May 6th, 2011

COMMENT: Adapt teaching to multiple intelligences

 TRADITIONALLY, we admire highly articulate or logical people. Our schools focus most of their attention to linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligence and the level of intelligence is usually assessed based on these attributes.

In 1983, Dr Howard Gardner, a professor of education at Harvard University, came up with the theory of multiple intelligences. He argued that it is unreasonable to consider only the linguistic and logical-mathematical abilities to define intelligence and ignore other equally important talents such as artistic or athletic. The theory states that a child who learns to multiply easily is not necessarily more intelligent than a child who has stronger skills in another kind of intelligence. He emphasised that we should also place equal consideration for individuals who show gifts in the other intelligences: the architects, musicians, designers, dancers, therapists and entrepreneurs for example.

In 1994, Linda Gottfredson, a professor of Psychology, along with 51 university professors defined intelligence as "a very general mental capability that, among other things, involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas and learn quickly from experience.


It is not merely book learning, a narrow academic skill, or test-taking smarts. Rather, it reflects a broader and deeper aptitude for comprehending our surroundings -- "catching on", "making sense" of things, or "figuring out" what to do.

Gardner suggested that the traditional notion of intelligence, based on IQ testing, is far too limited. Instead, he proposed eight different intelligences to account for a broader range of human potential. These intelligences are:

Linguistic intelligence which includes the ability to effectively use language to express oneself rhetorically or poetically. Writers, poets, lawyers and speakers are among those having high linguistic intelligence.


Logical-mathematical intelligence consists of the capacity to analyse problems logically, carry out mathematical operations, and investigate issues scientifically.

It entails the ability to detect patterns and reason deductively. Scientist and mathematicians have this type of acuity.

Musical intelligence involves skills in the performance, composition and appreciation of musical patterns.


This talent runs parallel to linguistic intelligence.

Bodily-kinaesthetic intelligence entails the capability to use mental abilities to coordinate and balance bodily movements.

This intelligence also includes a sense of timing, a clear sense of the goal of a physical action, along with the ability to train responses so they become like reflexes. Athletes, dancers, musicians, actors, surgeons, doctors, builders, police officers, and soldiers benefit from this kind of intelligence.

Spatial intelligence involves the potential to recognise and use the patterns of wide space and more confined areas.

It addresses the ability to visualise with the mind's eye. Careers which suit those with this type of intelligence include artists, designers and architects. A spatial person is also good with puzzles.

Interpersonal intelligence concerns with the talent to understand the intentions, motivations and desires of other people. It allows people to work effectively with others.

Educators, salespersons, religious and political leaders and counsellors need a well-developed interpersonal intelligence.

Intrapersonal intelligence entails the competence to understand oneself, to appreciate one's feelings, fears and motivations.

This intelligence helps us to regulate our lives. People with intrapersonal intelligence are intuitive and typically introverted. They have a deep understanding of the self; what are their strengths or weaknesses and what makes them unique.

The careers which suit those with this intelligence include philosophers, psychologists, theologians, lawyers and writers.

Since the original listing of intelligences in Frames of Mind (1983), some other intelligences such as naturalistic, spiritual, existential and moral, have also been discussed in literature.

Gardner claimed that the intelligences rarely operate independently.

They are used at the same time and tend to complement each other as people develop skills or solve problems. Based on traditional IQ assessment, most intelligent people are not necessarily the most successful, and organisations are recognising that all-round ability holds the key to success.

However, these intelligences can be put to both constructive and destructive use.


Many kinds of intelligence would allow many ways to teach. It helps to introduce a particular concept in a way that students are most likely to understand.

It also provides educators with a conceptual framework for organising and reflecting on curriculum assessment and pedagogical practices.

In turn, this reflection has led many educators to develop new approaches that better meet the needs of the range of learners in their classrooms.

To elaborate Gardner describes an example of how learning to programme a computer might involve multiple intelligences:

Logical-mathematical intelligence seems central, because programming depends upon the deployment of strict procedures to solve a problem or attain a goal in a finite number of steps.

Linguistic intelligence is also relevant, at least as long as manual and computer languages make use of ordinary language.

An individual with a strong musical bent might best be introduced to programming by attempting to programme a simple musical piece (or to master a programme that composes).

An individual with strong spatial abilities might be initiated through some form of computer graphics and might be aided in the task of programming through the use of a flow chart or some other spatial diagram.

Personal intelligences can play important roles. The extensive planning of steps and goals carried out by the individual engaged in programming relies on intrapersonal forms of thinking, even as the cooperation needed for carrying a complex task or for learning new computational skills may rely on an individual's ability to work with a team.

Kinesthetic intelligence may play a role in working with the computer itself, by facilitating skill at the terminal.



2011/04/30 Alam Sher Malik The writer is Professor of Paediatrics and curriculum coordinator of the Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Teknologi Mara. Email him at alams222@salam.uitm.edu.my




Source: NST Learning Curve Article 2011/04/30