Multiple Intelligences and Its Importance in Education
Learning theories in general are derived from the way theorists interpret human nature and how human beings learn.
Among the theories of learning proposed in the second half of the 20th century, I would like to highlight the theory of Multiple Intelligences developed by Howard Gardner. Initially proposed as a theory of human intelligence, that is, as a cognitive model, MI attracted the attention of educators around the world due to its description of cognitive competence in terms of a set of skills, talents, or even intellectual competences, which Gardner called “intelligences”. Gardner’s intelligences are relatively autonomous, although they are not completely independent. It seems that the importance of MI for educators is in their recognition that each child has a different set of different skills, or a spectrum of intelligences.
In reality, Gardner’s theory of learning is an alternative view to the theory of traditional intelligence (Binet and Simon’s IQ). It is a pluralistic theory of intelligence. According to Gardner, the MI model has used, in part, knowledge that was not available at the time of Binet and Simon (1908): cognitive science (study of the mind) and neuroscience (study of the brain). In MI, intelligence comes to be understood as multiple skills. These categories (or intelligences) represent elements that can be found in all cultures, namely: music, words, logic, paintings, social interaction, physical expression, interior reflection and appreciation of nature. In fact, MI theory is being used, with excellent results, in diverse educational environments, so demonstrating how cultural contexts can shape educational practice. Furthermore, MI represent eight ways to learn content. IM theory, therefore, does not privilege only language and logic as vehicles for learning. MI theory provides a kind of context in which educators can address any skill, topic, area, or instructional objective, and develop it in at least eight ways of teaching it. Used not only in the classroom, but also as a conceptual model in a science park, MI are proving to be a way of ensuring that learning takes place and is fun.
At first, the set of intelligences proposed by Gardner presented seven basic intelligences. In a later work, the author added an eighth intelligence (naturalist), leaving open the discussion about the possibility of adopting a ninth intelligence (spiritual). To arrive at this model, Gardner reports that he studied a wide and unrelated group of sources: prodigy studies, gifted individuals, brain-damaged patients, idiots savants, normal children, normal adults, experts in different fields of study and individuals from different cultures. The eight intelligences proposed by Gardner are defined as abilities to: 1) use language in a competent (linguistic) way; 2) reasoning logically in mathematics and science (logical-mathematics); 3) note details of what is seen and visualize and manipulate objects in the (spatial) mind; 4) understand, create and appreciate music and musical concepts (musical); 5) use one’s own body skillfully (bodily-kinesthetic); 6) recognize subtle aspects of other people’s (interpersonal) behavior; 7) having an understanding of the self (intrapersonal); and 8) recognizing patterns and differences in nature (naturalistic). As Gardner believes, intelligence is a human capacity that is linked to specific world content (for example, musical sounds or spatial patterns). Gardner notes, too, that these different intellectual forces, or competencies, each have their own historical development. For this very reason, they are valued differently by the different cultures of the world.
Finally, according to Gardner, certain domains or skills, such as the logical-mathematical one, which was deeply studied by J. Piaget, are universal. In a nutshell, Piaget investigates the minds of children to glimpse what is unique and generic about intelligence. However, there are other domains that are restricted to certain cultures. For example, the ability to read or to make maps is important in certain cultures, but minimally valued or even unknown in others.