Multiple Intelligence Theory and Education


In 1983, Howard Gardener developed a Multiple Intelligence Theory that featured prominently in his book, ‘Frames of Minds’ (Chapman, 2003). The theory was widely accepted across various fields of education and it became a classical model which was used to understand and teach the various aspects of human intelligence (Dickinson, 1991) such as styles of learning, personality and human behavior (Kincheloe, 2004) in the field of education and industry (Chapman, 2003; Fierros, 2004).

The initial intention and designation of the theory was in the field of psychology, but due to the theory’s developed and enhanced ideas on multiple intelligences, the theory was fast adopted and utilized in education, teaching and training communities as learners in this fields continued to show great interest in the theory (Chapman, 2003). Gardner proposed the theory after becoming largely dissatisfied with the earlier traditional notion of intelligence, which relied on I.Q testing (Armstrong, N.d).

Gardner also proposed eight intelligences, which include “linguistic intelligence, logical-mathematical intelligence, spatial intelligence, bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, musical intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, intrapersonal intelligence and naturalist intelligence” (Armstrong, N.d; Scott London, N.d). This essay paper will critically look at how multiple intelligence theory has been successful as far as intelligence and education is concerned, basing on personal assumption that the theory has been effective in effecting changes in education curricula that in turn has benefited many students who under the traditional way of learning their different learning needs were not being appreciated and fully developed.

Multiple Intelligence Theory

Gardener (1983) became concerned to the overriding belief among many people’s culture and learning institutions that placed much emphasis on linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligence, where he asserted that, “we esteem the highly articulate or logical people of our culture” (Armstrong, N.d). To Gardener, this overemphasis should shift to other individuals who show numerous gifts in other types of intelligences and the individuals may include: “artists, architects, musicians, naturalists, designers, dancers, therapists, entrepreneurs and others who enrich the world in which people live in” (Armstrong, N.d).

The evidence, which Gardener found out, convinced him that many groups of children who demonstrate and manifest these abilities or intelligences are not helped so that such intelligences can be reinforced in schools. Moreover, tragedy becomes more severe when the children are shamelessly referred to as “learning disabled, attention deficit disorder-ADD, or underachievers” (Armstrong, N.d) specifically when the environment they are placed in, heavily stresses the linguistic or logical-mathematical concepts.

Due to the above observations, Gardner reached a conclusion that envisioned having a theory that could address these discrepancies in learning. He therefore developed and proposed a theory of multiple intelligences that according to the author, it was to witness, “Transformation in the way our schools are run” (Armstrong, N.d). The theory proposes key responsibility and roles that a teacher can undertake which include teachers to undergo training in order for them to be able to effectively present their lessons in away that is broad incorporating use of “music, cooperative learning, art activities, role play, multimedia, fieldtrips, inner reflection and much more” (Armstrong, N.d).

The theory has also become useful in adult learning and development. For example, researches have established that many adult workers are in positions that make little use of their optimal and highly developed intelligences whereby the theory proposes new avenues the adult workers can look and analyze the quality of their lives. This is in addition to evaluating the likely beneficial areas they bypassed in their childhood; but now possess the opportunity to build up through designed and appropriate courses, hobbies and other programs meant for self-development.

Features of Multiple Intelligence Theory

Gardner identifies several features, which he terms as principles to his multiple intelligence theory. First, the author vividly expresses the fact that the theory represents a somehow thorough definition of human nature specifically from a cognitive viewpoint (Chapman, 2003, p.1). As such, the theory provides description as to how people prefer and embrace different learning styles that are further compounded by their behavioral and working styles together with their natural strengths.

Second, when individuals are put under pressure by indicating to them how often they are likely to fail hence putting some forced actions on them has the possibility of influencing the individual negatively specifically in his or her effective learning (Chapman, 2003). As such, the theory rests on the principle that when individuals are relaxed they are likely and in a ready mood to learn more effectively than those presented with unhappy and stressful environment.

