Multiple Intelligences
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Multiple Intelligences

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Headline: We have many intelligences

Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences

definition of intelligenceMost people are familiar with the theory that the right and left sides of the brain have specialized functions. This theory suggests that the left brain handles logical/linear functions, verbal language skills, and mathematical abilities, while the right brain is more artistic, holistic, and musical. Although this theory is now considered too simplistic, it opened the door to greater exploration of the nature of intelligence and how we learn. This split-brain theory was also the first challenge to the concept of IQ which mainly measures our mathematical and verbal skills, both handled on the left side of the brain.

Teachers have long noticed that IQ scores failed to measure and reflect all of the abilities of children. Why were kids who were good in math and science considered smart while those who were good athletes, artists or musicians simply talented? Perhaps we were not recognizing children's various talents fairly.

That's what Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner decided. As a researcher and professor at the Harvard School of Education, he studied brain-damaged patients, gifted persons, normal children and people of different cultures to understand the workings of human intelligence. His findings dispute the idea of one overall human intelligence. Instead, he suggests that all humans have at least eight different intelligence systems, maybe more.

For most of us the word intelligence brings up images of the kid in class who always knew the answers or got high scores on the college entrance exams. However, Gardner defines intelligence as "the capacity to do something useful in the society in which you live." This implies that the values of a particular culture often dictate what is seen as intelligent or not. For example, Western societies value logical, linear problem-solving skills and the scientific process. Native cultures value the physical prowess used in catching food, or going on a dream journey to the underworld to help in a healing ceremony.

Next page: applying Multiple Intelligence (MI) theory to literacy


Section: Introduction Subsection: We have many intelligencesSubsection: We are all readersSubsection: How we learn/core conceptsSubsection: About this site