Multiple Intelligences (1983)

Multiple Intelligences – 1983

The biggest mistake of past centuries in teahing has been to treat all students as if they were variants of the same individual and thus to feel justified in teaching them all the same way..

~Howard Gardner

Multiple Intelligences

Gardner (2006) investigated the cognitive differences within intelligence which makes each individual unique.  He proposed that there was more than simply an intelligence but a variety of intelligences.  Eight intelligences were identified in his earlier works including verbal/linguistic, logical/mathematical, visual/spacial, bodily/kinesthetic, musical/rhythmic, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalistic (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2009).

Later, Gardner offered a ninth intelligence of existentialist (Cortland, 2012).  Through the understanding of multiple intelligences, instructors can “highlight the importance of the individual student” (Gardner, 2006, p 51).  As students feel their value and worth through the molding of lessons, they will have more success and greater desire to continue on to be successful students and hopefully develop into lifelong learners (Gregory & Chapman, 2007).

Based on Gardner’s work of multiple intelligences, cognitive theorists investigated the probability that people had different “ways of thinking and learning methods” (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2009, p. 127). These varied approaches are called learning styles.  Preferred learning styles connected with multiple intelligences assist the individual in how they learn.  They alter experiences, identify the method with which information is retrieved and even can change chosen words.  They also change the way students internally represent experiences, the way information is recalled, and even the words chosen.

Within multiple intelligences, learning styles are supported as instructors are encouraged to approach teaching from a variety of means.  Teachers should use multiple methods of instruction which will target the individual learning styles of each student.  Baron (2010) suggests several methods to move teaching from reception to participation.

Among these suggestions are varying the activities, create multiple opportunities for students to interact with each other, use problem solving assignments as the foundation for most activities, have students participate in brainstorming activities, and have students reflect on material.


Learning Styles

The linguistic or verbal learner is a learner who best focuses their learning experiences through reading, writing or even speaking.  This learner is exceptional adept at using language.  They are capable of quickly memorizing dates, places and trivia through saying, hearing and even seeing the written words while the logical and mathematical learner works best through numbers and enjoys the challenge of classifying, organizing and working with relationships as well as abstract patterns.  This type of learner particularly enjoys problem solving.  Spatial learners also prefer problem solving but instead of using logic, like the mathematical learner, they use the visualizing, mapping and working with pictures.

Bodily/kinesthetic and musical learners share some of the same qualities such as movement and rhythm.  They differ, however, in that the kinesthetic learners consistently move and tinker with items.  They will touch, move and experiment within space.  They process information through their bodily sensations.

Interpersonal and intrapersonal learners are precise opposites.  An interpersonal learner is extroverted with many friends and people with which they communicate.  They will use others to help them to sort through information.  They will learn best in group settings where they can share and compare.  They also describe themselves as pulling their personal energy from association with others.  This is in direct opposition to the intrapersonal learner who will work alone.  They will prefer to work individualized projects and enjoy self-paced instructional methodologies, deriving their energy from solitary activities.

The last of the original eight intelligences is the naturalistic learner relates to the awareness and observation of the world around them especially within nature.  These learners prefer to be out of doors as they orient themselves to the world surrounding them.  They are particularly proficient at classifying, ordering and identifying artifacts in the natural world.


Determining Learning Style

In a request for assessments to identify the learning styles, Howard Gardner (2006) stated that at one point an assessment had been approached and an endeavor began. Yet, at length, Gardner opted out of creating an assessment finding it be a difficult endeavor which may lack reliability and require a variety of measures for each intelligence. He added a warning that such an assessment could be detrimental to individuals, leading to “new forms of labeling and stigmatization” (p.70). Despite his warnings, a variety of assessments have been developed and are available although not endorsed by Howard Gardner.


Strengths of Multiple Intelligences

  • highlight the importance of the individual student (Gardner, 2006).
  • Students feel their value and worth (Gardner, 2006).
  • more success and greater desire to continue on to be successful students (Gardner, 2006).
  • develop into lifelong learners (Gardner, 2006).
  • target the individual learning styles of each student (Gardner, 2006).
  • Students will feel inspired, motivated and possess a self-efficacy (Kosanovich, Ladinsky, Nelson & Torgesen, 2013).
  • successful application of knowledge (Kosanovich, Ladinsky, Nelson & Torgesen, 2013).
  • clearly written objectives (Thousand, Villa & Nevin, 2007).
  • increases communication between educators and students (Thousand, Villa & Nevin, 2007).
  • provides a variety of learning opportunities (Thousand, Villa & Nevin, 2007).
  • matches activities to address content with learning personalities (Thousand, Villa & Nevin, 2007).
  • experience for students in different learning personalities (Thousand, Villa & Nevin, 2007).
  • provides for a layered curriculum (Thousand, Villa & Nevin, 2007).


