Multiple intelligences theory was first introduced by developmental psychologist Howard Gardner in 1983. The theory posited that rather than measure intelligence as one general ability, we should measure types of intelligence, also known as “modalities.”
Gardner further explains his theory: “On the basis of research in several disciplines, including the study of how human capacities are represented in the brain, I developed the idea that each of us has a number of relatively independent mental faculties, which can be termed our ‘multiple intelligences.’… A belief in a single intelligence assumes that we have one central, all-purpose computer — and it determines how well we perform in every sector of life. In contrast, a belief in multiple intelligences assumes that we have a number of relatively autonomous computers…”
Gardner initially specified eight modalities — linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, spatial, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic intelligence.
The educational community gravitated immediately toward Gardner’s theory, eager for a systematic way to think about student learning. Some began casually to refer to themselves or others as a certain “type” of learner — “I’m a kinesthetic learner,” “Suzy is a spatial learner,” etc. Gardner has always maintained, however, that each individual has a combination of intelligences, which come into play in various scenarios.
Some criticize multiple intelligences theory for its lack of theoretical, research-based support and its lack of proven effectiveness in the classroom. Gardner has countered that the multiple intelligence theory “was developed as a theory of the mind, not as an educational intervention.”
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