The theory of multiple intelligences was proposed by Dr. Howard Gardner, a professor of education at Harvard University, in 1983. It claims that there are seven different intelligences, or styles of learning and understanding, rather than the two that are routinely taught in schools and employed in jobs throughout the world. These consist of visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic and logical- mathematical. As may be evident, only the latter two have been given credence in most cultures. This becomes especially apparent when one examines the educational systems thereof. Thus if Gardner&acute;s claims have any merit, than a severe revision of teaching methodologies is in order, to say nothing of the values that cultures bestow upon particular aptitudes. It seems that a brief overview of each of the intelligences is in order. Visual-spatial intelligence consists of thinking in terms of physical space. People inclined to this intelligence can be taught through verbal and physical imagery. Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence fosters acute body awareness. Those with this intelligence learn best through physical activity and a hands-on approach to learning. A musical intelligence gives one a heightened sensitivity to music and sound. Thus incorporating music into information grants a person with this type of intelligence a greater degree of interest and understanding. People with interpersonal intelligence have a greater degree of empathy and understanding for others. They are very social and learn best through group interactions. Reigning over the opposite end of the spectrum is intrapersonal intelligence. One who is of this nature tends to be shy and introverted, although still possesses a strong will and opinions. It is said that they learn best through independent study and introspection. A linguistic intelligence gives one strong auditory skills and allows for the effective use of language. Learners of this style understand easily through words, both verbal and written. The logical-mathematical intelligence predisposes one toward conceptual and abstract thought, experimentation and clear reasoning. People of this intelligence understand best by having a broad concept presented to them before details are given. Logic problems and puzzles are said to be useful teaching tools for learners of this style. People, being the complex entities that they are, do not, of course, fit neatly into one or the other of the aforementioned intelligences. Rather, Gardner claims, each person is an aggregate of these intelligences, varying in degrees between the different approaches to understanding. Consequently, if one accepts this theory, the standard method of teaching, which places emphasis primarily on linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences, proves to be sorely inadequate. Therefore the teacher, if not the systems of education as a whole, must greatly alter not only his or her teaching methods, but also the content and assessment of the lessons. While this may appear to be a daunting task, it seems to me that Gardner and his followers have provided ample evidence that our current assumptions about intelligence, and therefore the way in which we systematically attempt to foster and encourage its fruition, are destructively narrow and limited.
And yet Gardner&acute;s own theory also shows its limits. With only a small amount of imagination one could envision other intelligences as well. This, however, seems to open a door to many doors. For if one were endowed with a large amount of imagination could not one conjure up a vast wealth of intelligences? Perhaps even ad infinitum? While this theory does provide a slope which may be slippery when wet, it would seem to be worth risking the fall. For. I believe, it is better to allow for the actualization of all of one&acute;s latent abilities rather than to attempt to bring about ones that may not be suitable for bloom, thereby potentially discouraging one from the process of learning. Given this I applaud Gardner&acute;s work and hope to see its implementation in the classrooms of the not too distant future.
Author: Mark Boyd
Date of post: 2006-08-30