Multiple Intelligence Theory and Its Application to Education

Topics: Theory of multiple intelligences, Intelligence, Intelligence quotient Pages: 7 (2107 words) Published: November 29, 2010
The discourse surrounding multiple intelligence theory (MI) and its integration into education has been that of much debate. Written as an opposition to IQ testing, MI was originally developed as an alternate account of cognitive function, initially identifying seven distinct intelligences (verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, spatial, interpersonal, intrapersonal and musical), and later acquiring two more (naturalist and existential). Applied to an educational context, the main aim of MI theory is to demonstrate the insufficiencies of IQ measurements and traditional testing methods as evaluations of student intelligence and the grounds for planning programs and curricula suitable for all students (Moran, Kornhaber, & Gardner, 2007). MI theory is attractive to many because it offers “a more pluralistic cognitive universe” (Gardner, 1995b, p. 16). However, vigorous debate challenges MI theory, whilst the lack of clear instruction for its integration into pedagogy has led to misconceptions and unfaithful application of its key elements. Some of the arguments pertaining to the integration of MI in schools, and in art and design classrooms in particular, will be explored below, firstly examining critiques of the theory itself.

The first debate considers the empirical aspects of MI. In Frames of Mind (1983), Gardner presents his investigation of numerous empirical studies, from which he identified the initial seven intelligences. Thus, it can be said that MI theory is formed solely on empirical evidence. Since there can be no permanence to any empirically based theory, MI can be modified in accordance to new studies, openly allowing for discussion and constant reconceptualisation (Gardner, 1995a). Whilst Kevin Williams (2000) highlights the intuitively appealing natureof MI theory, Robert J. Sternberg identifies the need for a basis for testing and comparing these “attractive” empirical theories (1984, p. 700). Klein (1998, p. 106) points out that Gardner, whilst expanding the claims of MI theory, “provides no evidence for them,” but further demonstrates the virtually “untestable” nature of MI theory that continued to exist over a decade after Sternberg’s critique. This means that whilst it difficult to prove that MI is wrong, it is equally difficult to prove that it is correct, which questions the validity of the theory in educational contexts.

Secondly, MI theory has been accused of confusing intelligence with domain and discipline. Gardner (1995a, p. 202) explains that on the contrary, “an intelligence is a biological and psychological potential… capable of being realized… as a consequence of the experiential, cultural, and motivational factors that affect a person.” This definition is dissimilar to that of “domain,” which is a cultural concept, relating to culturally organized activities, in which individuals are involved. In the art and design context, sculpture, painting and woodwork would be examples of domains, which, according to MI, can be accomplished through the utilization if intelligences such as spatial, bodily-kinesthetic and logical mathematical. In saying that, Gardiner argues that intelligences can operate in many diverse domains(Gardner, 1995a; Gardner, 1998). Logical mathematical intelligence must be applied in planning and constructing a table, for instance, to attain correct measurements and angles.

Perry D. Klein accuses MI of linguistic redundancy on the basis that each intelligence is defined “as an ability in a corresponding set of domains,” and an ability in each domain is explained “with reference to the intelligence” (Klein, 1997, p. 103). Gardner (1998) believes that Klein has confused these concepts, as each domain involves several intelligences, not just one by which it is defined. For example, a student who possesses high spatial intelligence might not necessarily produce an effective poster design without also incorporating a degree of bodily-kinesthetic...
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