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What is the theory of multiple intelligences (M.I.)?
How does this theory differ from the traditional definition of intelligence?
What do multiple intelligences have to do with my classroom?
How has M.I. theory developed since it was introduced in 1983?
Who are the critics of this theory and what do they say?
What are some benefits of using the multiple intelligences approach
in my school?

How can applying M.I. theory help students learn better?
How can I find out more about M.I. theory?

How does this theory differ from the traditional definition of intelligence?

Gardner's multiple intelligences theory challenged traditional beliefs in the fields of education and cognitive science.

According to a traditional definition, intelligence is a uniform cognitive capacity people are born with. This capacity can be easily measured by short-answer tests.

According to Howard Gardner, intelligence is:
  • The ability to create an effective product or offer a service that is valued in a culture;
  • A set of skills that make it possible for a person to solve problems in life;
  • The potential for finding or creating solutions for problems, which involves gathering new knowledge.
An educational system based on national standards and efficient, relatively cheap, universal multiple choice testing is central to the traditional concept of intelligence. In practice a student's score on an I.Q.2 test or WISC3 ranks his or her strengths and weaknesses. It qualifies students for special services (such as programs for the gifted or for those with learning disabilities). An unfortunate use of IQ tests in schools is that it often results in labeling students.

2.  3.

Many educators, researchers, students and parents have long rejected multiple choice testing as a measure of intelligence. Multiple intelligence theory has served as a rallying point for a reconsideration of the educational practice of the last century.

Traditional view of Intelligence Multiple Intelligences Theory
Intelligence can be measured by short-answer tests:

Stanford-Binet Intelligence Quotient
Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISCIV)
Woodcock Johnson test of Cognitive Ability
Scholastic Aptitude Test

Assessment of an individual's multiple intelligences can foster learning and problem-solving styles. Short answer tests are not used because they do not measure disciplinary mastery or deep understanding. They only measure rote memorization skills and one's ability to do well on short answer tests. Some states have developed tests that value process over the final answer, such as PAM (Performance Assessment in Math) and PAL (Performance Assessment in Language)

People are born with a fixed amount of intelligence.

Human beings have all of the intelligences, but each person has a unique combination, or profile.

Intelligence level does not change over a lifetime.

We can all improve each of the intelligences, though some people will improve more readily in one intelligence area than in others.

Intelligence consists of ability in logic and language.

There are many more types of intelligence which reflect different ways of interacting with the world

In traditional practice, teachers teach the same material to everyone.

M.I. pedagogy implies that teachers teach and assess differently based on individual intellectual strengths and weaknesses.

Teachers teach a topic or "subject."

Teachers structure learning activities around an issue or question and connect subjects. Teachers develop strategies that allow for students to demonstrate multiple ways of understanding and value their uniqueness.


Workshop: Tapping Into Multiple Intelligences
Explanation | Demonstration | Exploration | Implementation | Get Credit

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