Understanding Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligence

Understanding Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligence
Photo credit: Brian A Jackson

Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligence proposes that intelligence is not a single fixed entity, but instead consists of multiple distinct forms. This theory recognizes individuals and their unique potential for growth beyond what tests are commonly used to measure academic achievements. It emphasizes the importance of recognizing individual strengths and weaknesses, including those cognitive abilities that may be overlooked with traditional assessment methods. To articulate this idea further, there is a framework for the theory which includes linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalist and existential intelligence as eight general categories in which we can explain various types of intellectual capability.

💡 Lessons learnt: Anything that is worth teaching is presented in many different ways.

Overview of the 8 Intelligence

  1. Linguistic Intelligence: This type of intelligence refers to your ability to use words effectively in both verbal and written forms for communication. It includes abilities like speaking eloquently, writing or reading books easily, understanding complex texts quickly and appreciating puns or rhymes. People who excel in this domain often have strong grammar skills as well as an excellent vocabulary and command over language across cultures.
  2. Logical-Mathematical Intelligence: This type focuses on reasoning skills along with problem-solving using data or numbers; it also has the capability to think abstractly using theories and formulas which makes it possible to find solutions even when faced with a lack of concrete evidence. Logically minded people will usually be able to process information faster than most people as they may see patterns that others miss easily since they enjoy working with numbers more than other tasks such as descriptive analysis or storytelling skill sets required within other disciplines - making them great mathematicians but also highly analytical thinkers likely suited for roles involving complex calculations or research.
  3. Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence: This domain reflects one's physical control over their body movement which allows individuals with a strong bodily-kinesthetic talent to perform activities requiring dexterity and grace even if those activities involve considerable effort such as handcrafting intricate arts & crafts pieces from pre-existing materials or mastering sports movements/skills far faster than average speed. Those talented in this intelligence typically possess superior fine motor skills.
  4. Spatial Intelligence: The ability to identify and control patterns in large and constricted spaces, such as those utilized by navigators and pilots and by sculptors, surgeons, chess players, graphic artists, or architects, is a characteristic of spatial intelligence. Better visual-spatial intelligence allows people to more easily visualize objects, including pictures, illustrations, maps, charts, films, and the like.
  5. Musical Intelligence: Musical intelligence is the capacity to make creative music that is both pleasing to the ear and significant in terms of conceptual meaning that transcend plain auditory appeal.
  6. Social-Interpersonal Intelligence: Social interpersonal intelligence is one’s acuity not only understanding people but also establishing connections and build relationships. Exhibiting high social intelligence is knowing how to speak, share ideas and maintain sensibilities during controversy diplomatically managing dispute resolve conflict and still recognising personal boundaries keeping an appropriate distance. It just boils down to being a better communicator.
  7. Intrapersonal intelligence: The ability to comprehend oneself, to have a useful working model of oneself, including one's own goals, anxieties, and capacities, and to apply such information effectively in governing one's own life is known as intrapersonal intelligence. An intelligent person may make a good author, philosopher, or entrepreneur. Increased intrapersonal intelligence promotes reflection.
  8. Naturalistic intelligence: Naturalistic intelligence comprises being adept at identifying and categorizing the various species of his or her environment's flora and fauna. These individuals have genuine intelligence, which enables them to be in tune with nature.

Criticism of Gardner's Theory

Gardner's MI theory has been closely examined and contested ever since it was first proposed in 1983. Common objections centre on the idea that people's innate skills, talents, or gifts are represented by the eight different "intelligence."

Others think the classifications are overly broad or claim that what is commonly referred to as "intelligence" is actually "learning styles." The existence of sufficient evidence-based research to back up these beliefs is also a topic of discussion.

Nevertheless, there are helpful ways that the idea of various intelligence aids schools and other settings in developing students' desired capacities, using a range of approaches to the subject matter, and customizing education.

The Multiple Intelligence theory has been applied most frequently in educational situations, which caught Gardner by surprise. Gardner has remained adamant that practitioners should choose how to use the theory in schools as it gained traction in the educational sector. He has frequently turned down invitations to assist in the creation of curricula that apply the hypothesis of multiple intelligence, choosing instead to just offer feedback at most (Gardner, 2011).

Gardner's theory encourages a recognition that all students are able to learn - regardless of their individual learning styles or preferred areas of intelligence. This focus on personalized instruction using a variety of teaching methods ensures that learners can participate and be successful according to their strengths.


Gardner, H. (1983). Frame of mind. Academia https://www.academia.edu/36707975/Frames_of_mind_the_theory_of_multiple_inteligences

Gardner, H. (2011b). The theory of multiple intelligences: As psychology, as education, as social science. Address delivered at José Cela University on October 29, 2011.

Peariso, J. (2008). Multiple Intelligences or Multiply Misleading: The Critic’s View of the Multiple Intelligences Theory https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED500515.pdf


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