The Theory of Multiple Intelligences

By: Mackenzie Browne

Over the years, the role as a school teacher has evolved greatly.  Many studies have shown that different students learn and  have the ability to collect information in different ways.  As a result, teachers are expected to not only be able to teach in different ways, but to also strengthen a student's all around ability to learn.

The theory of multiple intelligences (by Howard Gardner in 1983) is based around Gardner's eight categories of intelligence.  These eight categories include bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intra-personal, verbal-linguistic, logical, naturalistic, visual-spacial and musical.  In each of these eight categories, there is a good chance that a classroom has students who find their strength in each different category.  This means that a single teaching strategy may work for some students, but not for all.  Multiple teaching strategies must be used in every lesson and every subject learned.  Today's classroom setting should not be based around the material covered, but more around the student and how they learn.  “One of the most obvious guideposts for assisting students to feel competent is to teach them in ways in which they can learn best. Educators must appreciate that each student has different learning styles and strengths” (Brooks, 2008 ).

Each type of intelligence likes to learn in a different fashion.  It is important to know a few tricks on how to incorporate all eight whenever possible.   

Bodily-kinesthetic: These students learn best through movement.  Sitting and listening to a lecture may not be the best approach for a student with this strength to learn.  Instead, of reading or listening about a subject, these students would rather be doing things.  Add a lab or an activity that will help get these students out of their desks.  Activities can also be helpful to other intelligences too depending on the nature.  Students with this strength also may remember better through muscle movement, which is actually remembering things through movement. (Bogod, Liz, 2005)

 Visual-spacial: Students with this strength may find themselves talented in skills such as visual puzzles, hand-eye coordination and sense of direction.  They may enjoy learning best through visual aid such as videos, diagrams or visual representations of abstract things.  This is mainly to a strong visual memory.  Students with high visual spacial strengths understand a lot of what is taught through the reactions and visual facial expressions of the teacher.  If a student is having trouble understanding a concept, another good idea is to ask them to draw what they are thinking to understand. (Bogod, Liz, 2005)

 Intra-personal: These are the type of students who typically enjoy working alone.  These students are often referred to be introverts.  Something to keep in mind with these type of students is that they may not enjoy many group projects.  Either assign group projects in moderation, or have the option to do an assignment or project alone.  Also a very important tool when teaching all students but especially ones with intra-personal strengths is self reflections.  At the starting and end of an activity, ask students to reflect or answer questions about a certain subject.  After the activity, go back to the original reflection and ask the questions again.  The students will have an opportunity to realize that they have learned when they may not have even noticed. (Bogod, Liz, 2005)

Verbal-linguistic:  Students with a strength in verbal-linguistic intelligence may strive in language based activities, gaining knowledge from lectures and public speaking.  They will also probably have high skills in reading and writing.  In the average classroom, it won't be too difficult to satisfy a student with this strength because lectures and reading is still an essential part in most lessons. (Bogod, Liz, 2005)


 Logical:  This strength is usually associated with numbers and patterns.  Puzzles, calculations and analyzing are easy ways to stimulate this type of learner.  Once again, most classrooms today have plenty of ways to stimulate these types of learners.  However, students with a high strength in Logical intelligence may have a harder time with subjects such as English.  It may be more difficult for them, so keep in mind they way they think and possible extra ways to help. (Bogod, Liz, 2005)

Naturalistic:  People who have naturalistic intelligence have a stronger understanding in the surroundings around them.  They may have an easier time caring for animals or plants.  They find it easier to learn something new by relating it to something they already know.  This is a key fact to remember when teaching.  Relating a new topic to something students already know is always a good strategy because students may find it easier to build off of other ideas. (Bogod, Liz, 2005)

 Interpersonal:  Intelligence of this nature refers to the ability and skills when interacting with others.  They may have to be highly skilled in reading other people's moods or feelings.  Students with this intelligence may find it easier to learn when working in small groups.  Another good strategy is to get students to teach each other.  The interaction of bouncing ideas off of someone else may help this.  In general, anything that involves the interaction of others may place the student in a comfortable learning environment. (Bogod, Liz, 2005)

 Musical:  Musical intelligence students have a natural talent for understanding musical concepts such as rhythm and pitch.  They find ways of memorizing information using rhymes or even songs.   Sometimes musical intelligence is the hardest to incorporate into a lesson because of its strictly auditory nature.  However, whenever possible, you can use sounds to stimulate these learners.  For young students, educational songs and dances may interest musical students.  When they are older, they may find it easier to learn with music in the background.  During instructional periods, they may find a strength in learning from hearing people speak. (Bogod, Liz, 2005)

It is an everlasting challenge to stimulate every type of intelligence constantly.  Do not try to incorporate all of them in every lesson.  It is too much of a challenge, and the exhaustion of teaching this intensely may eventually cause teaching less effective because of that exhaustion.

Luckily, most students will probably find strengths in multiple fields of intelligence.  This means that because incorporating every intelligence into every lesson is nearly impossible, it is a better idea to try and use as much variation over all your lesson plans instead.  This way, there is a better chance you will use some method that can stimulate your students.  It is important for teachers to, “learn all you can about differentiated instruction and related topics such as learning styles, multiple intelligences, multiple literacies, and brain-based learning”( Koechlin, 2008 ).  The more you know about how students learn, the more effective your teaching can be.  Lastly, and most importantly, anyone has the ability to learn.


Robert Brooks,  Sam Goldstein. (2008). The Mindset of Teachers Capable of Fostering Resilience in Students. Canadian Journal of School Psychology, 23(1), 114-126.  Retrieved March 6, 2009, from CBCA Education database. (Document ID: 1490400471).

Carol Koechlin,  Sandi Zwaan. (2008). everyone wins: differentiation in the school library. Teacher Librarian, 35(5), 8-13.  Retrieved March 6, 2009, from CBCA Education database. (Document ID: 1502965201).

Liz Bogod, Multiple intelligences. (1998).