulo, 2007 & Tomlinson, 1999) indicate that learning occurs best when the needs of our students are met through their multiple intelligences.

Gardner’s theory (2006) submits to the belief that people possess linguistic intelligence (well developed verbal skills; ability to know meaning of words), logical/Mathematical (ability to think conceptually and abstractly; ability to discern logical or numerical patterns), musical (ability to understand and create music), spatial (the ability to think in pictures, to perceive the visual world accurately and recreate it), bodily/kinesthetic (ability to use one’s body in a skilled way for self-expression or toward a goal), interpersonal (an ability to perceive and understand other individuals’ moods, desires, and motivations), and intrapersonal (ability to understand one’s own emotions). Furthermore, he believes that people may even possess abilities in naturalist intelligence (ability to recognize and classify plants, minerals, and animals; ability to recognize artifacts and in existential intelligence (sensitivity and capacity to tackle deep questions about human existence).

If what Gardner (2006) and others (Armstrong, 1994; Armstrong, 2000; Fisher & Fry, 2008; Keogh, 2003; Orlich et al, 2007; Ridnouer, 2006; Sulo, 2007 & Tomlinson, 1999)have researched sheds light on what we know about intelligence, why has the educational community been so judgmental about applying Gardner’s theory into practice?

Multiple Intelligences Research on Classroom Management: An Overview

The intent of this topic choice is to explore how using activities which promote the varied multiple intelligences in the classroom enable teachers to effectively control their classrooms. It has been shown that if a classroom lacks discipline and strong behavioral management then learning academic tasks is not as efficient as they should be (Fisher & Fry, 2008 & Mills, 1997). Therefore, it is pertinent to determine to what extent multiple intelligences play a role in behavior problems and if they do, how can teachers effectively structure activities to engage students in the lessons.

This particular topic is important to the educational profession because it increases the teacher’s awareness of what works best and what is not as successful when teaching students with different learning styles and needs. Teachers can learn how to effectively use this information to determine how to plan lessons and utilize activities that will engage all learners in the lesson. A one sided lesson likely will not meet the needs of all learners in a class; therefore educators need to determine what works best with particular students and classes in order to best meet their needs.

Educators and researchers alike have pondered the reason why some classrooms are more manageable than others and how certain educational strategies can make or break a lesson. In fact, it is not uncommon to see a school implement several programs within a few short years only to find that the program fails. However, Howard Gardner’s theory on Multiple Intelligence has begun to shed light on what we know about how people learn (Armstrong, 1994; Armstrong, 2000; Fisher & Fry, 2008; Keogh, 2003; Orlich et al, 2007; Ridnouer, 2006; Sulo, 2007 & Tomlinson, 1999). Gardner proposed that people were said to possess up to seven different intelligences, whereas prior to this we were led to believe that people only possessed intellectual skills in mathematical and verbal areas. His theory on multiple intelligences has broken new ground and has paved the way for creating an understanding of what makes a classroom more engaging and manageable for teachers.

Managing a classroom effectively is critical for teachers in understanding the developmental progress of students. Research has proven that understanding child and adolescent growth and development is essential for laying the foundation of an effective and positive learning environment (Catalano, et al, 2002). In fact, effective classrooms are those where the teacher recognizes that children grow at different rates and one where cultural and cognitive diversity are understood. Several educational studies illustrate that many students become more interested in learning when a classroom incorporates different activities that seek to stimulate the multiple intelligences that students in a classroom possess (Armstrong, 1994; Armstrong, 2000; Catalano, et al, 2002; Fisher & Fry, 2008; Keogh, 2003 & Rothstein-Fisch. & Trumbull, 2008). Classrooms that incorporate multiple intelligence activities are preparing students for the real world environment, thus students become more active, involved learners. When you teach for understanding your students accumulate positive educational experiences and the capacity for creating solutions to problems in life.

Using Multiple Intelligence Theory in Your Classroom

MI theory focuses on the fact that individuals are different, therefore they vary in their abilities. Many people have wondered how teachers can effectively teach students who have such varying abilities. Much research has focused on the relevance of using activities and strategies that meet the needs of all learners and by doing so this creates a manageable classroom. In fact, some schools have utilized team teaching methods or co-teaching to further strengthen their classroom for the benefit of all students (Fisher and Fry, 2008; Keogh, 2003;Orlich, Harder, Callahan, Trevisan, &Brown, 2007; Rothstein-Fisch & Trumbull, 2008; Sulo, 2007, & Tomlinson, 1999). It is believed that this is a good method because you are using teachers who have different strengths, therefore teaching is varied (Sulo, 2007 & Tomlinson, 1999). However, this is just one strategy that can be utilized.

