Gifted education in Alberta is recognized as students having outstanding abilities and exceptional performance. These students make up 10-15% of the school population (Calgary Board of Education) and require differentiated provisions and/or programs beyond the scope of the school program. Children with exceptional performance demonstrated achievement and potential in one or more of the following Multiple Intelligences. In 1997 Alberta Learning adopted its definition from Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences which represented Gardner’s view that there is both a biological and cultural basis for intelligence (Brualdi, 1996, p 2). Gardner’s research challenged traditional views. According to Gardner (1999), intelligence is much more than IQ because a high IQ in the absence of productivity does not equate to intelligence. In his definition, “Intelligence is a bio-psychological potential to process information that can be activated in a cultural setting to solve problems or create products that are of value in a culture” (p.). Multiple Intelligences is a psychological theory about the mind. Students learn, remember, perform and understand in different ways.
According to his research genetics, environment and experience influences one’s level of intelligence. There are 8 different intelligences and students have to meet several criteria as opposed to relying upon the single score of an IQ test. In separating the different forms of intelligence, Gardner was able to closely contextualise the relationship between intelligence, giftedness and creativity. It is clear from reading Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory that, in practice, a student must show an aptitude for several to be classified as ‘gifted.’ Gardner’s theory demonstrates the point that one must not be highly educated to be classified as ‘intelligent’ and that certain individuals are more likely to show an aptitude for specific types of intelligence. Gifted individuals show an aptitude for the majority of these areas.
To define the 8 Multiple Intelligences, Gardner had to come up with a set of criteria that would qualify various skills as forms of intelligence. He studied the biological sciences, logical analysis, developmental psychology, experimental psychology, and psychometrics to consider the criteria for “candidate intelligences” (Gardner, 1999, np). They are as follows:
1) the potential for brain isolation by brain damage,
2) its place in evolutionary history,
3) the presence of core operations,
4) susceptibility to encoding,
5) a distinct developmental progression,
6) the existence of idiot-savants, prodigies and other exceptional people,
7) support from experimental psychology, and
8) support from psychometric findings (Gardner, 1999).
To put these into greater detail, it is important to remember the context in which they may reveal themselves and that, not all eight may be demonstrated and such is the essence of Gardner’s theory: these are varying types of intelligence rather than having one broad ‘umbrella term’ to cover them all.
When Gardner discusses the potential for brain isolation through brain damage, he is discussing the fact that one “candidate intelligence” can be “disconnected from others.” In this instance, Gardner gives the example of stroke victims who are still left with intelligence afterwards, but may lose other cognitive abilities such as speech. In this sense, Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory is extremely inclusive. Equally, Gardner felt that an intelligence must be measured in terms of its impact on human evolution – for example, he refers to spatial intelligence in terms of its role in helping our species survive throughout the millennia. His discussion of a core set of operations refers to the ability to an understanding of context and gives the example of in linguistic intelligence, we recognise a core set of phonemes and can distinguish between them to produce the correct ones that convey our meaning effectively. Our susceptibility to encoding discusses our ability to register and read particular codes which are culturally significant; he claims that these systems are developed rather than procured naturally and can include written and spoken language, mathematical systems, logical equations, maps, charts and drawings. The following two agendas are derived from developmental psychology and refer to intelligent people who are born with an inclination to succeed.
The first of these are those who work hard to become intelligent in a particular field such as biology or languages, and who develop their intelligence as a matter of course. The second of these refers to the existence of idiot-savants, prodigies and people of natural, exceptional intelligence which Gardner classifies as being “accidents of nature.” Equally, another type of person who can be classified as such is the autistic person capable of significantly higher brain activity in certain areas such as mathematical equations. An autistic person of this calibre also ties in neatly with Gardner’s first discursive point which highlights that even those with ‘brain damage’ (in any context) are still capable of succeeding in his intelligence criteria. The final two areas are imitative of traditional psychology and psychometric testing. Gardner felt that the assessment of giftedness must rely upon traditional psychology and psychometrics, to some extent, to demonstrate whether the multiple tasks being carried out are being done so simultaneously or extraneously of one another – if those activities rely on the same mental capabilities or separate ones. Although Gardner originally orchestrated his theory in opposition to psychometric testing, he acknowledges here that it does have its place but should not be the sole recommendation for classifying an individual’s intelligence level.
Following the classification of such criteria, Gardner constructed a list of types of intelligence:
It is prudent to discuss each of these in detail, although again, it is important to remember that each of these intelligences refers to a different aspect of any individual’s brain that may have strengths in all or the majority of areas, or may be extremely strong in just one or two.
