The Theory of Multiple Intelligences was developed in 1983 by Dr Howard Gardner, a professor of education at Harvard University.

Traditionally, the definition of intelligence has one fundamental assumption in that it is single and quantifiable. Over time, this has created a mindset as to what ‘smart’ or ‘intelligent’ is; who has potential or ability to be smart; and how we can or cannot become smart. This, resultedly, has also influenced educational practices, where standardized intelligence tests are often used to qualify and classify children.

Dr Gardner indicates that the concept of Intelligence is not a static structure but rather, an open and dynamic system that can continue to develop through life. Dr Gardner also proposes eight different Intelligences to account for a broader range of human potential in children and adults.

These intelligences are:
– Linguistic intelligence (or ‘word smart’)
– Logical-mathematical intelligence (or ‘number/reasoning smart’)
– Spatial intelligence (or ‘picture smart’)
– Body-Kinesthetic intelligence (or ‘body smart’)
– Musical intelligence (or ‘music smart’)
– Interpersonal intelligence (or ‘people smart’)
– Intrapersonal intelligence (or ‘self smart’)
– Naturalistic intelligence (or ‘nature smart’)

Further insight into each of these Intelligences can be found right at the end of this article.

According to Gardner’s theory, one form of Intelligence is not better than another; and in fact, they are all equally valuable and viable. Yet, he discovered that different cultures are biased towards and against certain types of Intelligences. For instance, we may favour Linguistic and Logical-mathematical Intelligences while undervaluing others, such as Naturalistic or Body/kinesthetic Intelligence. These biases, added to the traditional understanding of Intelligence, have limited our development of curricula, instructional strategies, and current methods of assessment- including how we measure intelligence.

Dr Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences is a very useful model for developing a systematic approach to nurturing and teaching children while honouring their individual needs and strengths within a classroom setting. The Theory of Multiple Intelligences includes the notion that each person is smart in all eight types of intelligences; and that the only thing which differentiates one person from another is the varying degrees of expertise in each of these intelligences. Additionally, because research now also shows that we can ‘build intelligence’, it is also not impossible to train ourselves to become more adept in any of these intelligences.

The Theory of Multiple Intelligences honours and promotes the development of all eight avenues of Intelligences in humans. This approach provides a framework to not only identify how we can learn, but how we can learn Better. To recognize our own strengths and interests; acknowledge our weaknesses; and convert them both into assets by strategically building on them. This theory helps educators individualize learning and employ teaching strategies that will prove effective, engaging, and enjoyable for all in the classroom.


People with high Interpersonal Intelligence process information through relatedness to others. They are ‘people’ people. It is in relationship to and with other people that they best understand themselves and the world. Additional characteristics include the following: Ability to notice and discern subtleties among others, such as moods, temperaments, and feelings Discerns underlying intentions, behavior, and perspectives Easily makes friends and enjoys the company of others Ability to get into the perspective of another Responds to verbal and nonverbal communications-facial cues and body movements Recognizes and empathizes with others’ feelings Ability to negotiate and handle conflict resolution Works cooperatively in a group Works well with a diverse group of people Good communication skills Loves to talk and influence

People with high Intrapersonal Intelligence have a strong sense of themselves, their wants, and needs. They are self reflective and in touch with themselves. They may be the nonconformist individuals who march to their own drummer. Additional characteristics include the following: Well developed sense of self Awareness and expression of different feelings Self reflection and mindfulness Ability to think about thinking (i.e., metacognition) Transpersonal sense of self. Asks big questions—”Why are we here?” and “What happens when we die?” Often is a daydreamer Often writes introspectively including prose, poetry, or journal writing Excellent self planners and good at goal setting Enjoys solitude and likes to think alone Good understanding of strengths and weaknesses Enjoys self discovery

People with high Linguistic Intelligence love words. They prefer to process information through words and language versus pictures. They may prefer oral or written methods, or excel in both. Additional characteristics include the following: Sensitive to the meaning, order, and sound of words Uses varied language Avid talkers; good speakers Likes to explain, convince, and persuade through words Enjoys and excels at word games Enjoys listening to, telling, and reading stories Enjoys rhymes and poetry Has good memory recall for names and dates

People with high Musical Intelligence learn best through sound, rhythm, and music. These people learn better when music is playing and through musical metaphors. Additional characteristics include the following: Ability to perceive pitch, tone, and rhythmic pattern Well developed auditory sense and discrimination Ability to create, organize rhythmically, and compose music Picks up and creates melodies/rhythm easily Remembers songs easily Ability to sing or play instruments Sensitive and drawn to sounds Possesses “schemas” for hearing music Constantly humming, tapping, and singing

People with high Bodily-kinesthetic Intelligence process information through their bodies-through muscle, sensation, and movement. Their bodies are their avenue to learning and understanding any content or subject and is also their preferred form of self-expression. Additional characteristics include the following: A fine-tuned ability to use the body and handle objects (fine and gross motor) Ability to express emotions through bodily movement Enjoys physical movement and dance Constant movement-likes to get up and move around Commitment to comfort Uses body to accomplish a task Experiences a strong mind/body connection Expands awareness through the body Experiences a total physical response Often good at creative drama

People with high Spatial Intelligence process information best using pictures, visuals, and imagery. They have a sense of direction and an ability to think and plan in three dimensions. Additional characteristics include the following: Ability to create complex mental images Active imagination Ability to find their way mentally and physically around environment Ability to see the physical world accurately and translate it into new forms Ability to see things in relationship to others Ability to use “mind maps” Uses imagery and guided visualizations Likes visual support-video, pictures, photos, charts, posters Organizes space, objects, and areas Enjoys designing and decorating

People with high Logical-mathematical Intelligence create order out of chaos by analyzing, grouping, and categorizing. They recognize relationships, connections, and patterns more easily than people with less logical intelligence. Additional characteristics include the following: Ability to handle long chains of reasoning Likes reasons for doing things Possesses good inductive and deductive reasoning Quick to learn equivalencies Asks “why” and “how” questions Solves problems rapidly Likes to predict, analyze, and theorize Enjoys dealing with abstraction Strong at math and problem solving skills Sequential thinker Enjoys board games and games with rules

Naturalistic Intelligence is manifested in a particular sensitivity to nature, to the environment, and to living creatures. This is a sensitivity that leads to recognising and classifying in detail the variety present in the world around us. Obviously, scientists are gifted with this talent, but so are several members of those primitive tribes who have the ability to distinguish the very numerous aspects and indications offered by the nature surrounding them. Children endowed with this intelligence demonstrate a particular interest in natural phenomena, in animals and in plants.


Got an awesome thought? We're all ears.

Your email address will not be published.