Multiple Intelligence In the same way that people look

In the same way that people look different, people are also intelligent in different ways. In 1983, Professor Howard Gardner came up with the concept that we all have multiple intelligence (MI). In the following I will briefly explain this concept further; highlighting how it can be incorporated into lesson plans when teaching English as a second language (ESL); how it can help students build on their strengths, while limiting their weaknesses in their grasp of the English language; and how it is useful when considering different cultures in the classroom. I will also discuss how MI explains that students all learn differently, according to which form of intelligence they are stronger in.

Gardner (1983) has categorised intelligence into 8 key areas: 'Linguistic Intelligence: word smart 'Logical-Mathematical Intelligence: number/reasoning smart 'Spatial Intelligence: picture smart 'Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence: body smart 'Musical Intelligence: music smart 'Interpersonal Intelligence: people smart 'Intrapersonal Intelligence: self smart 'Naturalist Intelligence: flora and fauna smart Traditionally, teachers have only acknowledged the first two levels of intelligence and have arranged their lessons and judged their student's intelligence accordingly. Gardner believes that students who are learning new material need to have several different points of entry in order for the material to be fully grasped. If an ESL teacher is for example, introducing new language on how to check into a hotel, and they only use linguistic skills such as speaking and blackboard work, followed up with a worksheet, they could be making the task a lot more difficult for the students to learn than if they had applied Gardner's theory. If the lesson also included such things as: a scene from the movie 'Only You' (1995) showing a hotel check in; getting the students to make up their own scene and role play it, and / or giving them a problem solving task with missing language which they need to fill in based on what they have learnt, then the new language might have been gained more rapidly as more intelligences would have been applied.

Incorporating MI into lessons and tests has the advantage of ensuring that students who are weak in some areas, for example writing and strong in others, such as music or working with visuals and space, all have the same chance to a) get a grasp of the material, and b) prove they have learnt it in the way that enhances their strengths. This will not only allow the students to learn faster but should also improve their confidence as they build on their strengths and are given the flexibility to show what these strengths are. If all lessons are taught in a traditional way, with the teacher only acknowledging linguistic and mathematical / logic intelligences, those students who are for example, musically and spatially intelligent, may not have as much success as they otherwise could have if the teacher had included these intelligences into the lesson plan.

When applying MI to a curriculum or lesson, it is also important to consider the culture of the students. Spanish people are often brought up with a lot of music and dance, for example salsa. They therefore would probably have a higher intelligence in the area of music and body-kinesthetic. The Spanish may understand English easier through the use of songs, dance and studying rhythm, tones and melody, which are all related to the learning of the English language. However, cultures with backgrounds that emphasise more traditional teaching and learning methods, or who may be of an older generation, may show resistance to other forms of teaching (Costanzo & Paxton, 1999).

According to the book Essentials of English Language Teaching by Julian Edge, teachers are measured most obviously by how much their students learn. It may not always be possible to find ways to include all of the intelligences into lesson plans and tests, however if the teacher is able to incorporate more variances and reach a few more intelligences than they otherwise would have, whilst allowing students to have a choice in the way they grasp English as a second language, it should make the students more successful. Furthermore, this should also make the experience more satisfying for the teacher and improve their success in the classroom as well.


Gardner, Howard. (1993). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences New York: Basic Books.

Edge, Julian (1993). Essentials of English Language Teaching London, New York: Longman Group UK Limited

Armstrong, T. Multiple Intelligence

Costanzo, M. & Paxton, D. (1999). Multiple assessments for multiple intelligences. Focus on Basics, 3(A), 24-27.