In recent times, the term "multiple intelligence" has been very frequently used in Indian education circles and many schools are also claiming that their academic approach is based on it. So what is it? Here is an introduction to what "multiple intelligence" means.
Multiple intelligence is a theory that says the conventional definition of intelligence is not wide enough. Conventionally we usually classify the following skills as intelligence - verbal fluency, mathematical and computational skill, analytical skills. Over the years, many experts have streamlined these into tests and then further distilled it down to a number called IQ - Intelligence Quotient.
In 1983, Howard Gardner, an American psychologist wrote a book called "Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences" in which he defined intelligence more broadly as -
"The human ability to solve problems or to make something that is valued in one or more cultures. As long as we can find a culture that values an ability to solve a problem or create a product in a particular way, then I would strongly consider whether that ability should be considered an intelligence".
Using this criteria he stated that there were eight different types of intelligence (Actually, he defined 7 of them in 1983 and added an eighth in 1997).
The eight multiple intelligences are explained below.
This is how we use language - to absorb, analyze and imbibe and to express one's thoughts and feelings with clarity so others may comprehend, understand, even enjoy them. This can be verbal or in written form. This is an integral part of conventional intelligence and is well understood by parents.
This is how we understand, manipulate and use logic, numbers and reasoning to understand how something works or detect a framework/pattern that exists or to create something. This is an integral part of conventional intelligence and is well understood by parents.
This how we can visualize and represent a spatial world in our mind using concepts like form, shape, colour etc. and to be able to manipulate it or understand how things will impacted in a spatial dimension when we change something. Some practical examples of this are a chess player thinking several moves ahead as he/she has to visualize the different permutations of how the different pieces may move in the future or a pilot who is landing a plane.
This is how we use various parts of our body or even our whole body to make something, find a solution to a problem or to convey meaning. Some practical examples of this are how a dancer uses their hands, legs and facial expressions to convey meaning or a sportsperson who uses their whole body to perform their sport or a surgeon who performs a complex procedure.
This how we relate to sound and music, to be able to listen and absorb from sounds, to be able to think in musical rhythms and patterns, and to recognize these and manipulate them. A practical example is a composer who makes music or a music critic who is able to distinguish between various nuances in singing.
This is how we relate to other people. It is about understanding them, working closely with them, cooperating and conveying to them what we are trying to say in a way they understand. A practical example of this is a teacher in a kindergarten classroom who has to understand and relate to each child, who is unique in their own way.
This is how we understand ourselves and our emotions, moods, desires, being conscious of who we are, what we want to do, how to react, what not to do and more. Practical examples of this are how spiritual leaders and philosophers act and think.
This is the ability to recognize, and understand various living things (plants, animals), as well as take cognizance of the nature around us. It also is the ability to analyze, classify and recognize patterns in these things. This eighth intelligence was added to the list in 1997.
Has multiple intelligence been proven by research?
No. Howard Gardner himself will the first to agree that there is not enough scientific data from brain research to prove the validity of the multiple intellgence theory. However, the theory has definitely been put into practice in many schools and educators have shown empirically that they have been able to reach and educate more children successfully by putting this into practice.