Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences is primarily concerned with the fact that traditional education doesn’t take into account the different abilities that human beings possess that all lead to learning (Acosta, 16). One child may learn a concept rather quickly but struggle with another while another child may struggle with the first concept but learns the second rather quickly. Gardner emphasizes that this doesn’t mean one child is smarter than the other but simply that they learn in different ways.
Gardner outlined eight different ways that children learn and how a child learns is based on the strengths and weaknesses associated with each type of learning. The eight styles include bodily-kinesthetic (connecting mental abilities to bodily movement), interpersonal (understanding the emotions of others), verbal-linguistic (mastery of language), logical-mathematical (ability to detect patterns and think logically), naturalistic (sensitivity to all nature), intrapersonal (understanding one’s own emotions), visual-spatial (the ability to use mental images to solve problems), and musical (the ability to recognize and compose music) (Brualdi, 1).
These eight learning styles are applied to the popularity of Gardner’s theory among educators, the broader vision of education, environments that stimulate creativity and specialized schools.
Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences has gained popularity among educators because the ability to place specific focus on each of the eight styles of learning can lead to better understanding and comprehension from students. Each student has some combination of each of the eight styles which is what makes each student an individual (Acosta, 16). Further, Gardner emphasizes that intelligences do not work independently of one another but instead work together in order to learn and complete tasks (Acosta, 18). Therefore, teachers must realize that one intelligence isn’t superior to any other intelligence and that students need to utilize all intelligences in order to function in society (Brualdi, 1). Teachers embrace the eight intelligences because it allows them to set up their classrooms in such a way that allows them to teach to a broader range of talents and skills (Brualdi, 1). Incorporating all intelligences makes teaching and learning so much more fun. Teachers are able to design a unit or lesson plan that makes use of traditional curriculum but they can also incorporate music, drama, visual aids and picture books (Brualdi, 1). This then leads to ensuring that all students are learning the material because each intelligence is being included in classroom instruction.
When educators look at the broader vision of education they realize that they must reach all students in order to provide them with a high quality education. The challenge is to discover the right type of instruction that will engage each and every student at the same time. There are always students who seem uninterested in learning and the job of a teacher is to discover each student’s special way of being smart (Nelson, 1). When a teacher steps back and focuses on the task of simply educating students, he or she can create a classroom environment that stimulates creativity and includes all students (Nelson, 1).
The different intelligences within each student can develop over time and this is good for teachers because it means they can nurture each student according to strengths and weaknesses (Nelson, 1). One way to stimulate the creativity of all students is to incorporate different learning areas into the classroom (Nelson, 1). The topic of a particular unit can be introduced according to curricular guidelines but then students should be exposed to a variety of different activities that build on the introduction and also incorporate each of the eight intelligences. For example, students can write creative stories, create art projects, listen to music associated with the topic, perform dramas, analyze potential problems and work together in groups. Each of these different activities will ensure that all students are learning the required material in the way that is best for them.
The idea of creating learning centers to address each intelligence can be applied to specialized schools as well. Specialized schools are often able to develop their own curriculum rather than being required to use state or federal curriculum. As a result, it is much easier for teachers to consistently incorporate all eight intelligences into everyday classroom instruction (Campbell, 12). It has been shown that there are many benefits to designing instruction this way. Students gain more responsibility for their own learning because they are engaged in classroom activities. Discipline problems are reduced as the bored students realize that learning can be fun. All students were able to learn and apply new skills as well as cooperate with one another to accomplish tasks. Most importantly, academic achievement improved (Campbell, 12).
Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences is important to consider when approaching a classroom full of students who each learn differently. Incorporating instruction using components of all eight intelligences benefits students in two important ways. The first is that all students get the chance to excel in at least one area. The second is that students gain a better understanding of the course material because they are exposed to variety of different ways to learn it (Campbell, 12). Students are able to learn according to their own personal strengths but they are also able to build upon their weaknesses. The teacher becomes a tool for learning rather than just the person in front of the classroom talking (Campbell, 12). Using this theory causes a shift in focus from teaching to learning. This is essential if teachers hope to include all students in academic achievement. Using a variety of teaching methods that incorporate the eight intelligences will maximize the success of students. The eight intelligences allow teachers to adapt classroom material to student abilities and interest in order to include all students in the learning process (Campbell, 12). Teaching using this theory will benefit all students because it allows each student to find his or her talents and learn from there.
Acosta, M. “What is the theory of multiple intelligences?” English Journal 84.8 (1997): 16 – 18.
Brualdi, Amy C. “Multiple intelligences: Gardner’s theory.” Practical Assessment, Research and
Evaluation. 5.10 (1996): 1.
Campbell, Bruce. “Multiple intelligences in the classroom.” The Learning Revolution. Winter
(1991): 12. 18 Nov 2008 <http://www.context.org/ICLIB/IC27/Campbell.htm>.
Nelson, Kristen. “Seven ways of being smart – developing childrens’ multiple intelligences.”
Instructor. July/Aug 1995. 18 Nov 2008
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