Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences

Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI) has its supporters as well as its skeptics. For many, it is obvious that certain individuals have a naturally more proficient in one subject that another, while others are the opposite. In many cases, this led to the individuals as well as their teacher to abandon the idea of studying or understanding the subject. For example, a kid in school who is weak in mathematics and all traditional methods of teaching mathematics have failed in having her understand the concept, is eventually abandoned and classified as mathematically challenged. The theory of multiple intelligences came to revive hope in these kids and their teachers that it is possible to learn or teach them whichever subject if the method taps into the individual dominant intelligence. This theory challenges a long and still persistent notion or the Intelligence Quotient or IQ (Checkley, 1998).

According to Gardner (1993), all children have all the intelligences each at a different degree. Gardner and Hatch (1989) define intelligence as “the capacity to solve problems or to fashion products that are valued in one or more cultural setting.” Following a set of eight criteria, Gardner (1993; 1999) came up with seven intelligences, then an eighth and ninth, which he called personal intelligences. The early opposition to the theory came from the educators. Gardner (1993) wrote:

At first blush, this diagnosis would appear to sound a death knell for formal education.
It is hard to teach one intelligence; what if there are seven? It is hard to enough to
teach even when anything can be taught; what to do if there are distinct limits and
strong constraints on human cognition and learning? (p. xxiii)

However, as Kornhaber (2001) points out, the theory soon gained its appeal since it “validates educators’ everyday experience: students think and learn in many different ways. It also provides educators with a conceptual framework for organizing and reflecting on curriculum assessment and pedagogical practices” (p. 276). In the classroom, Gardner’s theory gave more flexibility to both students and teachers to express and present information in different ways, as well as assess and evaluate in many different ways (Gardner, 1999). Outside the classroom, the Gardner theory manifests itself in Kolb’s experiential learning (1984). The multiple intelligences gave rise to learning styles which are being employed in many corporate training and adult education environments quite in particular in teaching languages to adults and in Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) (Brett, 1996; Liu & Reed, 1994).


Brett, P. (1996). Using multimedia: An investigation of learners’ attitudes. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 9(2-3), 191-212.

Checkley, K. (1997). The first seven… and the eighth: A conversation with Howard Gardner. Educational Leadership, 55, 8–13.

Gardner, H. (1993). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences (2nd edition). London: Heinemann.

Gardner, H. (1999). The disciplined mind: Beyond facts and standardized tests: The K-12 education that every child deserves. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Gardner, H., & Hatch, T. (1989). Multiple intelligences go to school: Educational implications of the theory of multiple intelligences. Educational Researcher, 18(8), 4-9.

Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall Regents.

Kornhaber, M. L. (2001). Howard Gardner. In J. A. Palmer (ed.), Fifty Modern Thinkers on Education: From Piaget to the present. London: Routledge.

Liu, M., & Reed, W. M. (1994). The relationship between the learning strategies and learning styles in a hypermedia environment. Computers in Human Behavior, 10(4), 419-434.

Comments are closed.