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Howard Gardner's Original Theory of Multiple Intelligences

              By Alexandra Key

Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence’s, as published in 1983 outlined the possibility that there were seven platforms or types of ‘intelligence’.

His theory stemmed from a series of research funded by the Von Leer Foundation in Holland. The point of the funding was to look into ‘what was known about the nature and realisation of human potential’. The basic prior history of which can be seen in the enclosed video resource.



To outline Gardner’s theory the seven platforms of potential for intelligence are as follows:

Logical Mathematical      Sensitivity to, and capacity to discern, logical or numerical patterns; ability to handle long chains of reasoning.

                                     Scientist or Mathematician

Linguistic                       Sensitivity to the sounds, rhythms, and meanings of words; sensitivity to the different functions of language.

                                     Poet or Journalist

Spatial                           Capacities to perceive the visual-spatial world accurately and to perform transformations on one’s initial perceptions.

                                     Navigator or Sculptor

Musical                          Abilities to produce and appreciate rhythm, pitch, and timbre; appreciation of the forms of musical expressiveness.

                                    Composer or Violinist

Bodily Kinesthetic          Abilities to control one’s body movements and to handle objects skilfully.

                                    Dancer or Athlete

Interpersonal                  Capacities to discern and respond appropriately to the moods, temperaments, motivations and desires of other people.

                                    Therapist or Salesman

Intrapersonal                  Access to one’s own feeling and the ability to discriminate among them and draw upon them to guide behaviour; knowledge of one’s own
                                    strengths, weaknesses, desires, and intelligences.

                                    Person with detailed, accurate self-knowledge

[Details taken from the American Educational Research Association – Educational Researcher, Vol 18, No 8 (Nov., 1989). pp. 4-10]

The implications that this theory had on education mainly concerned the learning models used. Gardner himself said that “we can use Multiple Intelligences theory as a way of analysing educational encounters. An educational encounter is any situation in which a person is learning something..”. They key words of this statement being ‘analytical educational encounters’. Thus importantly forcing the theory and those within education to look at the modes of assessment within the current educational frameworks. The theory tries to look at and suggest educational reform which moves assessment away from the traditional means of mathematical and linguistical focused examined content which we can relate back to the narrowly minded conclusions of the old and modern IQ tests of the 19th Century.

After the publication of the original theory, two small scale studies were conducted on localised focus groups of different age ranges across America.

1)      Project Spectrum – This focused on young children

2)      Arts Propel – This focused on children of Junior and High School age

Both intended to look at different forms of learning and assessment in an “Intelligence-fair” manner, which would also look and take into consideration the cultural settings of intelligence.

Further to Gardner’s original theory as published in 1983 he has since added another two platforms of intelligence to his theory.

Naturalist            - This is to do with nurturing and caring for your surroundings and knowing the land.

Existential          - This is a form of spiritual or religious intelligence.

It has been suggested as an interpretation that the number of intelligences may become infinite and look as though there shall never be an end, but instead shall continue to grow to reflect more advanced levels of understanding of cultural requirements but also to fit to the developing teaching and learning techniques of the modern educational era.

By Alexandra Key 03/10/2012

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