Howard Gardner: Theory & Impact on Education

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  • 0:01 Intelligence
  • 0:52 Gardner's Theory
  • 3:16 Implications for Education
  • 4:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

What does it mean to be intelligent? In this lesson, we'll explore the multiple intelligences theory of psychologist Howard Gardner, including the different types of intelligence that Gardner proposes and his impact on education.


Trent is not good in school. He's very good at playing sports, and he really likes talking to other people. But math just doesn't make sense to him, and he doesn't like staying still and quiet long enough to enjoy reading books.

Trent gets a lot of bad grades in school, and many of his teachers have said that he's not very smart. Are they right? Is Trent destined to be just a 'dumb jock?'

Intelligence is traditionally defined as scholastic aptitude. That is, it is about how well a person will do in school at subjects like math and language arts. But is that all there is to being smart? Or is there more?

To answer those questions, let's examine psychologist Howard Gardner and his theory of multiple intelligences, including how he has impacted the educational world.

Gardner's Theory

Trent is good with sports and people, but he's not so good at math and reading. He thinks he must not be smart.

Howard Gardner, an educational psychologist, doesn't believe that kids like Trent aren't smart. In fact, he doesn't believe that intelligence is about scholastic aptitude at all! Instead, he has identified multiple areas in which people can be intelligent. They include:

Linguistic aptitude, which involves language. People who are good at reading and writing and people who learn other languages quickly are all high in linguistic intelligence.

Logical-mathematical intelligence is about math and science. People who are high in this skill set, as well as those gifted in linguistic intelligence, usually do well in school. Traditionally, these first two intelligences are what made up the blanket term 'intelligence.'

Musical aptitude is about understanding music, and people who are high in musical intelligence often play instruments well.

Spatial intelligence is about understanding how things fit together and move in three dimensions. People like sculptors and those who can solve 3-D puzzles are high in spatial intelligence.

Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence is about controlling the movement of your body. Remember that Trent is very good at sports. Gardner would say that he is high in bodily-kinesthetic intelligence.

Interpersonal aptitude involves being skilled with other people. For example, Trent likes to listen to others and really understands what makes them tick. So besides bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, he also likely has a high interpersonal intelligence.

Intrapersonal intelligence is about understanding yourself and what makes you tick. The prefix 'inter' means 'between' and the prefix 'intra' means 'within,' so interpersonal intelligence is about understanding others, while intrapersonal intelligence is about understanding yourself.

Naturalist intelligence is about understanding the natural world. People who are very good with plants and have a green thumb are often high in naturalist intelligence.

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