Multiple Intelligences Theory

Multiple Intelligence is a phrase popularised by a Professor of Education at Harvard University in Boston, USA, Howard Gardner. He published his original research and theories in a book called Frames of Mind, in 1983.

His primary proposal is to oppose regarding intelligence as a unitary concept: He is against thinking of intelligence as one dimension and believes slotting everyone on a single point on that dimension is not correct, is not fair on the person and gives very poor indication to the educator or parent about their capacity and potential. He believes emphasis on IQ testing and "academic" skills has been one of the most limiting paradigms in this century's traditional (western) educational institutions.

More than being anti-IQ testing and anti-unitary intelligence; Howard Gardner's research has helped shape the modern concept of what intelligence really is, how it develops and what the educator's role is in assisting that development. HG's work has moved the concept of intelligence from a limited "intellectual ability" to a much wider concept of effective functioning of the brain.

Howard Gardner's research and theories also demonstrate the limitations of "pen and paper" type tests. His view is that assessments must be in the form of the intelligence being tested ("to assess dance you must dance")

The core of research on MI holds that human beings do not develop "an intelligence" but at least 8 different intelligences, that evolve at different rates and to different extents in each individual. As we say at the Prodigy Centres "there are now 8 chances to be smart".

Each one of these intelligences is associated with adult success. Most people develop two or three intelligences that predominate. Each person is different.

Traditionally our education systems and assessments of intelligence consider only 2 intelligences: Those associated with maths and reading/writing. And whilst these can be useful predictors of success at school (and in "academic" disciplines) they are not good predictors of success in relationships, vocations and life.

MI theory is also an implied rejection of the "universal" or "cross cultural" definition of intelligence. Intelligence is a relative term: With MI, the degree to which a person has effective intelligences also depends on the culture in which that person lives/works. The intellectual abilities that enable a westerner to co-ordinate a 1500kg car through heavy motorway traffic at 100km/hour are not useful in the Amazon jungle where it is more useful to detect and avoid giant anacondas or piranhas. The Amazonian Indian may be equally intellectually "disabled" on an Auckland motorway.

Parents and educators who are interested in preparing young children for success in life must be wary about limiting their focus on these two areas (which HG calls logical mathematical and verbal/linguistic intelligences) There are 6 other intelligences which are extremely important and depending on what the person does in life, possibly critical and more important than those first two.

MI research clearly shows that each of these intelligences are associated with different locations and functions in the brain to the extent that brain damage or disease can cause partial or full loss of a particular intelligence.

Each MI has its own developmental path and at its highest development levels each are associated with high vocational, social or creative achievement and success.

Every child and adult has some capacity in all 8 of the different intelligences: The degree to which we exhibit or develop capacity in each is generally never "set", but are modifiable at any age. However, it is clear that the degree of modifiability is never greater than at an early age; indeed for some aspects (such as language) there appears to a neurological "window of opportunity" which opens and closes in early childhood and after which certain capacities will be limited or is difficult to develop.

MI research shows that every individual develops differently. Their multiple intelligences each develop; -

    - relatively independently,
    - at different rates
    - and peak at different levels.

Children and adults may be advanced or restricted in any of these intelligences.

Everyone is unique; usually a child will exhibit very early age the degree to which some of the intelligences are developing faster than others; the ones, which are more advanced, are called "proclivities". These will often remain as their predominant intelligences.

Whilst each of the multiple intelligences develop in relative independence from each other and at different rates the development tends to go through recognisable stages and is often associated with specific individual differences in a persons "engagement" with that intelligence, especially the individuals motivation.

In adults, these different intelligences are exhibited in success in relationships, vocations, hobbies/sports and other achievements. Conversely these differences (especially if they involve restricted development of one or more of the multiple intelligences) are also exhibited in personal and social and vocational difficulties.

These intelligences and the degree to which they develop probably have some genetic basis but are more strongly formed by experience; learning. The clear role of the educator is therefore to facilitate the development of these multiple intelligences; including the removal negative influences on MI development. The method of the educator is to understand the stage of development of each individual for each intelligence and if necessary use the more advanced intelligences to improve capacities in the more restricted intelligences.

HG's definition of intelligence

The capacity to solve problems and/or fashion products that are valued in a specific culture.


Application by Prodigy Learning Centres of Multiple Intelligence

Prodigy Centres adopted Multiple Intelligence Theory and Research as a core part of it's philosophy in 1994 and since that time Prodigy have taken a leading role in New Zealand in promoting MI and in adapted and extending it to early childhood education. The insights of Multiple Intelligence research allow both educators and parents to understand young children in a unique way that enables them to respond to and guide children in a powerful and positive manner in accordance with the child's unique individual advantages.

MI theory provides a structure within which a person's knowledge and abilities can be assessed as they develop. This structural "perspective" is not artificial, but reflects actual physical neural structures and systems discovered in the human brain. Eight relatively independent brain structures that provide different intellectual capabilities have been discovered in Howard Gardiner's research and these correspond to human problem solving abilities which are valued in societies.

