Gardner's Theory

By Brualdi, Amy | Teacher Librarian, November 1998 | Go to article overview
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Gardner's Theory


Brualdi, Amy, Teacher Librarian


Arguing that "reason, intelligence, logic, knowledge are not synonymous ...", Howard Gardner (1983) proposed a new view of intelligence that is rapidly being incorporated in school curricula.

Arguing that "reason, intelligence, logic, knowledge are not synonymous ...", Howard Gardner (1983) proposed a new view of intelligence that is rapidly being incorporated in school curricula. In his Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Gardner expanded the concept of intelligence to also include such areas as music, special relations and interpersonal knowledge in addition to mathematical and linguistic ability.

This digest discusses the origins of Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences, his definition of intelligence, the incorporation of the Theory of Multiple Intelligences into the classroom, and its role in alternative assessment practices.

Seven Intelligences

Gardner defines intelligence as "the capacity to solve problems or to fashion products that are valued in one or more cultural settings" (Gardner & Hatch, 1989). Using biological as well as cultural research, he formulated a list of seven intelligences. This new outlook on intelligence differs greatly from the traditional view which usually recognizes only two intelligences, verbal and computational. The seven intelligences Gardner defines are:

Logical-Mathematical Intelligence--consists of the ability to detect patterns, reason deductively and think logically. This intelligence is most often associated with scientific and mathematical thinking.

Linguistic Intelligence -- involves having a mastery of language. This intelligence includes the ability to effectively manipulate language to express oneself rhetorically or poetically. It also allows one to use language as a means to remember information.

Spatial Intelligence -- gives one the ability to manipulate and create mental images in order to solve problems. This intelligence is not limited to visual domains Gardner notes that spatial intelligence is also formed in blind children.

Musical Intelligence -- encompasses the capability to recognize and compose musical pitches, tones, and rhythms. (Auditory functions are required for a person to develop this intelligence in relation to pitch and tone, but it is not needed for the knowledge of rhythm.)

Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence -- is the ability to use one's mental abilities to coordinate one's own bodily movements. This intelligence challenges the popular belief that mental and physical activity are unrelated.

The Personal Intelligences -- includes interpersonal feelings and intentions of others -- and interpersonal intelligence -- the ability to understand one's own feelings and motivations. These two intelligences are separate from each other. Nevertheless, because of their close association in most cultures, they are often linked together.

Although the intelligences are anatomically separated from each other, Gardner claims that the seven intelligences very rarely operate independently. Rather, the intelligences are used concurrently and typically complement each other as individuals develop skills or solve problems. For example, a dancer can excel in his or her art only if he or she has 1) strong musical intelligence to understand the rhythm and variations of the music, 2) interpersonal intelligence to understand how he can inspire or emotionally move the audience through movements, as well as 3) bodily-kinesthetic intelligence to provide him or her with the agility and coordination to complete the movements successfully.

Basis For Intelligence

Gardner argues that there is both a biological and cultural basis for the multiple intelligences. Neurobiological research indicates that learning is an outcome of the modifications in the synaptic connections between cells. Primary elements of different types of learning are found in particular areas of the brain where corresponding transformations have occurred.

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