Weaknesses of Multiple Intelligences

  • need to focus on a range of personalities instead of continually addressing one learning style (Thousand, Villa & Nevin, 2007).
  • requires several objectives for lessons (Thousand, Villa & Nevin, 2007).
  • can be time consuming (Thousand, Villa & Nevin, 2007).
  • requires a significant amount of planning and preparation time (Thousand, Villa & Nevin, 2007).
  • Too many objectives, using a variety of the MI principles, may lead to students focusing on what needs to be learned and not on the incidental peripheral learning (Thousand, Villa & Nevin, 2007).
  • tendency to pigeonhole students (Thousand, Villa & Nevin, 2007).


Using Multiple Intelligences

This method easily is integrated into every lesson planning session and teaching moment as well as into a work environment. It can be used as a quick reference to help educators keep attention on different learning personalities as it provides a quick checklist for both questioning and activities. These questions and activities are aligned with the specific learning styles as created by Howard Gardner (2006).


Intelligences Sample Ways to Access Content
Verbal/linguistic ·         oral presentations

·         speeches

·         books

·         newspapers

·         internet search

·         tape recorders

·         reports

·         book on tape

Logical/Mathematical ·         calculators/other technology

·         math manipulatives

·         timelines

·         outlines

·         lab experiments

·         puzzles

·         formulas

·         math games

Visual/Spatial ·         graphs

·         concept maps

·         graphic organizers

·         videos

·         PowerPoint presentations

·         cameras

·         Legos

·         posters

·         charts

·         cartoons

Bodily/Kinesthetic ·         field trips

·         building tools

·         hands-on-tactile learning

·         multisensory learning

·         manipulatives

·         role playing

·         acting

·         cooperative learning

·         experiments

·         sports/games

·         sports equipment

Musical/Rhythmic ·         songs

·         raps

·         jingles

·         rhymes

·         mnemonic devices

·         poetry

·         musical instruments

·         tape recorder

Naturalist ·         plants

·         animals

·         field trips

·         identifying elements of and/or relationships to nature

·         gardening tools

·         naturalists’ tools

Interpersonal/People Smart ·         think-pair-share activities

·         cooperative group learning

·         role play

·         debate

·         co-teaching

·         board games

·         props for role play

·         party supplies

Intrapersonal/Self Smart ·         journals

·         diaries

·         self-monitoring materials

·         materials for projects


Source of table: Multiple Intelligences Choice Board by Thousand, J., Villa, R. & Nevin, A. (2007)


Cortland: State University of New York College at Cortland. (2012). Multiple intelligences: Howard Gardner. Retrieved from

Gardner, H. (2006). Multiple Intelligences. New York, New York: Basic Books.

Gregory, G. & Chapman, C. (2007). Differentiated instructional strategies: One size doesn’t fit all. (2nd edition). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Kosanovich, M., Ladinsky, K., Nelson, L., & Torgesen, J. (2013). Differentiated reading instruction: small group alternative lesson structures for all students. Retrieved from

Ornstein, A. C., & Hunkins, F. P.   (2009).  Curriculum: Foundations, principles, and issues. Allyn & Bacon.

Thousand, J., Villa, R. & Nevin, A. (2007). Differentiating instruction: Collaboratively planning and teaching for universally designed learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.


Tracy Harrington AtkinsonBy Tracy Atkinson

Tracy Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the Midwest with her husband and spirited long-haired miniature dachshunds. She is a teacher, having taught elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education and a master’s in higher education. Her passion is researching, studying and investigating the attributes related to self-directed learners and learning styles. She has published several titles, including MBTI Learning Styles: A Practical Approach, The Art of Learning Journals, Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Lemosa: The Annals of the Hidden, Book Two, Rachel’s 8 and Securing Your Tent. She is currently working on a non-fiction text exploring the attributes of self-directed learners: The Five Characteristics of Self-directed Learners.

Tracy Harrington-Atkinson

Tracy Harrington-Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the mid-west with her husband. She loved storytelling and sharing her stories with her children. As they grew, she started writing her stories down for them. She is a teacher, having taught from elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education, masters in higher education and continued on to a PhD in curriculum design. Her husband, Kerry and Tracy breed miniature dachshunds and love to spend time with their growing family. She has published several books including Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Rachel's 8 and Securing Your Tent.

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