The bulk of this document describes Gardner's
theory of Multiple Intelligences. At the end of the description,
there is a section on how this applies to educators and, particularly,
to assessment. Lastly, there are examples of different spelling
activities, based on the different intelligences. Skim through to
find the parts of the document which are likely to be most useful
As you read, remember that this theory describes
different intelligences as if they are different categories, in
order to provide a model for us to understand the whole person.
In reality, each person is a unique blend of characteristics, and
‘intelligence’ as a whole, blending aspects of the different ‘intelligences’
identified here. We cannot use theories to put people into fixed
categories of intelligence. We can use theories to better understand
the complex and dynamic nature of human
intelligence and thinking. This can help to inform our teaching
and assessment, and to make it more varied and authentic.
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of James Burton.
Updated information available at
Some theorists believe believe that intelligence
is a basic ability that affects performance on all cognitively oriented
tasks. Consequently, an "intelligent" person will do well
in computing mathematical problems, in analysing poetry, in taking
history essay examinations, and in solving riddles.
Evidence for this position comes from correlational
evaluations of intelligence tests.
J.P. Guilford (1967) and Howard Gardner (1983) are the most prominent
proponents of multiple cognitive abilities.
Guilford has suggested that there are three (3) basic categories,
or faces of intellect:
mental operations - the process of thinking;
contents - what we think about; products
- the end results of our thinking.
Mental operations are further divided into five different subcategories:
cognition - recognising old information and discovering
new; convergent thinking - where there is only one
answer or solution; divergent thinking - used when
many answers may be appropriate; evaluation - decisions
about how good, accurate, or suitable something is; memory
- remembering previous information given or experienced.
Guilford's model of intelligence has several advantages as well
as one major disadvantage.
The model broadens our view of the nature of intelligence by adding
such factors as those related to social judgement (the evaluation
of others' behaviour) and creativity (divergent thinking).
Certainly, human mental abilities must be complex, but Guilford's
model may be too complex to serve as a guide for predicting behaviour
in real situations or for planning instruction.
In addition the problem of explaining the persistent correlations
among all these "separate" mental abilities remains.
Howard Gardner has proposed a "theory
of multiple intelligences" in which he suggests that people
possess at least seven (eight since 1997) different forms of intelligence.
He claims that the capacity of individuals to
acquire and advance knowledge reflects the priorities and opportunities
that society presents in a cultural domain.
In this framework, intelligence is seen as a flexible,
culturally dependent construct and as such it reflects a social
Each of the seven intelligences, listed below,
are characterised by core components such as sensitivity to the
sounds, rhythms, and meanings of words and capacities to discern
and respond appropriately to the moods, temperaments, motivations
and desires of other people.
An example of this is:
"a surgeon who needs both the acuity
of spatial intelligence to guide
the scalpel and the dexterity of the bodily kinaesthetic intelligence
to handle it."
The Multiple Intelligences are not subject specific and can be related
to many different learning areas.
Gardner's own definitions of the Intelligences
are seen below :-
intelligence is the capacity to use language, your native language,
and perhaps other languages, to express what's on your mind and
to understand other people. Poets really specialise in linguistic
intelligence, but any kind of writer, orator, speaker, lawyer, or
a person for whom language is an important stock in trade highlights
People with a highly developed logical-mathematical intelligence
understand the underlying principles of some kind of a causal system,
the way a scientist or a logician does; or can manipulate numbers,
quantities, and operations, the way a mathematician does.
Visual spatial intelligence refers to the ability to represent
the spatial world internally in your mind--the way a sailor or aeroplane
pilot navigates the large spatial world, or the way a chess player
or sculptor represents a more circumscribed spatial world. Spatial
intelligence can be used in the arts or in the sciences. If you
are spatially intelligent and oriented toward the arts, you are
more likely to become a painter or a sculptor or an architect than,
say, a musician or a writer. Similarly, certain sciences like anatomy
or topology emphasise spatial intelligence.
Bodily kinaesthetic intelligence is the capacity to use your
whole body or parts of your body--your hand, your fingers, your
arms--to solve a problem, make something, or put on some kind of
a production. The most evident examples are people in athletics
or the performing arts, particularly dance or acting.
