Intelligence is a critical concept in psychology and education because it is believed to impact an individual’s learning capacity and academic performance. Recent theories focused on the very definition of intelligence, attempting to expand it beyond academic skills and abilities. Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory is an example of such a theory because it evaluates intelligence in eight separate domains. This theory is useful in understanding different forms of intelligence and can be used in education to enable students of all ability levels to learn and improve their skills.
Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory
Howard Gardner first proposed a new definition and theory of intelligence in 1983 in response to the narrow traditional definitions. According to Gillman (2001), the fundamental question that the researcher thought to answer was if intelligence was a single concept or a variety of independent intellectual capacities. As part of his research, Gardner worked with stroke patients and children, which allowed him to gather data from two dramatically different populations (Gillman, 2001). This enabled the researcher to produce a new definition of intelligence.
As defined by Gardner’s theory, intelligence is a collection of independent intellectual functions, each responsible for a person’s abilities in one of eight domains. As a result, the theory of multiple intelligences classifies intelligence into eight types, stating that they develop and operate independently of one another (Snowman & McCown, 2013). For instance, interpersonal intelligence influences a person’s capacity “to discern and respond appropriately to the moods, temperaments, motivations, and desires of other people” (Snowman & McCown, 2013, p. 75).
Intrapersonal intelligence, on the opposite, relates to one’s understanding of self, including feelings, emotions, strengths, and weaknesses (Snowman & McCown, 2013). All eight types of intelligence proposed by Gardner may impact an individual’s academic and career performance, and they could be developed using specific instructional techniques.
Misconceptions about Gardner’s Theory
As part of their explanation, Snowman and McCown (2013) discuss some common misconceptions about Gardner’s theory, which might influence its application in educational practice. First of all, a common misconception is that a person who has high intelligence in one domain will be able to complete all tasks associated with this domain. Snowman and McCown (2013) state that this is not true, because there are still various functions within each kind of intelligence, and a person can struggle with some of them, depending on their characteristics. For example, if a person has high musical intelligence, they may not be able to write music or sing. This information is essential for education since it emphasizes the importance of finding an individual approach to each student.
Secondly, another misconception that is important for instruction planning is that, for children to acquire all of the intelligence, it is considered that each subject should be taught to them in eight different ways (Snowman & McCown, 2013). This is also wrong because students might resist some ways of teaching if they feel that they are forced to excel in an area they do not find interesting or enjoyable. Instead, it would be more beneficial to apply two or three different intelligence domains, depending on students’ needs, and ensure that knowledge is translatable into real life (Snowman & McCown, 2013). Based on these ideas, it is possible to create an instruction plan for teaching subjects to different age groups.
This instruction plan is for a single lesson in biology for grade school students aged 7-8 years. The topic is “A Healthy Heart,” and it will focus on the function of the heart in the body and strategies for cardiovascular health promotion, including exercise and healthy eating. Based on research, two different intelligence domains were chosen: interpersonal and kinesthetic intelligence. To encourage students to develop and apply both of these intelligence types, the following lesson plan was created:
- Introduction. During this stage, the teacher will introduce the topic and connect it to previous lessons by asking students to recall information about other organs studied.
- Presentation. This phase of the lesson is for the instructor to present essential information about the heart, its location, and its importance for the organism. To adapt the material for the chosen grade level, the teacher should offer information in a narrative format, using simple language. They should also stimulate students’ independent thinking by asking questions before each piece of information. For instance, “What do you think we should do to help our hearts get stronger?”
- Activity. After the first two stages are completed, the instructor should ask students to work as a group and produce a performance or a play based on the information they have learned in the lesson. To promote interpersonal skills development, the teacher should allow students to distribute roles, but they can still help students to create lines if they require assistance.
- Conclusion. After the activity, the teacher should encourage students to reflect on the information learned by asking questions. Some examples of concluding questions are “What was the most surprising thing you learned today?” and “What advice will you give your parents to make sure they stay healthy.”
Overall, Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory is useful for explaining academic and career performance in individuals. It can also be used to guide school instruction that would help students to develop more than one intelligence domain. The proposed instruction plan focuses on interpersonal and kinesthetic skills. While working as a group, students will develop their listening and communication skills and learn to understand one another, whereas movement during the performance would contribute to their kinesthetic intelligence. The lesson will also provide students with knowledge that they can apply in real life by linking theoretical information with its practical implications.
Gillma, L. (2001). The theory of multiple intelligences. Web.
Snowman, J., & McCown, R. (2013). Ed psych (Student ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.