Multiple Intelligences

Rocío Vila Falcon

International and Economic Relations Faculty

It was all clear to Einstein: “Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend the rest of its life thinking it is stupid.” For this particular activity, the monkey and the squirrel are top of the class. 

But if we take the tree away and set a test in the water, the fish will win easily.

Howard Gardner (a psychologist specialized in the field of education and a professor at Harvard University) explains in his Theory of Multiple Intelligences that there are no stupid students – and no clever students either! In Gardner’s model, intelligence is not perceived as something unitary but as a set of multiple, distinct and semi-independent functions. Practically speaking, this means that people learn in different ways. Gardner therefore believes that the purpose of education should be “to help people achieve their goals by using their most developed intelligence, and to provide them with incentives to develop the weaker ones”. His approach produces students that are more motivated, committed, confident and more likely to experiment, because they do not suffer from anxiety or fear of failure. 

Scholar, know thyself

According to Gardner, “intelligence” is a construct that can be subdivided into multiple different intelligences. He states that these intelligences are innate, but can be developed and improved through practice.

You can work out which of your intelligences are most developed by answering the following questions:

1. Do you have awareness and control over your feelings? Do you appreciate the moments you spend on your own? This is INTRAPERSONAL intelligence. You will learn more effectively if you take time to associate what you learn with your life experiences, your feelings, your opinions, etc.

2. Are you empathetic? Do you like to negotiate? Do you prefer working or studying with others? This is INTERPERSONAL intelligence. Undoubtedly, the best way for you to learn is to discuss the topic that you study with one or more colleagues. It is crucial for you to realize that you will retain information especially easily when you hearit.

3. Do you like to analyze, prioritize and organize? Are you good at science? This is LOGICAL-MATHEMATICAL intelligence. The best way for you to learn is to create schemata and establish categories by applying logic.

4. Do you find it easy to pronounce words in foreign languages? Do you like to work with background music? Have you memorized the lyrics of your favorite songs? This is MUSICAL-RHYTHMIC AND HARMONIC intelligence. You will learn everything faster when you have music or a rhythm.

5. Do you find it easy to get around with a map or park a car? Do you have a photographic memory? This is VISUAL-SPATIAL intelligence. You will learn best if you create mental images of what you study, and make visually-striking notes with different fonts and colors. Luckily for you, traditional teaching methods tend to enhance your learning style.

6. Are you a talented dancer? Do you have good body coordination? Are you unable to sit still for too long unless you can scribble or draw to concentrate? This is BODILY-KINESTHETIC intelligence. You will gain most and and learn best by experimenting or actively taking notes in class, rather than just listening to the teacher or watching the board. In short, you find it easier to remember what you experience or learn in motion than what you see or hear.

7. Is it easy for you to find the perfect word when you speak or write? Do you have good rhetorical skills? Do you love learning foreign languages? This is VERBAL-LINGUISTIC intelligence. Participating in discussions, giving presentations, reading and writing will increase your learning efficiency.

I hope you have enjoyed this insight into students’ minds. If you are interested in finding out more, you may want to explore the following publications:

Arnold, J. et al., (2007), Imagine That. Helbling Languages, Cambridge University Press.

Puchta, H. y Rinvolucri, M., (2005), Multiple Intelligences in EFL, Helbling Languages, Cambridge University Press.

Rinvolucri, M., (2002), Humanising your coursebook, Surrey, Delta.

Gardner, H., (1983), Frames Of Mind: The Theory Of Multiple Intelligences, New York, Basic Books.



Follow us

Go to top