Thursday, January 15, 2015

Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences

The theory of multiple intelligences (MI) was developed in 1983 by Dr. Howard Gardner, professor of education at Harvard University. In his book, Frames of Mind, Gardner described seven distinct types of intelligences-logical-mathematical, verbal-linguistic, visual-spatial, musical, bodily-kinaesthetic, interpersonal and intrapersonal. In the next edition of this book he added two more types of intelligences – naturalistic and existential intelligence.
According to MI theory everyone possesses all of the eight intelligences. However the extent to which each is developed in an individual varies from person to person. Each person has a unique intelligence profile. Gardner claims that intelligence is not fixed, but continually expands and changes throughout one’s life. Gardner regards these intelligences not as skills but as “biological potentials” which are realized to a greater or lesser extent depending upon opportunities and motivation (Gardner 2004). According to Gardner’s theory, one form of intelligence is not better than another; they are equally valuable and viable (Gardner 1983). Multiple intelligence theory challenged the dominant definition of intelligence as limited to linguistic and mathematical abilities (verbal and computational intelligences). G-theory defines intelligence as an innate general capacity to learn that varies in amount from person to person, but which is relatively stable over the life span.

Gardner’s definition of intelligence

According to Gardner, intelligence is, “the talent to solve problems or produce products that are considered valuable in one or several cultures.” He stated that intelligence can be described as the combination of psychological and biological characteristics that enable individuals to solve problems or create products that are valued in one or more cultures (Gardner 1999). Gardner further suggests that thinking, problem solving and creating are valued differently depending on the family and community in which individuals live, learn and work.

Domains of multiple intelligence

Gardner proposed that there were eight relatively autonomous but interconnected intelligences:
Verbal/linguistic intelligence (word smart / book smart) - refers to the ability to use language masterfully to express oneself rhetorically or poetically e.g. the writer, orator.
Logical/ mathematical intelligence (number smart/logic smart) - refers to the ability to concentrate on mathematical problems, hypotheses and think logically e.g. the scientist, philosopher.
Visual/spatial intelligence (picture smart/art smart) – refers to the ability to manipulate and create mental images in order to solve problems e.g. the architect, engineer, sculptor.
Bodily/kinaesthetic intelligence (body smart/ movement smart) – refers to the ability to use one’s mind to control one’s bodily movement e.g. the athlete, dancer, actor, surgeon.
Musical/ rhythmic intelligence (music smart/ sound smart) – refers to the ability to read, understand, and compose musical pitches, tones and rhythms e.g. the entertainer, musician.
Interpersonal intelligence (people smart/ group smart) – refers to the ability to apprehend the feelings and intention of others e.g. the counsellor, minister, teacher.
Intrapersonal intelligence (self smart/ introspection smart) – refers to the ability to understand one’s own feelings and motivations e.g. the poet, efficiency expert.
Naturalist intelligence (nature smart) – refers to the ability to relate to the natural world with clarity and sensitivity e.g. biologist, environmentalist.
Existential intelligence – refers to the ability to explore complex philosophical questions.

Bases of multiple intelligence theory

According to Gardner, there are biological and cultural bases for multiple intelligences. The neurobiological research indicates that learning is an outcome of the modifications in the synaptic connections between brain cells. The various types of learning result in synaptic connections in different areas of brain. Since different cultures value different types of intelligences, one’s cultural context plays large roles in the formation of intelligence. There is extensive anthropological evidence indicates that certain intelligences (or abilities) exist in highly evolved levels in certain cultures.

Claims of multiple intelligence theory

The first claim is that all human beings possess all of the eight intelligences. Of course the eight intelligences function together in ways unique to each person. The second claim is that just as we all look different and have different personalities and temperaments, we also exhibit different profiles of intelligences. Gardner suggests that virtually everyone has the capacity to develop all eight intelligences to a reasonably high level of performance, if given the appropriate encouragement, enrichment and instruction. Gardner suggests that intelligence usually work together in complex ways. Gardner argues that most tasks require more than one intelligences working together. Gardner further suggests that there are many ways to be intelligent within each category. There is no set of attributes that one must have to be considered intelligent in a specific area. Multiple intelligence theory emphasizes the rich diversity of ways in which people show their gifts within intelligences as well as between intelligences. Gardner has based his claims for the existence of at least eight intelligences on psychological, neuropsychological, neurobiological, historical and evolutionary evidences as well as on findings from psychological experimental tasks.

Messages of multiple intelligence model

1.       We are born with a unique mix of all eight intelligences.
2.       Intelligences combine in complex ways.
3.       There are many ways to be intelligent within each category.
4.       Most people can develop each intelligence to an adequate level of competency.
5.       Each multiple intelligence begins as a biological potential that is shaped exponentially as the individual develops.

Applications of multiple intelligence theory

Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences provides a theoretical foundation for recognizing the different abilities and talents of students. Gardner states that students learn in different ways and need a variety of experiences to develop all their ways of learning. Multiple intelligence theory can be used for curriculum development, planning instruction, selection of course activities and related assessment strategies. Using multiple intelligences in classrooms engages different styles of learning in order to maximize educational success, intellectual growth and enthusiasm among diverse learners.
Application of multiple intelligences enhances one’s self-awareness and increase self-esteem.
Managers who have multiple intelligences can understand the challenges face with employees. The highest performing managers and leaders have significantly more ‘multiple intelligence competencies’ than other managers.
Businesses can use multiple intelligence theory to structure workshops and training sessions for employees which will enhance teamwork, develop human potential and foster creativity.
     Multiple intelligence theory has applications to education

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