The Theory of Multiple Intelligences was devised by an American psychologist named Howard Gardner, to oppose the paradigm that had been established that there was only one intelligence. Gardner proposed that humanity required the development of different styles of intelligence, but without entering into the contradiction of the scientific definition that this had, as Gardner shared it, he also thought that intelligence was the ability to solve problems or produce valuable goods.
Working with people who had suffered some kind of brain damage taught Gardner that the most important thing is the area in which the injury is suffered, since depending on the area in which it is located, there will be different strengths and weaknesses, such as the loss of speech, musical dexterity, motor skills, body mobility or orientation. In the field of education, the theory of multiple intelligences represented a questioning and a challenge at the same time.
When working with children, he observed a very similar process, since he considers that there are children who develop very well in the linguistic area, others very good in mathematics, science, sports… But in many cases, they were very good in one area, but incapable of analysing or going deeper in another. The key thing was that he saw that you could have great skills for some things, but at the same time not have other skills that prevented you from doing different things.
Such as, for example, great musical ability, but no gymnastic or sporting ability. This discovery made it possible to see that the term intelligence was poorly formulated, as there is not just one way of being intelligent or one way of measuring it. That is why Gardner considers that there are eight predominant intelligences, with specific abilities and skills for each of them:
- Linguistic Intelligence: This is the ability to know how to use oral and written language in all its expressions with advanced mastery. For example, politicians, teachers or orators.
- Musical or Rhythmic Intelligence: The ability to know how to use, perceive and respond to different musical forms and elements, such as rhythm, timbre or tone. Like musicians, for example.
- Logical-mathematical intelligence: This is the ability for complex and logical reasoning, abstraction and the ability to solve mathematical calculations or problems. As for example scientists or chess players.
- Visuospatial intelligence: The ability to perceive and see the world, forms and the environment in order to transform it and create mental images from visual experience. As for example in photography, videos or 3D and 4D creativity.
- Bodily or Kinaesthetic Intelligence: The ability to use the body to learn and express ideas and feelings, or to master physical skills such as balance, strength, flexibility or speed. As for example in dance or gymnastics.
- Intrapersonal or Individual Intelligence: This is the ability to understand oneself in a profound way, and to know how to use this knowledge for day-to-day life. For example, psychologists or philosophers.
- Interpersonal or Social Intelligence: The ability to interact, empathise, understand and relate to people. For example, members of NGOs or refugee aid campaigns.
- Naturalistic Intelligence: This is the ability to think scientifically, to observe and study nature, identify patterns and use it productively. For example, scientists defending animals or climate change.
According to Gardner, all people have each and every one of the 8 types of intelligence, but each one stands out more in a particular one than in the others, all having the same value and importance. Normally, it is necessary to master a large part of them in order to be able to cope with life, regardless of the profession we work in, since most jobs use most of the intelligence styles.
In classroom, from a very young age, we receive an education with contents and procedures focused on clearly assessing two styles of intelligence, linguistic and logical-mathematical, but this is insufficient to educate children and students with all possible potential. That is why Howard Gardner, through his theory, managed to debate the need for a change in the educational paradigm, stressing that the most important aspect of his theory was not the 8 proposed intelligences, but the conceptualisation of human cognition with parallel and independent processes. For this reason, he has commented on other occasions that possibly the multiple intelligences are not really the ones he proposed, but others that have not been taken into account or that are grouped together under the name of a single intelligence.
In order to be able to apply the theory of multiple intelligences in the classroom, the first step that teachers must take is to choose the nature of their own intelligence, in order to subsequently understand the intelligence of each of the students, using a variety of observation exercises that can demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of each of the students.
He considers that intelligence links the ability to solve problems and to create cultural products, so from this point of view, it is a concept totally related to creativity. At the same time, each intelligence represents a way of seeing or knowing the world, since each person has their own unique intelligence profile.
If intelligence is not a universal parameter and each person has a different profile, it is clear that during the learning process and its evaluation system, different aspects such as diversity, individual abilities, brain constitution, environment and cultural context have to be taken into account. In education, this theory has therefore established guidelines for recognising and accepting diversity and at the same time establishing principles of equality.
Ideally, the centre should include methodologies and analysis processes to be able to detect children’s abilities from a very young age, and thus be able to promote a suitable approach to the future, such as in the choice of a professional career related to their qualities and abilities. There are centres that use a style of pedagogies that develop mechanisms to identify the different intelligences, and that help to promote them, applying the methodology to other subjects. So, what we can clearly see thanks to this theory of multiple intelligences is that the most appropriate thing for the future of our children is that they can develop in the workplace in what makes them happy, enhances their skills, and enjoying and excelling in what they are passionate about and what they like.