Recognizing and Assessing Multiple Intelligences

Intelligence is a measure of one's ability to learn. Everyone, by definition, possesses a level of intelligence. That said, each of us learns in different ways and at different rates. Dr. Howard Gardner coined the term "multiple intelligences" to describe the fact that people learn various skills and topics differently. Gardner divides topics and skills into nine categories, to which he associates a specific intelligence:

  • Existential Ability to consider/think about topics which exist beyond our senses. Topics may include religion, space, time.
  • Interpersonal Ability to interact with others. People with interpersonal skills communicate well with others and are empathetic to their emotional needs.
  • Intrapersonal Ability to self-reflect. People with intrapersonal skills understand their own strengths and limitations.
  • Kinesthetic Ability to control one's physical skills. People with kinesthetic intelligence are normally athletic.
  • Linguistic Ability to speak or write well. People with linguistic skills express themselves well and may more easily master new languages.
  • Logical/Mathematical Ability to work well with numbers. People with linguistic skills do well in math and careers such as computer programming.
  • Musical Ability to sing, play one or more instruments, or work with rhythm and tones. People with musical intelligence may also possess greater skill for learning new languages.
  • Naturalistic Ability to interact well with one's surrounding environment. People with naturalistic intelligence enjoy being outside -- in nature.
  • Spatial Ability to think abstractly. People with spatial intelligence may see shapes, spaces, colors, differently.

As parents and teachers describe a child's progress, they should frame their discussion in terms of Gardner's multiple intelligences. A child who learns math quickly, may struggle with physical activities (kinesthetic intelligence), of vice versa. By assessing a child's development with respect to the larger context of multiple intelligences, we can obtain more specific measures about the child's skill set.

To help you better understand multiple intelligences, Head of the Class created a multimedia presentation here.

Kris Jamsa, Ph.D., MBA is the author of over 110 books on computing and education. Jamsa holds six college degrees which include a Ph.D. in Computer Science, a Ph.D. in Education, and Masters in Education with a focus on multiple intelligences. Jamsa is the author of the Head of the Class book series which present over 12,000 learning activities, available to parents and learners at the Head of the Class Website, for free! Dr. Jamsa believes all children deserve the opportunity for a quality education, for free, and through the use of technology, we can deliver that opportunity.