Multiple Intelligences

In order to be a better teacher, the teacher needs to understand the student(s) better. Differentiated instruction, teaching and learning that is different for each student, is a lofty goal that is important if it is truly believed that every student learns.

Many parents and educators have had the experience of not being able to reach some students until presenting the information in a completely different way or providing new options for the student to express it. Have you ever seen a child who struggled with writing until they were provided the option to create a graphic story, which blossomed into a beautiful and complex narrative? Or maybe you have seen a student who just couldn’t seem to grasp fractions, until he created them by separating pizza into slices.

Because of these kinds of experiences, the theory of multiple intelligences resonates with many educators. This theory supports what we all know to be true: A one-size-fits-all approach to education will invariably leave some students behind. God has designed each of us with our own strengths, weaknesses, and abilities. Multiple intellegences are not to be confused with learning styles or applying the theory in ways that can limit a student’s potential. Not only does the theory of multiple intelligences make sense, it’s also important to understand the research that supports it.

Howard Gardner’s Eight Intelligences:

The theory of multiple intelligences challenges the idea of a single IQ, where human beings have one central “computer” where intelligence is housed. Howard Gardner, the Harvard professor who originally proposed the theory, says that there are multiple types of human intelligence, each representing different ways of processing information:

gardners theoryVerbal-linguistic intelligence refers to an individual’s ability to analyze information and produce work that involves oral and written language, such as speeches, books, and emails.

Logical-mathematical intelligence describes the ability to develop equations and proofs, make calculations, and solve abstract problems.

Visual-spatial intelligence allows people to comprehend maps and other types of graphical information.

Musical intelligence enables individuals to produce and make meaning of different types of sound.

Naturalistic intelligence refers to the ability to identify and distinguish among different types of plants, animals, and weather formations found in the natural world.

Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence entails using one’s own body to create products or solve problems.

Interpersonal intelligence reflects an ability to recognize and understand other people’s moods, desires, motivations, and intentions.

Intrapersonal intelligence refers to people’s ability to recognize and assess those same characteristics within themselves.

Some Christian theorists have even floated the idea of a spiritual intelligence. They propose that God has designed some of us (provided spiritual gifting perhaps) to understand the biblical world and God’s revelation. According to Stephen Covey, “Spiritual intelligence is the central and most fundamental of all the intelligences, because it becomes the source of guidance for the others.”

Howard Gardner recognized the spiritual intelligence; but, rejected it because he could not ft it into his worldview. He was unwilling to find a way to scientifically prove this. Additionally, he claimed it was not existential enough.

However, as a Christian educator in a Christian education system, I must recognize that there is a spiritual factor to each of us. Thus, I contend that we can determine this intelligence. However, we need to consider how we transform our minds into the likeness of Christ. Does this indeed change the way we process information?

One thing to remember is that the intelligences are a way that an individual predominately processes information. This does not mean that the individual does not have intelligence or an ability to process in the other areas. The theory just considers that we are complex and that we each have different strengths in processing.

Over the next few weeks I plan on exploring teaching and learning theories. Hopefully, you will find these theories as interesting as I do. In the future, I may be bold and suggest things that parents and teachers can do to help a child understand deeper.

Here is a link to an online assessment: Multiple Intelligences Self-Assessment

Please give me feedback or questions. I would love to hear from you.

“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.” James 3:13 (NIV)


Covey, S. R. (2005). The 8th habit: from effectiveness to greatness. New York: Free Press.
Gardner, H. (2011). Frames of mind The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: Basic Books.

Head of School Blog

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