Term of Art: Multiple Intelligences

“multiple intelligences (MI): The theory that many people have many ways of demonstrating their capabilities and that rather than being a single entity, intelligence is made up of distinct learning proficiencies that can work individually or together. In 1983, psychologist Howard Gardner introduced the concept of multiple intelligences in his book Frames of Mind to show that the usual school-based emphasis on rationality and logic is not the only way to be ‘intelligent.’ There is now a huge following for MI; many schools have adopted some version of it, and related training and professional development programs have proliferated. Gardner originally identified seven intelligences, only the first two of which are typically valued by schools: verbal-linguistic (the ability to use language to convey information well and to analyze language use); logical-mathematical (the capacity to analyze problems logically, grasp abstractions, recognize codes and patterns, and investigate issues scientifically) visual-spatial (the ability to recognize and manipulate the relationships of object, concepts, or images in different dimensions); musical-rhythmic (sensitivity to pitch and rhythm of sounds, as well as skill in performance, composition, and appreciation of musical patterns); bodily-kinesthetic (the ability to use body movement to connect with information, solve problems, and convey ideas); interpersonal (the awareness of others’ intentions, motivations, and feelings, and the ability to interact with others with understanding); and intrapersonal (the capacity to understand oneself and to recognize one’s own feelings, fears, and motivations). Gardner subsequently added and eighth intelligence: naturalist intelligence, or the ability to recognize, categorize, and draw on certain features of the natural environment. Critics say that these intelligences are actually aptitudes or abilities, or variations of rational thinking, rather than what most people consider general intelligence, and that no one can function successfully in the modern world without the linguistic and logical skills valued by schools.”

Excerpted from: Ravitch, Diane. EdSpeak: A Glossary of Education Terms, Phrases, Buzzwords, and Jargon. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2007.

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