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Posted on Dec 9, 2011 in Andragogy, Behaviorism, Blog, Cognitivism, Connectivism, Constructivism, In my Opinion!, Learning Styles, Learning Theories, Multiple Intelligences, Social Learning Theory | 0 comments

Multiple Intelligences & Learning Styles

Multiple Intelligences & Learning Styles

In a statement at the Asturias Award for Social Sciences ceremony, Gardner said:

“….I have always considered myself a social scientist, and I feel that much of the best work about human nature and human society draws on a range of social scientific disciplines”


The traditional understanding of intelligence assumed that our ability to learn and do things comes out of a uniform cognitive capacity. Howard Gardner breaks away from this one dimensional way of looking at intelligence and developed the Multiple Intelligence Theory. Multiple intelligences are a complex way of understanding the intellectual capacity of the human mind. Cognitive scientific research, developmental psychology and neuroscience suggest that each person’s level of intelligence is actually made up of autonomous faculties that can work individually as well as in combination with other faculties. Howard Gardner calls these faculties intelligences.

–          Musical Intelligence – ability to perform and comprehend musically

–          Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence – strength in bodily-kinesthetic intelligence

–          Logical-Mathematical Intelligence – ability to mentally process logical problems and equations

–          Linguistic Intelligence – ability to construct and comprehend language

–          Spatial Intelligence – ability or mental skill to solve spatial problems of navigation,
visualization of objects from different angles and spaces, faces or scenes

–          Interpersonal Intelligence – interact with others, understand them, and interpret their behavior

–          Intrapersonal Intelligence – ability to understand and sense ourselves

–          Naturalist Intelligence – ability to identify and classify patterns in nature

What are the potential drawbacks of categorizing students by learning style and intelligence strengths/weaknesses?

This is a very complex field but in regards to the impact on the instructional design of my course the knowledge of the MI theory can support in the choice of how to deliver the learning material.  Gardner offer a set of criteria for what counts as an intelligence, data that speak to the plausibility of each individual intelligence, and methods for revising the formulation.

Do I use visuals, auditory features, motion pictures or different colors? Identifying the strengths of intelligences of a learner will certainly allow me to present the material in a suitable manner. Hence, we are at the point of defining the goal or learning outcome again. Cognitive processes constructing new knowledge with respect to multiple intelligences however, cannot always provide the answer to which extent a learner should know or be able to learn at a certain age or with regard to the subject. Neuroscientists criticize that Gardner talks of a hypothetical mental process, rather than presenting objective scientific data in the neural control of behavior.

If I have a set of learners who have been measured highly musically intelligent, it seems rather apparent to establish a relevance or analogy to musical context for the learner in order to develop a suitable learning strategy for these learners. But I think the actual knowledge or the recognition of these multiple intelligences will certainly play a part in identifying learning strategies of any learner.


What considerations will you need to keep in mind in your ongoing quest to understand learners as unique individuals and provide them with the highest quality of instruction? 

Intelligences are always interacting with each other. Individuals perceive and process information simultaneously. According to Funderstanding (2008), some learners are:

–          Concrete and abstract perceivers the learner processes information through direct experience, by              doing, acting, sensing, and feeling.

–          Abstract perceivers process information through analysis, observation, and thinking.

–          Active and reflective processors—Active processors connect the new information to a former                        experience by immediately using the new information.

–          Reflective processors process information of an experience by reflecting and thinking about it.

Learning styles can serve as a direction for how to teach individuals through their styles and patterns by maximizing their strengths. Learning style can also be defined as the way, in which each learner develops strategies to successfully process, new and existing information. Identifying learning styles suitable for each individual and the instructional design can create motivation and lead to successful learning and will lead to the correct encoding of a specific problem. Felder & Silverman summarize these strategies, which can be of use when designing a course:

–          Presenting phenomena and problems that relate to the learning material

–          Presenting conceptual information with concrete information

–          Use of sketches, plots, diagrams, graphics, and physical demonstration in addition to oral and                         written explanations

–          Illustrate an abstract concept or problem

–          Physical analogies and demonstrations to illustrate the connection of calculated quantities

–          Provide time for students to think about the material being presented and for active student                             participation;

–          Offer experimental observations before presenting the general principle

Student historic data may also provide important information about a student’s multiple intelligences.
A deep investigation of learning skills on former data would be the perfect solutions to detect a certain tendency in which way a learner can actually process the knowledge.  By identifying learning weaknesses as well as strengths the design and content of the course can be adjusted to the learner’s needs.

Overall, looking at the learning theories in combination with each other, or supplementing one another, or even acting on their own could provide the utopian learning solution. For an adult learner these cognition principles can help determine what type of learner one may be. In  Adult Learning Theory one of the claimed key principles is, that adults need to feel and be aware of which method creates successful learning (visual, auditory), and processing certain stimuli. I believe by identifying which intelligences are more dominant than others will contribute in  defining the learning outcome of a specific learning material and hence will assist in creating a suitable course for any learner.

In his paper  “Multiple Intelligences After Twenty Years” Gardner states: „Were I granted another lifetime or two, I would like to rethink the nature of intelligence with respect to our new biological knowledge, […], and our most sophisticated understanding of the terrain of knowledge and societal practice.“

Gardner’s approach certainly offers a multidimensional understanding of the human minds in regards to exploring learning strategies.


Armstrong, T. (2000). Multiple intelligences in the classroom  (2nd ed.). Alexandria, Chapter 1, “The Foundations of the Theory of Multiple Intelligences”

Gilbert, J. E., & Swanier, C. A. (2008). Learning Styles : How Do They Fluctuate ? Learning, 1(1988), 29-40.

Helding, L. (2009). Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Journal of Singing, 193-200.

Jensen, A. (2008). Howard Gardner under fire: The rebel psychologist faces his critics. Intelligence, 36(1), 96-97. Retrieved from:


Funderstanding. Retrieved on April 11, 2008 from:

Gardner, H., & Hall, L. (2003). Multiple Intelligences After Twenty Years. Education, (617). Retrieved from:

Howard Gardner’s Website, Retrieved from: Papers/documents/ T-101%20A%20 Multiplicity%20REVISED.pdf


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