Musical intelligence is the capacity to think in music, to
be able to hear patterns, recognise them, remember them, and perhaps
manipulate them. People who have a strong musical intelligence don't
just remember music easily--they can't get it out of their minds,
it's so omnipresent. Now, some people will say, "Yes, music
is important, but it's a talent, not an intelligence." And
I say, "Fine, let's call it a talent." But, then we have
to leave the word intelligent out of all discussions of human abilities.
You know, Mozart was damned smart!
Interpersonal intelligence is understanding other people.
It's an ability we all need, but is at a premium if you are a teacher,
clinician, salesperson, or politician. Anybody who deals with other
people has to be skilled in the interpersonal sphere.
Intrapersonal intelligence refers to having an understanding
of yourself, of knowing who you are, what you can do, what you want
to do, how you react to things, which things to avoid, and which
things to gravitate toward. We are drawn to people who have a good
understanding of themselves because those people tend not to screw
up. They tend to know what they can do. They tend to know what they
can't do. And they tend to know where to go if they need help.
8. Naturalist intelligence designates the
human ability to discriminate among living things (plants, animals)
as well as sensitivity to other features of the natural world (clouds,
rock configurations). This ability was clearly of value in our evolutionary
past as hunters, gatherers, and farmers; it continues to be central
in such roles as botanist or chef. I also speculate that much of
our consumer society exploits the naturalist intelligences, which
can be mobilised in the discrimination among cars, sneakers, kinds
of makeup, and the like. The kind of pattern recognition valued
in certain of the sciences may also draw upon naturalist intelligence.
Gardner's view of intelligences affects the way in which we teach
in our classrooms. He challenges our ideas of what is intelligent
behaviour, in particular, the emphasis in schools on the development
of verbal and mathematical abilities of children to the exclusion
of a broader range of intelligent behaviours.
The essentials of a multiple intelligence perspective for
Present material to be learnt in authentic environments. Encourage
all children to develop competencies across all intelligences. Utilise
mentoring and apprenticeships with experts in the area of development.
Develop an interdisciplinary curriculum to facilitate the interconnections
between the intelligences. Encourage the cooperation of parents
and community in students' education. Ground education in the cultural
institutions and practices of our society
Implications for assessment
Integrate curriculum and assessment. Be flexible in assessment practices
to allow individuals to demonstrate their various competencies.
Develop authentic assessments. Develop alternative assessments such
as portfolios and work samples. Develop intrinsically interesting
assessments. Set fair assessments that do not depend on other competencies
Below is an example
of Spelling Activities based on Gardner's Multiple Intelligences
Select words from the text Say them - Look - Say - Cover - Write
- Check Make - crosswords - wonderwords - jumbled words Add - endings
- prefixes - suffixes Dictionary work - alphabetical order
Write your words in code Do word webs Identify patterns in your
list words Rank your words in terms of - length - difficulty Classify
your words in several different ways
the words - illustrate the meaning Write the word in fancy lettering
styles Play "Pictionary" Arrange your words into - chains
- ladders Draw the words as they sound
Act out the words Play charades Say your words in sign language
- deaf alphabet Dance out the meaning of the word Clap out the syllables
of the words
Tap out the syllables Create a rap incorporating the list words
Learn Morse code and tap out the words Write a song and sing the
words Play the sound of the words on a musical instrument
with a partner to say/spell words Do mimes of list words Form peer
coaching teams to help learn words Play word games in small groups
Games - Scrabble - Memory - Hangman - Boggle - Up Words
at your spelling work - do a P.M.I. Set goals for improving one
aspect of your work Think about the ways you learn best - what helps/hinders
you? How do you feel about school subjects? Where do you rate spelling?
look back over your spelling assignments - do a self-evaluation
Much of the information on this
page has been adapted from either
and McInerney, V. Educational Psychology: Constructed
Learning (Second Edition)
(Australia: Prentice Hall, 1998)
Woolfolk, A. Educational
Psychology (Fourth Edition)
(Englewood Cliffs, USA: Prentice