Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory

The contemporary science has achieved really outstanding results in different field but the problem of intelligence remains one of the main mysteries specialists still argue about and cannot arrive to any definite conclusion that could combine the variety of views on intelligence. In this respect, the work of Howard Gardner seems to be one of the most arguable since his multiple intelligence theory, being relatively new, has already provoked numerous discussions as for its reliability. Nonetheless, Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory is quite interesting for research, especially when it is applied to the sphere of education where intelligence has traditionally being one of the basic concepts.
First of all, it is necessary to point out that a strong connection between Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory and education is not occasional because this theory is a psychological and educational theory which espouses seven kinds of intelligence that exist in humans. In fact, the creator of the theory emphasizes that each kind of intelligence is closely related to a definite sphere of life or human activity and, in such a way, individuals with different kinds of intelligence dominating may be more or less successful in different fields respectively to their kinds of intelligence.
In such a situation, it is quite natural that, applying this theory to education, the supporters of the multiple intelligence theory state that educators should develop all types of intelligence in their classroom in order to achieve possibly better results and reveal the potential of each student due to the development of different intelligences with an emphasis on particular ones typical for each individual student.
Obviously, such a recommendation may be quite helpful because it actually suggest to unite the class on the basis of the combination of a variety of intelligence being developed in the process of education. At the same time, ideally, not a single student remains deprived of a possibility to develop his/her individual kind of intelligence since he/she receives a possibility to develop his innate skills and abilities. Theoretically, what Gardner and his followers suggest is the development of all intelligences which would help to define what kind of intelligence each of the students in the classroom tends to. After that teachers should develop the defined type of intelligence in each student that would presumably enforce other types of intelligence.
Naturally, in order to properly evaluate the efficiency of the suggestion of the supporters of the multiple intelligence theory, it is necessary to analyze in details this theory and critically evaluate it. Basically, the multiple intelligence theory has been already defined above but it is worthy to note that speaking about the main points of his theory Howard Gardner, in response to traditional views on intelligence, underlines that “there exists a multitude of intelligences, quite independent of each other; that each intelligence has its own strengths and constraints; that the mind is far from unencumbered at birth” (1999:99).
It is also extremely important to say that, according to Gardner, intelligence is “the capacity to solve problems or to fashion products that are valued in one or more cultural setting” (Gardner and Hatch 1989:433). At the same time, such a definition of intelligence seems to be really large and even, to a certain extent, vague. In order to be more persuasive, Howard Gardner attempts to substantiate his theory to the evidences of potential isolation by brain damage, a distinctive development history, along with definable set of ‘end-state’ performances, support from experimental psychological tasks and psychometric findings, the existence of idiot savants, prodigies and other exceptional individuals, an evolutionary history and evolutionary plausibility, an identifiable core operation or set of operations, susceptibility to encoding in a symbol system (Gardner 1998).

Nonetheless, regardless all his attempts to make his theory possibly more understandable and less susceptible to criticism, Howard Gardner obviously failed, at least at some points. Firstly, it should be said that the definition of intelligence in his interpretation is still unclear and imprecise and, consequently, severely criticized. Naturally, it is quite difficult to apply an unclear term at any field, especially in education where such a lack of precise definition threatens to progress of chaos in the process of education based on multiple intelligence theory. For instance, it is not a secret that the followers of multiple intelligence theory suggest their own kinds of intelligence. Being applied to education it may result in the situation when each student would need a particular definition of his/her intelligence if the existing ones did not fully correspond.
Moreover, such an obscure definition of intelligence often leads to misinterpretation of such notions as intelligence and abilities. In fact, Gardner’s critics emphasize that he denies the existence of intelligence, as it is traditionally understood, and instead uses the word intelligence whenever other people have traditionally used words like ‘ability’ (Sternberg 1989). Obviously, from this point of view the multiple intelligence theory is just another variation of theories suggesting to develop a variety of abilities of students taking into consideration their inmate predisposition to certain skills and abilities.
In such a situation, Garnder’s response that “I balk at the unwarranted assumption that certain human abilities can be arbitrarily singled out as intelligence while others cannot” (1998:102). Actually, such a statement makes Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory hardly applicable to education because it is unclear who would differentiate abilities from intelligences. Consequently, the introduction of such a theory would produce a great mass in classroom if any ability could be interpreted as intelligence and vice versa.
Eventually, there would remain little room for the development of general abilities or intelligences of students. Such a situation is quite dangerous, especially in the context of recent trends to develop students in different fields that could make education broader and more efficient that found its reflection in California’s proposition 227 and No Child Left behind Policy. In fact, if Gardner’s critics are really right at the point that the application of his theory would dramatically narrow the areas students would deal with in their education than it will be really unwise to apply multiple intelligence theory to practice in educational establishments.
This is why it is possible to conclude that, being innovative and research worthy, Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory cannot be fully practically applied because of the lack of precision and clearness in its key concepts, including the notion of intelligence.

1. Gardner, Howard. “A Reply to Perry D. Klein’s ‘Multiplying the problems of intelligence by eight’” Canadian Journal of Education, 23(1), 1998, pp.96-102.
2. Gardner, H., & Hatch, T. (1989). “Multiple intelligences go to school: Educational implications of the theory of multiple intelligences”. Educational Researcher, 18(8), 4-9.
3. Sternberg, R. J. “How much Gall is too much gall? Review of Frames of Mind: The theory of multiple intelligences”. Contemporary Education Review, 2(3), 1983, pp. 215-224.

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