Education Development Center, Inc.
Center for Children and Technology
Multiple Intelligences Go To School:
Educational Implications of the Theory of Multiple Intelligences
CTE Technical Report Issue No. 4
Howard Gardner and Thomas Hatch
Project Zero, Harvard University
Despite swings of the pendulum
between theoretical and applied concerns, the concept of intelligence has
remained central to the field of psychology. In the wake of the Darwinian
revolution, when scientific psychology was just beginning, many scholars
became interested in the development of intelligence across species. The
late 19th and early 20th centuries were punctuated by volumes that delineated
levels of intelligence across species and within the human species (Baldwin,
]895; Hobhouse, 1915; Romanes, 1892). Francis Galton (cousin of Charles
Darwin) was perhaps the first psychologically oriented scientist to try
to measure the intellect directly. Though Galton (1870) had a theoretical
interest in the concept of intelligence, his work was by no means unrelated
to practical issues. A committed eugenicist, he sought to measure intelligence
and hoped, through proper "breeding," to increase the overall
intelligence of the population.
During the following half century, many of the most gifted and influential
psychologists concerned themselves with the nature of human intelligence.
Although a few investigators were interested principally in theoretical
issues, most seasoned their concerns with a practical orientation. Thus,
Binet (Binet & Simon, 1916) and Terman (1916) developed the first general-purpose
intelligence tests in their respective countries; Yerkes (Yerkes, Bridges,
& Hardwick, 1915) and Wechsler (1939) created their own influential
instruments. Even scientists with a strong theoretical bent, like Spearman
(1927) and Thurstone (1938), contributed either directly or indirectly to
the devising of certain measurement techniques and the favoring of particular
lines of interpretation.
By midcentury, theories of intelligence had become a staple of psychology
textbooks, even as intelligence tests were taken for granted in many industrialized
countries. Still, it is fair to say that, within scientific psychology,
interest in issues of intelligence waned to some extent. Although psychometricians
continued to perfect the instruments that purported to measure human intellect
and some new tests were introduced (Guilford, 1967), for the most part,
the burgeoning interest in cognitive matters bypassed the area of intelligence.
This divorce between mainstream research psychology and the "applied
area" of intelligence might have continued indefinitely, but by the
late 70s, there were signs of a reawakening of interest in theoretical and
research aspects of intelligence. With his focus on the information-processing
aspects of items in psychological tests, Robert Sternberg (1977, 1982, 1985)
was perhaps the most important catalyst for this shift, but researchers
from a number of different areas of psychology have joined in this rediscovery
of the centrality of intelligence (Baron, 1985; Brown & Campione,
1986; Dehn & Schank, 1982; Hunt, 1986; Jensen, 1986; Laboratory of Comparative
Human Cognition, 1982; Scarr & Carter-Salzman, 1982; Snow, 1982).
The Theory of Multiple Intelligences
A decade ago, Gardner found that his own research interests were leading
him to a heightened concern with issues of human intelligence. This concern
grew out of two disparate factors, one primarily theoretical, the other
As a result of his own studies of the development and breakdown of cognitive
and symbol-using capacities, Gardner (1975, 1979, 1982) became convinced
that the Piagetian (Piaget, 1970) view of intellect was flawed. Whereas
Piaget (1962) had conceptualized all aspects of symbol use as part of a
single "semiotic function," empirical evidence was accruing that
the human mind may be quite modular in design. That is, separate psychological
processes appear to be involved in dealing with linguistic, numerical, pictorial,
gestural, and other kinds of symbolic systems (Gardner, Howard, & Perkins,
1974; Gardner & Wolf, 1983). Individuals may be precocious with one
form of symbol use, without any necessary carryover to other forms. By the
same token, one form of symbol use may become seriously compromised under
conditions of brain damage, without correlative depreciation of other symbolic
capacities (Wapner & Gardner, 1979). Indeed, different forms of symbol
use appear to be subserved by different portions of the cerebral cortex.
On a more practical level, Gardner was disturbed by the nearly exclusive
stress in school on two forms of symbol use: linguistic symbolization and
logical-mathematical symbolization. Although these two forms are obviously
important in a scholastic setting, other varieties of symbol use also figure
prominently in human cognitive activity within and especially outside of
school. Moreover, the emphasis on linguistic and logical capacities was
overwhelming in the construction of items on intelligence, aptitude, and
achievement tests. If different kinds of items were used, or different kinds
of assessment instruments devised, a quite different view of the human intellect
might issue forth.
These and other factors led Gardner to a conceptualization of human intellect
that was more capacious. This took into account a wide variety of human
cognitive capacities, entailed many kinds of symbol systems, and incorporated
as well the skills valued in a variety of cultural and historical settings.
Realizing that he was stretching the word intelligence beyond its customary
application in educational psychology, Gardner proposed the existence of
a number of relatively autonomous human intelligences. He defined
intelligence as the capacity to solve problems or to fashion products that
are valued in one or more cultural settings, and detailed a set of criteria
for what counts as a human intelligence.