Spatial intelligence refers to the human ability to navigate successfully. This links in with the encoding criteria which enables us to read maps, as well as cultural markers which allow us to navigate from memory: home to shop – shop to home, for example. Gardner gives this example, “Navigation around the Caroline Islands in the South Seas is accomplished by native sailors without instruments.” (Gardner, 2006, p 13) and this demonstrates neatly the expectations behind spatial intelligence. It is quite a practical type of intelligence and as such, the individual must demonstrate their natural aptitude through practical means. Linguistic intelligence is, somewhat obviously, concerned with the individual’s ability to speak, write and converse effectively and with an aptitude for reading the context of the discussion as well as being able to contribute fully towards it too. Gardner states T.S. Eliot as an example, “At the age of ten, T.S. Eliot created a magazine called Fireside, to which he was the sole contributor. In a three-day period during his winter vacation, he created eight complete issues.” (Gardner, 2006, p 13) and claims that this demonstrated the poet’s talent with language. And rightly so – the young Eliot composed poems, stories, gossip and humour to a high standard at a very young age – carefully demonstrating his aptitude for linguistic intelligence.
Logical-Mathematical intelligence refers to the individual’s ability to reconcile equations and solve logical problems with remarkable speed and accuracy. Gardner states that “the successful scientist copes with many variables at once and creates numerous hypotheses that are each evaluated and then accepted or rejected in turn.” (Gardner, 2006, p 12); the implication here is that the gifted individual is capable of processing possible, logical outcomes all at once and with relative ease, is able to select the correct answer. Bodily-kinaesthetic intelligence refers to action and “muscle memory obtained from experiences” (Fogarty & Stoehr, 2007, p 13). This type of intelligence is best presented through athletes, dancers and performers at the top of their game – prima donna ballerinas, acrobatic circus performers, weightlifters – the people who demonstrate an acute understanding of the body and how it can be best used to its optimum performance. Musical intelligence is defined via the earlier discussion of the presence of core operations as well as the ability to comprehend encoding and refers directly to the individual’s aptitude to read, play and even compose music. Gardner is quick to recommend that musical intelligence cannot exist solitarily and instead, the individual with a true aptitude for musicality is usually also capable in terms of their bodily-kinaesthetic intelligence too. The following two intelligences – interpersonal and intrapersonal – discuss the individual’s ability to understand others and their own personality respectively. Gardner defines the former as building “on a core capacity to notice distinctions in others” (Gardner, 2006, p 15) which means that ability to notice differences and quirks and incorporate them into an understanding of the whole person. Whereas, intrapersonal refers explicitly to the individual’s understanding of their self that Gardner describes as “knowledge of the internal aspects of a person: access to one’s own feeling life, one’s range of emotions, the capacity to make discriminations among these emotions and eventually to label them and to draw on them as a means of understanding and guiding one’s own behaviour.” (Gardner, 2006, p 17). The two personal intelligences are usually required to go hand in hand to allow for any individual to display an aptitude for either. The final intelligence, naturalistic demonstrates an understanding of nurture for one’s surroundings and these individuals tend to work closely with nature and the natural world.
The most important factor to remember is that these intelligences cannot and do not stand independently of one another but rather, they often blend together to allow the individual’s real giftedness to shine through. Some of the forms of intelligence naturally merge together – musical with bodily-kinaesthetic and intrapersonal, for example – and others are components in a bigger picture which helps to construct the gifted individual. When speaking of Gardner’s musical intelligence, it has been commented that “if music does not in itself convey emotions or affects, it captures the forms of these feelings” (Kincheloe, 2004, p 58) which clearly indicates the need for inter-intelligence mingling. In this sense, intelligence and creativity are carefully merged as being reliant on the other. Scott Kaufman and Robert Sternberg refer to giftedness as ‘wisdom’ and agree that “Wisdom, in turn, relies on the application of both intelligence and creativity.” (Kaufman & Sternberg, 2011, p 69) and this clearly shows that the three cannot be independent of one another unless in extreme cases.
Gardner posits that his definition of creativity has “revealing parallels” with and differences from his definition of intelligence. He states that both definitions involve solving problems and creating products, however, his claim is that “creativity includes the additional category of asking new questions – something that is not expected of someone who is “merely” intelligent . . .” (1999, n.p.). The difference between intelligence and creativity is that a person who is creative is one who is “always operating in a domain or discipline or craft.” (1999, n.p.). This person has one domain in which he or she stands out. Secondly, a person who is creative “does something that is initially novel, but the contribution does not end with novelty – it is all too easy to do something merely different” (1999, n.p.). The concept of the “Big C” was coined to understand that creativity is one that affects a domain. This refers to people who have made huge effects on domains. Gardner cites the works of composers like John Lennon, writers like Virginia Woolf, scientists like Marie Curie and film makers such as Steven Spielberg who are innovative in their respective fields.
