Theory of multiple intelligences

An intelligence is a new kind of construct, one that draws on the biological and physiological potentials and capacities. It should not be confused with domains or disciplines, which are socially constructed human endeavours. It would be better to consider an intelligence as being like a meme, talent or an ability; very importantly, there is no hierarchy among the capacities.

The theory of multiple intelligences differentiates human intelligence into specific ‘modalities’, rather than seeing intelligence as dominated by a single general ability. Howard Gardner proposed this model in his 1983 book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences.

According to the theory, an intelligence meme must fulfil eight criteria: potential for brain isolation by brain damage; place in evolutionary history; presence of core operations; susceptibility to encoding (symbolic expression); a distinct developmental progression; the existence of savants, prodigies and other exceptional people; support from experimental psychology; support from psychometric findings. These intelligences can either work independently or together.

Gardner initially proposed eight abilities but with further research this has become ten modalities. He believes these ten intelligences meet these criteria:

musical-rhythmic, aural - You prefer using sound and music

visual-spatial - You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding

verbal-linguistic - You prefer using words, both in speech and writing

logical-mathematical - You prefer using logic, reasoning and systems

bodily-kinaesthetic, physical - You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch

interpersonal, Social - You prefer to learn in groups or with other people; the ability to communicate or interact well with other people; to empathise

intra-personal, Solitary - You prefer to work alone and use self-study; control of conscious and subconscious thoughts; a more positive internal monologue; knowing who we are?

naturalistic – You nurture and relate information to your natural surroundings

existential – You feel a spiritual intelligence as a source of guidance; philosophical; Holism

moral – virtues such as empathy, courage, fortitude, honesty, and loyalty, or of good behaviours or habits

teaching-pedagogical – “which allows us to be able to teach successfully to other people”

Although the distinction between intelligences has been set out in great detail, Gardner opposes the idea of labelling learners to a specific intelligence. Gardner maintains that his theory should “empower learners”, not restrict them to one modality of learning. According to Gardner, an intelligence is “a biopsychological potential to process information that can be activated in a cultural setting to solve problems or create products that are of value in a culture.”

Gardner’s advice to schools – “individualise the teaching style (to suit the most effective method for each student), pluralise the teaching (teach important materials in multiple ways), and avoid the term “learning styles” as this is simplistic & confusing.

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