Bringing Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Into the 21st Century

Recently, as part of his lecture series at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Howard Gardner gave an overview of his lauded Multiple Intelligences theory and discussed some possible applications of his ideas in the field of Education. I went with my boss/mentor/big sis Rupal from Breakthrough Cambridge!

It was very cool to be sitting so close to such an intellectual icon (She got there 1.5 hrs early and saved seats in the third row haha!) and to hear him explain his own ideas instead of hear someone else summarize them. Much of the lecture was an overview for me, which was a bit of review plus some more interesting detail and depth (I have not yet read his book, so I only had a vague grasp of the theory).


One of the most valuable and interesting parts of the lecture was when he used examples of applications of Multiple Intelligences theory. I was familiar with Scratch, a tool developed by MIT that helps young children learn programming and computation theory in a simple and fun environment, allowing them to draw and create animations & games. One thing that was very exciting that i had never heard of was the Explorama at Dansfoss Universe. Through a series of 50 games and activities dispersed throughout a space, children can exercise each of the intelligences. They are as varied as stacking blocks so that they are properly balanced, to playing a game with other students, to stepping through a maze of string like the laser-beams in spy movies.

I was inspired by this idea and was thinking; what if instead of sticking to old, rigid subject areas in school, we embraced thinking styles instead, molding project-based learning to combine a few intelligences in each project and ensure that students are getting a robust education in all eight. A few could be incorporated to all; for example, interpersonal (social) intelligence would be incorporated into basically every project since student would work together to build, create, and problem-solve. Intrapersonal (self-reflective) intelligence would additionally be useful as student assessed what they would enjoy most about a project before they began, and then assess their own performance, attitude, etc. after each project was completed.

The other intelligences are:

Logical/Mathematical (we already focus on this, but I would like to see more an emphasis on Logic itself, not just computation and calculation)

Spatial (neglected, I think! Let’s make everyone a designer, engineer, and artist)

Linguistic (we already focus on this, but let’s help kids create and generate impressive speeches, stories, and essays rather than just spit things out, copy things, and memorize things)

Bodily-Kinesthetic (does not need to by sequestered to gym class; dance, athleticism, and movement can be incorporated into a wide variety of more “academic” projects)

Musical (again, sequestered to Music class but could potentially be involved in many other projects)

Naturalistic (I associate this with scientific investigation, and would love to see this explored by students actually going outdoors, or looking at their own cells from a cheek swab, much more often. Basically, more labs, and better labs with fewer pre-defined outcomes)

Existential (A ninth potential intelligence; totally neglected, other than maybe in high school English classes when discussing characters and plot; This could be incorporated into school from a very young age. Students can be taught to examine, to probe, to think some through, and to constantly ask “Why?” This can only ever help them!)


Hey! I'm a 19-year-old student at Tufts University where I am majoring in Math. I'm from Upstate New York and was the only Hindu in my small-town public school. I love artichokes and eyeliner and lifehacking. I have a ton of interests, but most of them fall under the umbrellas of Education/Learning, Media/Entertainment, Mathematics, Design, or Technology. I have been inseparable from my laptop(s) since I was a xanga-layout-making, neopoint-hoarding 12-year-old.

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Posted in Education Revolution, Project-Based Learning

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