Multiple Intelligences

Psychologist Howard Gardner of Harvard advanced the theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI) in the 1980s and that theory has attracted widespread interest among educators. The basic idea is straightforward: each individual has several intellectual potentials and diverse talents. In some respects, MI runs counter to Western societies' emphasis on standardized, multiple-choice tests for assessing academic skills by noting that intellectual and creative abilities can be expressed in many ways. In fact, most standardized tests are useful only as predictors of performance in school. They do a remarkably poor job of predicting success in a job or profession.

Originally, Gardner defined 7 intelligence arenas:

  • € Linguistic ‹ involved in writing, reading, telling stories, doing crossword puzzles.
  • € Logical-Mathematical ‹ involved in interest in patterns, categories, relationships, math problems, strategy games, experiments.
  • € Bodily-Kinesthetic ‹ involved in athletics, dancing, crafts (sewing, woodworking).
  • € Spatial ‹ involved in solving mazes and jigsaw puzzles, drawing, daydreaming.
  • € Musical ‹ involved in singing and making music; often discriminating listeners.
  • € Interpersonal ‹ involved in leadership skills, communication, understanding of other's feelings.
  • € Intrapersonal ‹ involved in self-motivation.

    More recently, an eighth arena has been added:

  • € Naturalist ‹ involved in the awareness of surroundings.

    And more recently, a ninth arena has also been added:

  • Existential intelligence

    Gardner says that standardized tests focus primarily on two skills: linguistic and logical-mathematical. They virutally ignore other human intelligences: musical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalist. Standardized tests also "decontextuallize" learning, i.e., questions are removed from any real situation and are to be done without any help or tools. Most "real world" situations, however, require multiple approaches, tools, collaboration, and physical performance over time.

    Intelligence is usually defined in terms of a person's ability to solve problems, use logic, and think critically. As my grandfather used to put it: "Intelligence is what enables a person to get by without a good education." (And conversely, a good education often enables a person to get by without intelligence.) Buckminster Fuller said: "All children are born geniuses, and we spend the next 16 years degenuising them."

    What has this got to do with "music and humor in the science classroom"? Music is a tool for a whole brain, multiple intelligences approach to teaching and learning. When listening to a song, the left brain (language, logic, mathematics, "academics") processes the lyrics, while the right brain (rhythm, rhyme, pictures, emotions, "creativity") processes the music. The WHOLE BRAIN is involved.

    In addition, creation of music (the writing of a song) directly addresses linquistic, logical-mathematical, musical, interpersonal, and intrapersonal intelligences. When my kids bring assignments home from school asking them to "rewrite something in their own words", it usually means taking the first part of a sentence and moving it to the end. Wouldn't it be a whole lot better if the assignment was to rewrite something as a song?

    Some say that, from a neurological perspective, musical/rhythmic intelligence is the first of the intelligences to develop: in the womb, the rhythm of the mother's heart beat penetrates the amniotic fluid which immerses us. Add to this all of the other "vibrations" from the natural and man-made environment which the fetus can detect and responds to. Later in life, consider the effects of music, rhythm, sound (vibrational stimuli in general) in creating mood, inspiring religious experience, the welling of patriotic passion, and expressing love and/or sorrow. What would a movie be without a musical sound track? What would a science class be if it had a musical sound track?

    The following web site, Exploring Multiple Intelligences , has a section on Musical/Rhythmic Intelligence that incluldes some exercises you can do to explore that kind of intelligence. The point of all this is, if you are in the educational business, to address ALL kinds of intelligences with your students. The other pages of this site provide musical/rhythmic/auditory/vibrational tools to use in science education.

    I plan to continue to expand this section with additional information about MI, how the brain works, how music stimualtes the brain, etc. For now, if your interest is piqued, more information can be found in the following references and web sites:

  • € Dryden, G., and J. Vos. 1994. The Learning Revolution. Rolling Hills Estate CA: Jalman Press.
  • € Gardner, H. 1983. Frames of Mind. New York: Basic Books.
  • € Gardner, H. 1993. Multiple Intelligences: The Theory into Practice. New York: Basic Books.
  • € Kornhaber, M., and M. Krechevsky. 1994. Expanding definitions of teaching and learning: Notes from the MI underground. In Creating School Policy: Trends, Dilemmas, and Prospects. Edited by P. Cookson. New York: Garland Press.
  • € Sternberg, R., R. Wagner, W. Williams, and J. Horvath. 1995. Testing common sense. American Psychologist 50: 912­927.
  • A Howard Gardner web site
  • The Theory of Multiple Intelligences
  • Multiple Intelligence: Which Smart Are You?
  • Multiple Intelligences Theory This site discusses some about the ninth intelliegence: "existential intelligence".
  • Multiple Intelligence: Wetlands Project This site is an example of using a multiple intelligence approach to a specific science curriculum.
  • Exploring Multiple Intelligences
  • Musical Intelligence

    "Learning is the greatest game in life and the most fun. All children are born believing this and will continue to believe this until we convince them that learning is hard work and unpleasant. Some kids never really learn this lesson and go through life believing that learning is fun and the only game worth playing. We have a name for such people. We call them geniuses." ‹Glenn Doman, Teach Your Baby Math

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