Each child has all eight "intelligences" functioning when they are born. The degree to which each of these develop in each child depends initially on genetic factors but most critically on very early positive and negative experiences. Most of these may have already occurred before the child goes to school. Along with the different experiences of each child, they very early on form different feelings of value towards "operating" each of these eight "intelligences". A child will be seen typically to be "naturally" inclined to using 2, 3 or 4 of the eight intelligences, which will often be in a different combination and strength to other children: We see this as an expression of their personality, but it also describes their potential capabilities (and may indicate some early limitations).

The eight intelligences, as a well as having origins in brain structure, are also correlated to abilities evident in adult vocations and are more abundant in those who are successful and happy in life and who are valued in their community.

Self Smart (intrapersonal intelligence)
Describes those neural systems and structures used in being sensitive to and controlling and using emotions, self image and sense of worth, confidence, personal focus and goal setting, perseverance, independence, safe, assertiveness etc.

People Smart (interpersonal intelligence)
Describes those neural systems and structures used being sensitive to and in understanding and relating to others: Abilities include empathy, leadership, mimicry, negotiating, verbal dialogue/communication, law and justice (rights & rules), facilitating, positive group involvement, selling, counselling etc

Body Smart (bodily-kinesthetic intelligence) Describes those neural systems and structures used in being sensitive to, enjoying and controlling one's body and using it to control and effect physical objects in time and space. This involves spatial orientation, balance, sequencing of actions, hand-eye co-ordination, facial expression, voice, posture, efficient energy use, use of tools etc. has relationship with effective use of senses. Allows user to copy complex actions and improve. Used in dance and sport, driving, attack/defense and many work actions.

Nature Smart
Describes those neural systems and structures used in being sensitive to, enjoying, understanding and utelising patterns and changes in the natural environment. Recognition and classification of plants and animals. Memory for names and types and behaviour. Intuitively understands natural forces and behaviour (physical laws)Likes animal, plant and natural images. Effective communication with living things. Caring attitude about living things and environment. Pet lover, gardener, bush walker. Keen observer/fascination and collector, Likes stories about nature.

Word Smart (verbal-linguistic intelligence)
Describes those neural systems and structures used in being sensitive to, enjoying, understanding and utelising patterns and changes in listening, speaking, reading & writing. Sensitive to meanings of words and aptitude for maniplulating them; follows rules of grammar; strong listening and comprehension skills, advanced vocabulary and usage; good use of tone and timing (dramatic speech). Poetry and humour, debate and story-telling, conversation and questions; strong imagery from words; good with names and labels objects, time, numbers, dimensions, feelings, verbs, adjectives; reading skills (silent and spoken), enjoys books, familiarity with alphabet & letter formation, good spelling, writing skills/word and sentence formation (after acquiring fine motor control or computer skills ); affinity to languages and accent acquisition.

Logic Smart (mathematical-logical intelligence)
Describes those neural systems and structures used in being sensitive to, enjoying, understanding and utelising patterns and changes concerned with physical order, patterns, form and relationships (and what's missing); keenness of 'how things work' and explaning how and why, experimenter/analyser, enjoyment of numbers, fractions, quantity, order and sequence/seriation, matching, comparing things, big/small, long/short, heavy/light; measuring, names shapes, knows time; can put number labels to quantities, likes to measure and sort; motivated to problem solutions; scientific reasoning, keen on computer games; begins to understand math symbols and functions; likes to work out and to know rules and principles.

Music Smart (musical-rhythmical intelligence)
Describes those neural systems and structures used in being sensitive to, enjoying, understanding and utelising patterns and changes concerned with song and music (and dance), has good rhythm(drums and clapping), accurate pitch, timing, accent; recalls songs lyrics; recalls tunes; enjoys playing and getting sequences from instruments; likes performing: fine perception of pitch/melody and timbre; knows how to use instruments/names; fascination with sounds; sensitivity to sounds; appreciation of harmony, mimic tunes/songs; music provokes imagery or emotion; likes making up tunes;(non-verbal) sound sequences; likes rhyming games.

Art Smart (visual/spatial intelligence)
Describes those neural systems and structures used in being sensitive to, enjoying, understanding and utelising patterns and changes and abilities to discriminate visual patterns; shapes (incl 3-D), colours, line forms, complex forms,dimensions, spatial depth and relations. Matching, naming ordering and especially reproducing. Drawing, sculpturing, painting, constructing to plan or for purpose/intent. Transfer of mental image to rendered version and visa versa. Good concept of distance and size, texture. Mapping, locations and direction finding, 'Decentration'. Interest in photos and artwork, identifies colours and mixes; copies well, creative, understands media use and effect. Computer smart. Chess. Trajectory judgement/catching. Innovative art methods. 'Decentration'. Clear imaging/NLP.