Armstong (1994) recognizes that students learn well when teachers incorporate projects in their classroom lessons. Students who have multiple intelligences often enjoy working on a project. This is an additional benefit because it can incorporate the different intelligences in many unique ways. Doing so allows students to collaborative with their classmates and gives them the opportunity to relate on an interpersonal level with others, as well as learn about their own intrapersonal abilities. In addition, it will give students more investment in their own education.

Other research (Harder, Callahan, Trevisan, &Brown, 2007; Rothstein-Fisch & Trumbull, 2008; Sulo, 2007, & Tomlinson, 1999) suggests using multiple methods of teaching and varying instruction during the course of the day. Students should be exposed to different strategies within a given time in order to keep them focused on the instruction. A lesson can be delivered in many different ways and when lessons are presented visually, orally, and physically the teacher accommodates for the needs of each student and keeping them engaged throughout the entire class period.

Teachers must also be responsible enough to realize that even though multiple strategies are utilized, they must use varying methods of assessment as well. Armstrong (1994 and 2000) and Gardner (2006) suggest that observation is a strong tool for understanding what a student’s strengths and needs are and teachers should develop tools for using observation on a regular basis.

In order to fully understand how to use multiple intelligence programs and activities, teachers need to learn about what styles of learning their students possess. For example, visual learners might do best when things are color coded, highlighted, and information is visually presented through translation of words into pictures (Amstrong, 1994 & 2000 and Tomlinson,

1999). However, auditory learners learn better when information is presented a loud, when they can work with a buddy when studying, and when they engage in discussions. Finally, kinesthetic learners might enjoy making models or dioramas, doing problems on the board, exercising, or through hands on learning.

Although these strategies are suggestions for what works for each area of multiple intelligence, teachers cannot truly begin to understand what their students are strong in until they determine what unique intelligence(s) each one of your students’ possesses. A good way to do this is by observation. Generally, teachers already do that on a daily basis. Everyday teachers observe how their students act and react. In fact, research indicates that by varying assessment techniques and tools, you will be able to gauge what works best with a student (Armstong, 1994 & 2000, Gardner, 2006, Sulo, 2007 and Tomlinson, 1999).

Other Resources


Armstrong, T. (1994). Multiple intelligences: seven ways to approach curriculum. Educational

Leadership, November 1994. Retrieved

Armstrong, T. (2000). Multiple intelligences in the classroom. Alexandria, VA: Associationfor Curriculum Development.

Brookhart, S.M. (2008). How to give effective feedback to your students. Alexandria, VA: Association for Curriculum Development.

Catalano, R., Berglund, M.L., Ryan, J.A.M., Lonczak, H.S., and Hawkins, J.D. (2002). Positive youth development in the united states: research findings on evaluations of positive youth development programs. Prevention and Treatment, 5 (15).

Fisher, D. and Frey, N. (2008). Better learning through structured teaching: a framework for the gradual release of responsibility. Alexandria, VA: Association for Curriculum Development.

Freed, J. & Parsons, L. (1997). Right brained children in a left brained world: unlocking the potential of your ADD child. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

Gardner, H. (2006). Multiple Intelligence: New horizons. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Keogh, B.K. (2003). Temperament in the classroom: understanding individual differences. Retrieved

Mills, D.W. (1997). Classroom discipline: a management guide for Christian school teachers.


Orlich, D.C., Harder, R.J., Callahan, R.C., Trevisan, M.S. and Brown, A.H. (2007). Teaching strategies: a guide to effective instruction. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin.

Pollock, J.E. (2007). Improving student learning one teacher at a time. Alexandria, VA: Association for Curriculum Development.

Ridnouer, K. (2006). Managing your classroom with heart: a guide for nurturing adolescent learners. Alexandria, VA: Association for Curriculum Development.

Rothstein-Fisch, C. and Trumbull, E. (2008). Managing diverse classrooms: how to build on students’ cultural strengths. Alexandria, VA: Association for Curriculum Development.

Sulo, B. (2007). Activating the desire to learn. Alexandria, VA: Association for Curriculum Development.

Tomlinson, C.A. (1999). The differentiated classroom: responding to the needs of all learners. Alexandria, VA: Association for Curriculum Development.


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