Multiple Intelligences at Schools

Este material, basado en la teoría de las inteligencias múltiples de Howard Gardner, plantea una reflexión sobre las implicancias de aprender una lengua extranjera.

Multiple Intelligences

You might have heard about Gardner and the theory of «multiple intelligences». Of course it’s related to the concept of intelligence, which has remained central to the field of psychology, and consequently to education.

As is often the case, there has been a divorce between research into psychology and the «applied area» of intelligence. Fortunately, by the late 70s, there were signs of a reawakening of interest in theoretical and research aspects of intelligence with a focus on the information-processing aspects of items in psychological tests.

A decade ago, Gardner found that his own research interests were leading him to a heightened concern with issues of human intelligence. This concern grew out of two disparate factors, one primarily theoretical, and the other largely practical.

As a result of his own studies, Gardner became convinced that the Piagetian view of intellect was mistaken. Gradually empirical evidence was beginning to show that the human mind may be quite modular in design. That is, separate psychological processes appear to be involved in dealing with linguistic, numerical, pictorial, gestural, and other kinds of cognitive systems.

On a more practical level, Gardner was disturbed by the nearly exclusive stress in school on two aspects: linguistic and logical-mathematical teaching. Although these two forms are obviously important in a school setting, other forms are also important in human cognitive activity within and especially outside school. Moreover, the emphasis on linguistic and logical capacities were practically the only aspects in the construction of items on intelligence, aptitude, and achievement tests. If different kinds of items were used, or different kinds of assessment instruments devised, a quite different view of the human intellect might emerge.

These and other factors led Gardner to take into account a wide variety of human cognitive capacities, to incorporate as well the skills valued in a variety of cultural settings.

He realized that he was stretching the word intelligence beyond its usual application in educational psychology, Gardner proposed the existence of a number of relatively autonomous human intelligences. He defined intelligence as the «capacity to solve problems or to fashion products that are valued in one or more cultural settings, and detailed a set of criteria for what counts as a human intelligence».

To arrive at his list of intelligences, Gardner and his colleagues examined the literature in several areas: the development of cognitive capacities in normal individuals; the breakdown of cognitive capacities under various kinds of organic pathology; the existence of abilities in «special populations», such as prodigies, autistic individuals, idiots savants, and learning-disabled children; forms of intellect that exist in different species; forms of intellect valued in different cultures; the evolution of cognition across the millennia; and two forms of psychological evidence the results off actor-analytic studies of human cognitive capacities and the outcome of studies of transfer and generalization. Candidate capacities that turned up repeatedly in these disparate literatures made up a provisional list of human intelligences, whereas abilities that appeared only once or twice or were reconfigured differently in diverse sources were abandoned from consideration.

Gardner includes seven intelligences, each with its own component processes and subtypes. As a species, human beings have developed to carry out at least seven forms of thinking. In a biological metaphor, these may be thought of as different mental «organs». Or separate information devices.

Although all humans exhibit the range of intelligences, individuals differ –presumably for both hereditary and environmental reasons– in their current profile of intelligences. Moreover, there is no necessary correlation between any two intelligences, and they may indeed entail quite distinct forms of perception, memory, and other psychological processes.

The multiple intelligences

  1. Logical- Scientist Sensitivity to, and capacity to discern, logical or mathematical numerical patterns; ability to handle long chains of reasoning (mathematician).
  2. Linguistic Poet Sensitivity to the sounds, rhythms, and meanings of words; sensitivity to different functions of language (journalist).
  3. Musical Composer Abilities to produce and appreciate rhythm, pitch, and timbre; appreciation of the forms of musical expressiveness (violinist).
  4. Spatial Navigator Capacities to perceive the visual-spatial world accurately and to perform transformations on one's initial perceptions (sculptor).
  5. Bodily- Dancer Abilities to control one's body movements and kinesthetic to handle objects skilfully (athlete).
  6. Interpersonal Therapist Capacities to discern and respond appropriately to the moods, temperaments, motivations, and desires of other people (salesman).
  7. Intrapersonal Person with Access to one's own feelings and the ability to detailed, discriminate among them and draw upon them accurate self- to guide behaviour; knowledge of one's own knowledge strengths, weaknesses, desires, and intelligences.

Can you recognise some of these in yourself? In your learners?

How do we go from here? What are the potential contributions to education, and in particular (foreign) language learning.

The objective is to try and isolate each of the seven intelligences and see how get interact with each other, and what contribution each can make to overall language learning, especially from the outlook of a content-based approach. Gardner says that we must try to find the strengths and weaknesses of each.

Putting Theory into Practice

Gardner has developed a series of modules, or «domain projects», that serve the goals of both curriculum and assessment. These projects feature sets of exercises and curriculum activities organised around a concept central to a specific domain.

These drafts, sketches, and final products generated by these and other curriculum activities are collected in portfolios (sometimes termed «process-folios»), which serve as a basis for assessment of growth by both the teacher and the student.

Gardner describes some projects applying the theory of multiple intelligences. Through a variety of special classes (e.g., computing, bodily/kinesthetic activities) and enrichment activities (a «flow» center and apprentice), all children are given the opportunity to discover their areas of strength and to develop the full range of intelligences. In addition, over the course of a year, each child executes a number of projects based on schoolwide themes, such as «Man and His Environment» or «Changes in Time and Space».

Do you think you could do some of these?

Provision of suitable materials allows children to gain experiences that engage their several intelligences, and allows children's strengths, interests, and proclivities to develop. These include games. Can you think of what type?

To what extent do you think this chapter is useful?


GARDNER, H. (1983) Frames of Mind. London.


Publicado: 15 de enero de 2015

Última modificación: 25 de febrero de 2015



Área / disciplina

Lenguas Extranjeras




Material pedagógico






lengua extranjera


inteligencias múltiples




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