With Gardner’s definition of creativity, the question of the relationship between creativity and intelligence emerges. Gardner’s initial thought of “the kinds of creativity followed directly from the kinds of intelligence” (1999, n.p.) is a valid one. One could assume that if a person is a writer they are obviously creative in the linguistic domain. However, Gardner insists that it is a much more complicated process. While it is correct to assume that a creative person stands out in terms of certain intelligences, Gardner explains that in “most cases they exhibit an amalgam of at least two intelligences, at least one of which proves to be someone unusual for that domain” (1999, n.p.) Freud, for example, had obvious strengths in the logical-mathematical domain, but also had strength in personal intelligences. These types of creative people also have and are aware of their intellectual weaknesses but are not defeated by them. According to Gardner, “creative individuals come to know their strengths and recognize their cognitive or cultural niches, and they pursue these with full knowledge of their competitive advantage” (1999, n.p.).
Learning, instruction, and assessment are implications of Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory. In order to develop an individual’s strongest intelligence a teacher should be willing to assist the student in understanding and applying his intelligence in the subject matter being taught. It is understandable that a teacher may not be able adapt every lesson to all of the learning styles in the classroom however, allowing them to use their intelligence as a tool for understanding the lesson being taught can revolutionise a lesson for a child with a specific intelligence. Equally, a teacher should never specifically aim to target singular forms of intelligence as this eliminates the theory altogether. Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences is designed to demonstrate that a person cannot be distinguished as ‘more intelligent’ than another individual based solely on a singular test. In this sense, the practice of Multiple Intelligences should be all-encompassing and enable students to develop their natural talents, observe their peers doing the same, and develop their less-natural gifts at the same time – a lesson must be geared up to allow for this.
In order for Multiple Intelligences Theory to be applied to learning, the educator has to be aware and willing to construct the learning environment to fully develop each individual’s strongest intelligence. Furthermore, the educator needs to assist the learner in understanding and applying this intelligence to further develop the others in order to effectively learn the subject matter being presented. It is not practical to assume that a teacher can adapt every lesson to all learning styles in the classroom. However, with imagination and creativity many lessons can be adapted to incorporate Gardner’s theory, enabling the students to fully comprehend the lesson on hand. Educators should use a variety of instructional activities to appeal to the different domains of intelligence. When using Gardner’s theory, it is important to remember that all intelligences are equally important and the students will need to recognize the broad range of intelligences that exist in their classrooms. A reminder to educators that there is more than just text book learning and that some students will not necessarily learn in that way. Engaging as many different styles as possible is imperative. Finally, assessment of learning should measure multiple forms of intelligence. Students may be able to demonstrate their knowledge on a subject matter by being given a choice of assessment method. Some alternate methods could include student journals, using the computer, student portfolios, independent art projects to name but a few.
When Howard Gardner introduced his theory of Multiple Intelligences, he intended to offer it up as a solution to the limited view of intelligence that exists in the minds of the majority. Instead of the individual being tested and defined by a single IQ test, he chose to examine the different forms of intelligence which human beings exhibit. Gardner felt that in doing this, it would better establish the truly gifted individuals as opposed to those with a high level of intelligence in just one field. Arguably, the various forms of intelligence must work simultaneously to allow an individual to be effectively described as being gifted and the discussion here concerned with how a typical lesson should be conducted, does not effectively provide for this. In practice, it is more likely to be a series of lessons or a unit of work which more accurately allows the individual to explore their intelligences. His discussion of creativity is prevalent here as Gardner feels that creativity is not exclusive of intelligence, but rather it helps to shape the individual’s intelligence – changing them from someone who simply understands a concept to being someone who is capable of conceptualising their own innovative thinking. In this sense, creativity should be fostered within the classroom and should allow for the individual to explore their ideas – however seemingly eccentric they may be, or not. In this sense, the relationship between giftedness, creativity and intelligence is a close-knit one which indicates that when there is a combination of the three, the individual is practically unstoppable, if provided with the right opportunities and the continued support in his or her educational life. The teacher of such individuals must acknowledge their student’s intelligence by consistently providing challenging stimuli whilst still providing them with the opportunities to learn independently and creatively.
Gardner, H. (2006). Multiple Intelligences: new horizons. New York: Basic Books.
Fogarty, R. & Stoehr, J. (2008). Integrating curricula with multiple intelligences: teams, themes, & threads. London: SAGE Publications.
Kaufan, S.B. & Sternberg, R.J. (2011). The Cambridge Handbook of Intelligence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kincheloe, J.R. (2004). Multiple Intelligences Reconsidered. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.
Gardner, H. (1999a)
Gardner, H. (1999)
Calgary Board of Education. (2011). Gifted Education. Retrieved from http://www.cbe.ab.ca/programs/spec_ed/se-gifted.asp
Brualdi, A.C. (1996). Multiple Intelligences: Gardner’s theory. Retrieved from http://chants.coastal.edu/cetl/resources/Multiple_Intelligences.pdf