The IDEAL: Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Icon of section IDEAL (Instructional Designer's Evolution through Analytical Learning)- Creative Agni ezine.


Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Howard Gardner reviewed the existing definition of intelligence and broadened it to explain intelligence as “a set of abilities” used to resolve problems within a given cultural context. Thus, he moved away from the viewpoint that intelligence is general and universal.

Gardner listed the following 7 intelligences.

  1. Musical Intelligence
  2. Kinesthetic Intelligence
  3. Mathematical/Logical Intelligence
  4. Spatial Intelligence
  5. Linguistic Intelligence
  6. Intrapersonal Intelligence
  7. Interpersonal Intelligence

As you can see, Gardner named the intelligences really well and they readily explain themselves. You can also see how his 7 intelligences enable us to look beyond the IQ model of intelligence. There are many of Gardner’s intelligences that cannot be tested in the usual IQ test. Thus, a person of average IQ (85-115) could become a best of singers, or even a great cricketer; and another person with an IQ greater than 130, could grow up tone-deaf.

Gardner’s intelligences relate well to Prodigies (Kaifi Azmi wrote his first ghazal at the age of 11,) and Savants (Cityscape artist Stephen Wiltshire was diagnosed as Autistic at the age of 3, he can remember and create drawings with incredibly accurate details). A prodigy’s exceptional ability (talent) in one specific area as compared to his moderate abilities in all other areas could be explained by the multiple intelligences theory.  Similarly a savant who has his/her other intelligences underdeveloped may display exceptional talent in a specific area, can also have his intelligence explained through this theory.

The biggest limitation of Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences is the lack of measurability (which isn’t the case with IQ or Intelligence Quotient.)

Read the short story “Octavian’s Fury” and try to answer the questions given at the end of the story.  You’ll notice that Octavian makes a strong case for the theory of multiple intelligences.

And now, over to Coffeebeans the Pup 🙂

(Yes, I borrowed the cartoon from Octavian’s story. I hope he won’t mind.)

A Cartoon about learning and training - Coffeebeans, the pup with an education, shares here views on the theory of multiple intelligences.

Reflection Activity:


  1. Which of the 7 intelligences listed by Howard Gardner could be of help to an instructional designer?
  2. Which of the above 7 intelligences dominate your personality?