What is the Theory
of Multiple Intelligences?
Part 2: Cultural Influence
Howard Gardner's theory of multiple
intelligences developed as he worked with brain injured adults and
autistic children. He identified distinct portions of the brain
that control specific human abilities or talents like analysis,
classification, speech, self-awareness, etc. He has identified
eight distinct abilities that he refers to as "intelligences":
verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial,
bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and the
naturalist. In addition to the biological basis for these
intelligences, Gardner also places great emphasis on cultural
influences that may impact the development of each intelligence.
Culture determines what parents and schools will teach their
children based on the needs of the community. Gardner says: "It is
the culture that defines the stages and fixes the limits of
individual achievement." For example, educators have found that
the Mexican American culture places a strong emphasis on community
and on family; therefore, many members of this community have
well-developed interpersonal intelligences.
The influence culture has on the development of the intelligences
points to one of the most important components of the theory --
the makeup of intelligences changes over time with age and with
experience. Thomas Hatch profiled the intelligences of several
children when they were in kindergarten and again when they were
in the sixth grade. He discovered that their intelligence profiles
had changed over time. Hatch says: "Just because young children
display particular capacities does not necessarily mean that they
will grow up to excel in activities involving those capacities.
Children's intelligences, the manner in which they display them,
and how successful they are, shift, grow, and vary over time."
In other words, if intelligences change with time and experience,
they can be learned. If they can be learned, they can be taught.
As a result, students who are not strong in one intelligence can
be taught to develop that intelligence. According to Bruce Torff:
"The intelligences develop - they grow and change over time, which
allows strengths to be exploited and weaker areas remedied. ...If
you provide the right kinds of support for students, they build
the kinds of intellectual structures that enable them to do
David Lazear says that teachers should watch for "ways to help
students stretch into new intellectual areas - maybe areas in
which they are uncomfortable or weak." Not only are weaker areas
strengthened, but students develop a better self-image because
they use a well developed intelligence to improve a weaker one.
In an interview with Kathy Checkley, Gardner said: "Teachers have
to help students use their combination of intelligences to be
successful in school, to help them learn whatever it is they want
to learn, as well as what the teachers and society believe they
have to learn." In other words, Gardner believes that teachers
need to find ways to incorporate instruction into their classrooms
that encourages students to develop weaker intelligences by
drawing on their strengths. This in turn improves both attitude
toward learning and academic achievement.
Visit www.TheWritingTutor.biz/articles/MI-intro-prob.php to learn
more about the multiple intelligences.
Checkley, K. (1997). The first seven ... and the eighth: A
conversation with Howard Gardner. Expanded Academic ASAP [on-line
database]. Original Publication: Education, 116.
Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple
intelligences. New York: Basic Books.
Hatch, T. (1997b). Getting specific about multiple intelligences.
Expanded Academic ASAP [on-line database]. Original Publication:
Educational Leadership, 54 (6).
Lazear, D. G. (1994). Multiple intelligences approaches to
assessment: Solving the assessment conundrum. Tucson, AZ: Zephyr
Torff, B. (1996). How are you smart?: Multiple intelligences and
classroom practices. The NAMTA Journal, 21 (2), 31-43.
Vasquez, J. A. (1990). Teaching to the distinctive traits of
minority students. The Clearing House, 63, 299-304.
About The Author
Michele R. Acosta is a writer, a former English teacher, and
the mother of three boys. She spends her time writing and
teaching others to write. Visit www.TheWritingTutor.biz/articles
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