What does it mean to be smart? Many people think being smart means getting good grades in school, a high IQ, or the ability to memorize things well. However, in recent years, this notion of intelligence has been challenged, claiming that people have different intelligences. This is called multiple intelligences or “smarts.”
“All students can learn and succeed, but not all on the same day, in the same way,”
-Wiliam G. Spady
What is Multiple Intelligences?
In 1983, psychologist Howard Gardner shared the Multiple Intelligences Theory (MI) in his book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. This book caught the attention of educators and opened the door to a new definition of intelligence.
The traditional notion is that there is one type of intelligence emphasizing science, math, and language (think IQ). Gardner accounts that the linguistic and logical-mathematical methods are most valued and tested in modern schools and society, but other forms of intelligence influence our learning and potential.
Do you ever wonder why some kids do really well on standardized tests while others struggle? Or why are some kids gifted in sports and others in music?
Gardner suggests that there isn’t just one way to be smart but rather many different ways, and they work together in almost everything you do. The Multiple Intelligences Theory sheds new light on what it means to be smart. As we enter a new digital era, the traditional views on intelligence may become less relevant.
Some key concepts of the Multiple Intelligences Theory:
- No intelligence is better or more important than another
- You can develop and grow each intelligence
- You are not limited to one kind of intelligence
- There are several different ways to be smart within each intelligence
- All of the multiple intelligences work together in nearly everything you do
- It doesn’t matter which culture, gender, or age group you are in; multiple intelligences are present
Comparisons and unrealistic expectations can cause anxiety in children, so parents and teachers should guide students to discover their own unique strengths and “smarts.” This awareness also helps kids identify and accept differences among peers. It’s also an excellent way to boost tolerance, confidence, and empathy.
According to Gardner, no two people (including identical twins) have the same combination of intelligence. Most children can best be taught using various methods and multisensory learning experiences.
Multiple Intelligences Theory and Learning
According to the Multiple Intelligences theory, every person possesses at least 8 forms of intelligence:
This theory looks at intelligence from a different perspective and states that there are multiple intelligence types within each individual. Not every student fits the traditional mold for intelligence, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t “smart.”
According to this article by Simply Psychology, “A common misconception about the theory of multiple intelligences is that it is synonymous with learning styles. Gardner states that learning styles refer to how an individual is most comfortable approaching a range of tasks and materials.
Multiple intelligences theory states that everyone has all eight intelligences at varying degrees of proficiency and an individual’s learning style is unrelated to the areas in which they are the most intelligent.”
The 8 Different Types of Intelligence
1. Verbal-Linguistic- “word smart”
This intelligence uses words and language through reading, writing, and speaking to express and understand themselves and the world around them.
Behaviors & skills of a linguistic learner:
- reading, writing, and word games
- listening to lectures, poems, and jokes
- visiting with friends and family
- good spellers
2. Logical-Mathematical- “math or logic smart”
This intelligence uses numbers, math, logic, reasoning, patterns, and relationships to process, solve problems and understand the world around them.
Behaviors & skills of a mathematical/logistical learner:
- focus on thinking
- working with numbers and formulas
- reasoning, questioning, calculating, & experiments
- brainteasers, logic puzzles, algorithms
- systematic and organized
3. Spatial-Visual- “art or picture smart”
The ability to create mental images clearly and understand shapes, color, patterns, designs, and textures. This intelligence is creative and often thinks in images.
Behaviors & skills of a spatial/visual learner:
- drawing, pictures, movies
- visualizing, pretending, and forming mental images
- read maps
- jigsaw puzzles
- making 3-D from 2-D
4. Musical- “music or sound smart”
The ability to recognize musical-rhythmic patterns and appreciates and composes sounds, melodies, tunes, pitches, and vibrational patterns.
Behaviors & skills of a musical learner:
- focus on rhythm
- mimic sounds, language & accents
- listen to music
- play an instrument
- aware of noises
- remember music
- moves rhythmically
5. Bodily-Kinesthetic- “body or movement smart”
The ability to use the body and movement to solve problems and express ideas and feelings. This intelligence has heightened body awareness.
Behaviors & skills of a kinesthetic learner:
- focus on movement “learn by doing”
- sports & fitness
- physical games
- tactile “hands-on” learning
- clapping, stomping, tapping, jumping
- manipulating concrete materials
- hard to sit for long periods
- communicate through body language and physical gestures
6. Interpersonal- “people or group smart”
The ability to relate to and understand other people’s feelings and intentions. Effective group communicators who learn through personal interactions.
Behaviors & skills of an interpersonal learner:
- focus on communication “person to person”
- talking and sharing with others
- group activities “teamwork”
- social skills
- lots of friends
- empathy for others
- role playing
7. Intrapersonal- “self smart”
The ability to connect with self and awareness of the inner world. People with intrapersonal intelligence strive to understand their innermost meanings, purpose, and significance of things.
Behaviors & skills of an intrapersonal learner:
- focus on reflection
- study/work alone
- intuitive and insightful
- motivated intrinsically
8. Naturalist- “nature or environment smart”
Love and connect with the natural world and have an affinity for all living beings, the weather, and the outdoors’ natural rhythm.
Behaviors & skills of a naturalist learner:
- recognize and classify natural objects
- love the outdoors
- animal lover
- plant lover
- changing seasons
How to Support your Child
With an understanding of multiple intelligences, parents can better understand how their children learn and process information. They can allow them to safely explore using various modalities and skill sets to become independent learners.
This will help children understand and appreciate their strengths and identify real-world experiences that will stimulate life-long learning. Here are some additional resources on multiple intelligences.
Looking for more ways to broaden your child’s learning world? Get my FREE E-book filled with tips, tools, and practices to help kids build self-awareness and connect with themselves and the world around them through various learning opportunities.
Thanks for reading!