The Value of Multiple Intelligences:
Educators immersed in the world of academia tend to be inundated by text-- Journal articles, books, grant applications, meeting agendas, emails…. Yet, if you were to ask these scholars what drew them to academia, many would likely admit that their affinity for the written word played a role. As educators, however, they often face students who do not share this ‘linguistic intelligence’, but rather variations of the eight intelligences devised in 1983 by Howard Gardner, developmental psychologist and current Professor of Cognition and Education at Harvard. Gardner developed his theory of Multiple intelligences to document “the extent to which students possess different kinds of minds and therefore learn, remember, perform, and understand in different ways." (1991).
He sought to challenge traditional perceptions of intelligence based on I.Q. and instead proposed eight different intelligences that could capture a broader range of human mental capacity and potential. These intelligences are:
Spatial intelligence (“picture smart”)
Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence (“body smart”)
Musical intelligence (“music smart”)
Interpersonal intelligence (“people smart”)
Intrapersonal intelligence (“self smart”)
Naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”)
Linguistic intelligence (“word smart”)
Logical-mathematical intelligence (“number/reasoning smart”)
The challenge, then, is for educators to keep all eight intelligences in mind when designing course instruction. They should resist the inclination to implement methods and activities that target those with ‘linguistic intelligence’, although this may be their primary avenue for acquiring information. Not all of the students who educators encounter in higher education learn in this same way, and therefore educators have to adapt their methods and activities to most effectively foster student learning.
As scholars develop their digital projects with pedagogy and learning outcomes in mind, they should consider the ways in which their work can appeal to those with different intelligences.
For example, an educator developing a blog about migration issues as a form of instruction could consider the following possibilities:
-Spatial Intelligence → Integrate maps with arrows and dates that indicate migration patterns.
-Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence→ Incorporate interactive digital maps that blog visitors can click on to see changes in migration flows.
-Musical Intelligence → Feature music through videos or podcasts that discuss migration issues or experiences through song lyrics.
-Interpersonal Intelligence → Include the stories of migrants and if possible after conducting interviews.
-Intrapersonal Intelligence → Feature diary entries or poetry written by migrants that reveal crucial information about their experiences.
-Naturalist Intelligence → Incorporate information about how natural disasters influence migration patterns, particularly for climate/environmental refugees.
-Linguistic Intelligence → Include readings that detail how migrants confront language acquisition if they move to a place with linguistic differences.
-Logical-Mathematical → Provide tables, charts, and graphs that detail statistical information about population shifts due to waves of immigration or emigration.
Instructors working with digital scholarship as educational tools have numerous options about how to integrate resources and activities that appeal to learners with different intelligences. If they want their projects to more broadly resonate with students, having Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences in mind may be particularly effective.