Applying the Multiple Intelligences Approach in Teaching

Instructor: Millicent Kelly

Millicent has been teaching at the university level since 2004. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and a Master's degree in Human Resources.

All of us learn in different ways. This lesson will provide an overview of Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences and explain how teachers can appeal to each of these intelligences in the classroom. A sample lesson plan will be presented.

Dangerous Minds

The 1995 movie, ''Dangerous Minds'', highlights the importance of considering different learning styles and preferences in the classroom. Michelle Pfeiffer portrays a former marine turned high school teacher, who is put in charge of teaching a very challenging student population. When students don't respond to traditional teaching techniques, she takes a different approach. In one scene, she decides to use a Bob Dylan song to teach students about interpreting poetry. This captures the interest of students and encourages them to explore the meaning behind the lyrics. Pfeiffer is appealing to the students' musical intelligence.

Multiple Intelligences

The concept of multiple intelligences was coined by Howard Gardner around 1983. Gardner was a professor at Harvard University when he suggested that we all learn in different ways and according to different learning preferences. He outlined eight different intelligences that he claims are present in all of us, but to varying degrees. These intelligences are:

  1. Logical/Mathematical - preference for logical reasoning, numbers, and quantification
  2. Musical - sensitivity to musical rhythms and sounds
  3. Visual/Spatial - preference for visual imagery such as drawings and pictures
  4. Interpersonal - learning through the relationships with others
  5. Intrapersonal - learning from personal reflection and meditation
  6. Bodily/Kinesthetic - learning by doing - using the body to actually perform an activity
  7. Linguistic - learning through language and by reading and listening
  8. Naturalistic - learning through interactions with nature and the environment

Multiple Intelligences in Action - A Lesson Plan

Let's take a look at how educators can use a multiple intelligences approach while teaching by incorporating different activities that appeal to each of the intelligences. The process of designing a lesson plan starts with assessment.


Prior to developing objectives and a lesson plan, educators should assess, or measure, students' preferred intelligences. The most effective way to do this is by administering some type of standardized inventory that will measure how strong each of the eight intelligences is with each individual student. Results of this type of inventory will also allow teachers to group students with different preferences together for activities. Grouping these students together will allow students to develop their weaker intelligences and expose them to different ways to approach tasks.

Lesson Objectives:

For the purposes of this lesson plan, we will keep the topic simple. Let's say we are teaching a group of fifth graders how to make scrambled eggs. The following objectives explain what students should be able to achieve after completing the lesson:

  • Students will be able to describe the steps to make scrambled eggs
  • Students will be able to identify the kitchen tools needed to make scrambled eggs
  • Students will be able to list the ingredients needed for making scrambled eggs
  • Student will demonstrate how to make scrambled eggs

Activities to Appeal to Multiple Intelligences

Now let's consider what activities a teacher can use to appeal to each of the different intelligences:

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