Of Gardner’s proposed seven realms of human
intelligence, he noted the first two, linguistic and
logical-mathematical—"are the ones that have been typically valued
in school" (Gardner, 1999, pp. 41). Gardner’s realms of
intelligence may be further examined:
Linguistic intelligence involves sensitivity to spoken
and written language, the ability to learn languages, and the capacity to
use language to accomplish certain goals. Lawyers, speakers, writers,
poets are among the people with high linguistic intelligence.
Logical-mathematical intelligence involves the
capacity to analyze problems logically, carry out mathematical operations,
and investigate issues scientifically. Mathematicians, logicians, and
scientists exploit logical mathematical intelligence. Musical
intelligence entails skill in the performance, composition, and
appreciation of musical patterns.
Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence entails the
potential of using one’s whole body or parts of the body (like the hand
or the mouth) to solve problems or fashion products. Obviously, dancers,
actors, and athletes foreground bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. However,
this form of intelligence is also important for craftspersons, surgeons,
bench-top scientists, mechanics, and other technically oriented
Spatial intelligence features the potential to
recognize and manipulate the patterns of wide space (those used, for
example, by navigators and pilots) as well as the patterns for more
confined areas (such as those of importance to sculptors, surgeons, chess
players, graphic artists, or architects).
Interpersonal intelligence denotes a person’s
capacity to understand the intentions, motivations, and desires of other
people, and consequently, to work effectively with others. Salespeople,
teachers, clinicians, religions leaders, political leaders, and actors all
need acute interpersonal intelligence. … Intrapersonal intelligence involves
the capacity to understand oneself, to have an effective working model of
oneself—including one’s own desires, fears, and capacities—and to
use such information effectively in regulating one’s one life. (Gardner,
1999, pp. 41-43)
Gardner later considered the evidence for new
"candidate intelligences" including a naturalist intelligence,
a spiritual intelligence, and an existential intelligence (Gardner,
1999). He stretched the consideration of various intelligences to the
point of posing the question, is there a moral intelligence?
Finally, Gardner concluded, the definition of intelligence
could only be applied to limited explanations of human understanding and
behavior, and ultimately morality "is fundamentally a statement about
the kind of person that one is, or, more properly, about the kind
of person that one has developed to be. It is not, in itself, an
intelligence" (p. 77).
By addressing the intellectual strengths of various
students, Gardner proposed the process of education might be better
tailored to meet the diverse needs and learning styles of students in a
course. This indeed is the central tenet of Gardner’s work.
One could take the position that everyone should study the
same thing in the same way and be assessed in the same way. The standard
view of intelligence leads readily, perhaps ineluctably, to that
educational course. Yet, if there is validity to the idea of multiple
intelligences—if individuals indeed have different kinds of minds, with
varied strengths, interests, and strategies—then it is worth considering
whether pivotal curricular materials could be taught and assessed in
variety of ways. (Gardner, 1999, p. 167)
Aspiring practitioners may find one of the problems in
addressing and teaching to multiple intelligences is in assessment,
especially given the infinite array of mixtures along the continua of the
seven circumscribed intelligences. Gardner (1999) agreed the assessments
are problematic and often impractical, given the intensive observation
necessary for validity, as well as the mercurial nature of intelligence as
an individual develops.
"If I were asked to assess someone’s
intelligences, I would not be satisfied until I had observed him solving
problems and fashioning products in a number of settings. … And even
then, I would have no guarantee that the intelligences profile would
remain the same a year or two later." (Gardner, 1999, p. 139)
Gardner’s (1999) multiple intelligence theory stipulated
neither what to teach nor how to teach it to meet the needs of diverse
student intelligences. It is left up to individual instructors and
curricula to determine how the theory may be applied in classroom
settings, though Gardner suggested that "one could teach English
literature or the theory of mechanics by using a number of different
lesson plans or by giving students software the draws on their various
intelligences" (p. 144). Apart from Gardner’s theory of
intelligences, schools have long recognized various learning abilities and
interests and have taught to them, as may be reflected in elective courses
ranging from art, music, math, science, shop, theater, dance, philosophy,
literature, and so on.
Given the sweeping nature of Gardner’s theory, it is
based on some surprisingly simplistic assumptions. Gardner reduced them to
a "ringing endorsement of three key propositions," including, we
are not all the same; we do not all have the same kinds of minds that
operate as distinct points on a bell curve; and education works best if
these differences are addressed rather than ignored.
This "suggests that any uniform educational approach
is likely to serve only a small percentage of children optimally" (p.
91). Sincerely dedicated teachers may be tempted to respond,
"Duh!" Educators likely understand that effective learning
involves a variety of tools and teaching styles, yet given the limitations
of larger class sizes, funding reductions, and imposed standards, a
commitment to multiple intelligence practices may prove an unpractical
Gardner may have further overstated his case by expressing
the dangers multiple intelligence training might pose, if we were to
harness its powers for nefarious ends. "We have eliminated small pox
and polio, and we stand on the verge of eliminating biological warfare and
land mines. Perhaps we can also agree not to manipulate the intellectual
capacities of future generations" (p. 227). Such hubris comparing the
powers of multiple intelligence theory to the eradication of small pox
gives one pause.
Perhaps a more constrained and applicable theory may be
Daniel Goleman’s (1995) concept of multiple intelligences. Goleman
proposed that even at its best, a person’s IQ contributes only some 20
percent of the factors that determine life success, leaving 80 percent of
the success equation to other forces.
Those other forces Goleman deemed as emotional
intelligence, encompassing such abilities such as "being able to
motivate oneself and persist in the face of frustrations; to control
impulse and delay gratification; to regulate one’s moods and keep
distress from swamping the ability to think; to empathize and to
hope" (p. 34). Goleman provided a bullet-list of emotional skills
contributing to a successful life:
• Identifying and labeling feelings
• Expressing feelings
• Assessing the intensity of feelings
• Managing feelings
• Delaying gratification
• Controlling impulses
• Reducing stress
• Knowing the difference between feelings and actions (p. 301)
By developing emotional intelligence, on may not only improve her or
his own chances for success, but may influence the success of classmates
and colleagues as well. Goleman (19995) considered that emotions might be
contagious, "a part of a tacit exchange that happens in every
encounter. We transmit and catch moods from each other in what amounts to
a subterranean economy of the psyche in which some encounters are toxic,
some nourishing" (p. 115).
These emotional exchanges may occur in imperceptible ways, but
nonetheless have profound impact on our outlook and attitudes. "The
way a salesperson says thank you can leave us feeling ignored, resented,
or genuinely welcomed and appreciated. We catch feelings from one another
as though they were some kind of social virus" (p. 115).
Gardner, H. (1999). Intelligence reframed: Multiple
intelligences for the 21st century. New York: Basic Books.
Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple
intelligences. New York: Basic Books.
Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence. New York: Bantam.