Third, the strengths of an individual also act as a learning channel and as such, weaknesses do not present themselves as a great learning channel. Therefore, it is imperative to develop people by stressing on their strengths an opportunity that is not only development stimulative, but also guarantee the individual total happiness by growing the individuals’ confidence while at the same time lifting their beliefs. Fourth, when an individual’s strengths are developed, there is likelihood that there will be an increased response to the defined learning experience, and through it, the individual is helped to develop and improve his or her weaknesses as well as the strengths.

Fifth, intelligence should not be taken as a gauge to measure what is good or bad, happy or sad but intelligence remain to be neutral and does not or should not reflect any emotion type. Further, multiple intelligences at the same time appear to be neutral in the same measure. Sixth, various individuals posses a wide array of intelligences hence no one particular single intelligence can be found in an individual. Gardner asserted that, “intelligence is not a single scalable aspect of a person’s style and capability” (Chapman, 2003, p.1). Cementing this feature was Gardner’s view that intelligence constitutes several combinations of abilities and no single individual can claim to be good in all of them.

How relevant the model has been

Carrying out her survey in a study dubbed SUMIT (Schools Using Multiple Intelligence Theory); Mindy Kornhaber studied 41 schools and established that among the schools that had utilized multiple intelligence theory they had shown, “improvements in both scholastic test score and other measures, further the theory is productive for students with learning difficulties” (cited in Gardner and Traub, 1999, p.1).

The theory further has been utilized as a basis for creating and establishing a wide spectrum of cognitive activities for students during the school hours and after school, designing learning centers or the flow rooms in which students are able to pursue their intrinsic goals and talents. Meanwhile, giving encouragement to students to accomplish quality projects where the basis upon which students understanding is assessed becomes broad (Gardner and Traub, 1999, p.1).

Many schools around the world have re-structured their curricula to incorporate recommendations of the theory that in turn reflect the intelligences of particular and specific students (Gardner and Traub, 1999, p.1). The presence of seven types of intelligences has enabled adoption of various teaching alternatives that were different from the former modes. In this way, students are presented with a fertile environment to learn.

Concluding at the benefit and role the theory was playing in the lives of students and teachers, Kornhaber (2001) noted that, “the theory 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. In turn, this reflection has led many educators to develop new approaches that might better meet the needs of the many learners in their classrooms” (cited Smith, 2008, p.1).

The multiple intelligence theory hence has contributed to students having to develop substantive responsibility that is manifested in self-direction and independence when undertaking their studies. In addition, cases of indiscipline have drastically reduced in schools while many students have developed and applied new skills because of being organized in their respective activity group or program in accordance to their talents and interests. Further, students have been able to show cooperation skills as a result of the theory, and lastly, overall academic achievement for many students has gone up (Hoerr, 2002) and many teachers have associated this to multiple intelligence theory (Campbell, 1991).


Multiple Intelligence Theory has largely re-defined intelligence as far as education requirements for learners are concerned. The learners have been presented with an opportunity to specialize and develop their skills or talents in at least one area the learner is capable of excelling. Further, the learners are exposed to a variety of different ways of learning thereby enabling them to increase their chances of successfully understanding and retaining the learned information and concepts. What is evident is that intellectual growth and maturity is realized through creativity and by working close with others and the whole process is more learning in nature than the earlier tradition one, which conceptualized teaching in great length.


Armstrong, T. (N.d). Multiple Intelligences. Web.

Campbell, B. (1991). Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom. Web.

Chapman, I. (2003). Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences. Web.

Dickinson, D. (1991). Intelligence in seven steps. (Review of Howard Gardner’s work). Web.

Fierros, G. (2004). How Multiple Intelligences Theory can guide teachers’ practices: Ensuring Success for Students with Disabilities. PA, Villanova University. Web.

Gardner, H. and Traub, J. (1999). A Debate on “Multiple Intelligences.” The DANA Foundation. Web.

Hoerr, T. (2002). Applying MI in Schools. New Horizons for Learning. Web.

Kincheloe, J. L. (2004). Multiple intelligences reconsidered. NY, Peter Lang Publishing Inc. Web.

Scott London. (N.d). Intelligence Reframed: Multiple intelligences for the 21st Century. (Review of Howard Gardner’s work). Web.

Smith, M. K. (2008). ‘Howard Gardner and multiple intelligences, the encyclopedia of informal education’. Web.