Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Last Updated: March 13th, 2018

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In 1983, psychologist Howard Gardner published Frames of Mind, a book which presented his theory of multiple intelligences. Gardner asserted that people possess multiple types of intelligence, and can learn through these various modalities.

Upon publication, the concept of multiple intelligences became very popular with educators, and the book has been reprinted several times. Many educators now focus on presenting materials so that they will be accessible to learners with a variety of the intelligences listed below.

The following nine intelligences are the most commonly accepted, but they are not necessarily an exhaustive list:

  • Linguistic Intelligence
  • Logical/Mathematical Intelligence
  • Musical Rhythmic Intelligence
  • Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligence
  • Spatial Intelligence
  • Naturalist Intelligence
  • Intrapersonal Intelligence
  • Interpersonal Intelligence
  • Existential Intelligence

Visit the PBS page on Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory for a more detailed description of each intelligence.



Application to All Courses

The application of the theory of multiple intelligences in regular, large, online, or hybrid enrollment courses is aimed primarily at presenting materials and interaction with materials in a variety of methods in order to reach as many learners as possible. Although it is difficult to reach all nine of the learning styles, instructors will reach a considerable number of students simply by focusing on the visual, aural, read/write, and kinesthetic learners. Additionally, changing lecture and project formats will aid in reaching multiple learning styles. Some of the benefits of incorporating the theory of multiple intelligences in the development and implementation of a course include:

  • Expands the horizon of available teaching and learning tools beyond the conventional linguistic and logical-mathematic methods used in most teaching environments.
  • Encourages learners to utilize different parts of the brain to work independently or together.
  • Provides students with authentic learning opportunities based on their individual needs and talents.
  • Encourages learners to manage their own learning and to value their individual strengths.
  • Using a variety of activities encourages collaborative work as well as individual work.
  • Provides a variety of learning opportunities for students.

Teaching Methods

Some of the ways that the theory of multiple intelligences can be utilized in the development and implementation of a course include the following:

  • Provide lecture and course materials in a variety of formats.
  • Give students the opportunity to create projects and presentations based on their own interests.
  • Provide opportunities for students to collaborate with one another as well as work independently.
  • Provide opportunities for students to integrate their interests into the course. For example, utilize discussion boards, current news and events, or learning portfolios.
  • Provide opportunities for students to physically interact with course content and materials (e.g., use clickers during live course lectures, utilize real or virtual labs)

Getting Started

Facilitate more effective learning by connecting material with multiple intelligences.

  • Add an interdisciplinary element to a unit or activity that encourages students to present materials in an alternative method (e.g., song lyrics, dance, presentation, visual display, etc.).
  • Offer students a variety of presentation options for projects.
  • Allow students to apply multiple intelligences in the construction and presentation of group projects.
  • Provide course materials in a variety of formats (e.g., visual presentations, audio or video based lectures, readings, collaborative activities, discussions, etc.).
  • Ask students to interact with their environment, attend a performance, or interview a peer or community member, and then share their experiences through images, video, and/or social media.

Additional Resources

Articles–Journal and Academic

Articles–Blogs, Websites, Wikis

Accessibility Statement

Keep accessibility in mind as you develop course content and build assignments and assessments. Many online tools are not fully accessible, so it’s important to think about how you will make the assignment accessible if requested. The Disability Resource Center and the UF Accessibility page will guide you in making appropriate accommodations. You can also find out more about accessibility at our toolbox page on Accessibility in the Online Classroom.

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