Multiple Intelligence Theory

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The 25th anniversary of the publication of Howard Gardner’s Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Copyright 2008 Howard Gardner. All rights Reserved.

In 1983, psychologist Howard Gardner published Frames of Mind, the book in which he introduced his ‘theory of multiple intelligences’ (MI theory). Gardner wrote this book as a psychologist and thought that he was addressing principally his colleagues in psychology. He devoted little of the book to educational implications and never expected that his ideas would be picked up by educators, first in the United States and then, eventually, in many countries across the globe. During this year, when Gardner turns 65, he will be making a number of presentations in which he reflects on the course of his thinking over the years, as well as his speculations about the future course of work in this tradition.

While many individuals believe that Gardner set out to dislodge IQ and standard intelligence theory, in fact he did not have this target in mind when he began the research that led to the theory. Indeed, as one who had done well on standardized tests and had been trained in the Piagetian tradition, he had devoted little thought or study to theories of intelligence altogether. Rather, it was his empirical work with normal and gifted children, on the one hand, and with brain-damaged patients on the other, that convinced him that the standard view of a ‘single, unitary, undecomposable intelligence’ could not be correct. The work of synthesizing that led to MI theory consisted of surveying a whole set of literature and disciplines that might yield a more comprehensive and more veridical notion of human intellect.

The most important steps taken by Gardner involved arriving at a working definition of ‘an intelligence’ and devising a set of criteria of what counts as an intelligence. As he describes it, an intelligence is a biological and psychological potential to solve problems and/or create...
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