Gardner's definition and his criteria deviated significantly from established
practices in the field of intelligence (however, see Guilford, 1967; Thurstone,
1938). Most definitions of intelligence focus on the capacities that are
important for success in school. Problem solving is recognized as a crucial
component, but the ability to fashion a productto write a symphony, execute
a painting, stage a play, build up and manage an organization, carry out
an experimentis not included, presumably because the aforementioned capacities
cannot be probed adequately in short-answer tests. Moreover, on the canonical
account, intelligence is presumed to be a universal, probably innate, capacity,
and so the diverse kinds of roles valued in different cultures are not considered
germane to a study of "raw intellect."
For the most part, definitions and tests of intelligence are empirically
determined. Investigators search for items that predict who will succeed
in school, even as they drop items that fail to predict scholastic success.
New tests are determined in part by the degree of correlation with older,
already accepted instruments. In sharp contrast, existing psychometric instruments
play no role in Gardner's formulation. Rather, a candidate ability emerges
as an intelligence to the extent that it has recurred as an identifiable
entity in a number of different lines of study of human cognition.
To arrive at his list of intelligences, Gardner and his colleagues examined
the literature in several areas: the development of cognitive capacities
in normal individuals; the breakdown of cognitive capacities under various
kinds of organic pathology; the existence of abilities in "special
populations," such as prodigies, autistic individuals, idiots savants,
and learning-disabled children; forms of intellect that exist in different
species; forms of intellect valued in different cultures; the evolution
of cognition across the millennia; and two forms of psychological evidencethe
results of factor-analytic studies of human cognitive capacities and the
outcome of studies of transfer and
generalization. Candidate capacities that turned up repeatedly in these
disparate literatures made up a provisional list of human intelligences,
whereas abilities that appeared only once or twice or were reconfigured
differently in diverse sources were abandoned from consideration.
The methods and the results of this massive survey are reported in detail
in Frames of Mind (Gardner, 1983) and summarized in several other publications
(Gardner, 1987a, 1987b; Walters & Gardner, 1985). Gardner's provisional
list includes seven intelligences, each with its own component processes
and subtypes (see Table 1). It is claimed that, as a species, human beings
have evolved over the millennia to carry out at least these seven forms
of thinking. In a biological metaphor, these may be thought of as different
mental "organs" (Chomsky, 1980); in a computational metaphor,
these may be construed as separate information-processing devices (Fodor,
1983). Although all humans exhibit the range of intelligences, individuals
differ--presumably for both hereditary and environmental reasons--in their
current profile of intelligences. Moreover, there is no necessary correlation
between any two intelligences, and they may indeed entail quite distinct
forms of perception, memory, and other psychological processes.
Table 1. The Seven Intelligences
Intelligence End-States Core Components
Logical- Scientist Sensitivity to, and capacity to discern, logical or
mathematical Mathematician numerical patterns; ability to handle long chains
Linguistic Poet Sensitivity to the sounds, rhythms, and meanings
Journalist of words; sensitivity to different functions of
Musical Composer Abilities to produce and appreciate rhythm,
Violinist pitch, and timbre; appreciation of the forms of
Spatial Navigator Capacities to perceive the visual-spatial world
Sculptor accurately and to perform transformations on
one's initial perceptions.
Bodily- Dancer Abilities to control one's body movements and
kinesthetic Athlete to handle objects skillfully.
Interpersonal Therapist Capacities to discern and respond appropriately
Salesman to the moods, temperaments, motivations, and
desires of other people.
Intrapersonal Person with Access to one's own feelings and the ability to
detailed, discriminate among them and draw upon them
accurate self- to guide behavior; knowledge of one's own
knowledge strengths, weaknesses, desires, and intelligences.
Although few occupations rely entirely on a single intelligence, different
roles typify the "end states" of each intelligence. For example,
the "linguistic" sensitivity to the sounds and construction of
language is exemplified by the poet, whereas the interpersonal ability to
discern and respond to the moods and motivations
of other people is represented in the therapist. Other occupations more
clearly illustrate the need for a blend of intelligences. For instance,
surgeons require both the acuity of spatial intelligence to guide the scalpel
and the dexterity of the bodily/kinesthetic intelligence to handle it. Similarly,
scientists often have to depend on their linguistic intelligence to describe
and explain the discoveries made using their logical-mathematic intelligence,
and they must employ interpersonal intelligence in interacting with colleagues
and in maintaining a productive and smoothly functioning laboratory.
The Education and Assessment
Until this point, we have been reviewing the history of intelligence research,
admittedly from the perspective of the Theory of Multiple Intelligences
(hereafter MI Theory). Since the publication of Frames of Mind
(Gardner, 1983), we and our colleagues have been involved in investigating
its implications. On the one hand, we seek to determine the scientific adequacy
of the theory (for a discussion of some of the scientific questions raised
by the theory, see Gardner, 1983, chapter 11, and Walters & Gardner,
1986). On the other hand, in our view, a principal value of the multiple
intelligence perspectivebe it a theory or a "mere" frameworklies
in its potential contributions to educational reform. In both cases, progress
seems to revolve around assessment. To demonstrate that the intelligences
are relatively independent of one another and that individuals have distinct
profiles of intelligences, assessments of each intelligence have to be developed.
To take advantage of students' multiple intelligences, there must be some
way to identify their strengths and weaknesses reliably.
Yet MI Theory grows out of a conviction that standardized tests, with their
almost exclusive stress on linguistic and logical skills, are limited. As
a result, the further development of MI Theory requires a fresh approach
to assessment, an approach consistent with the view that there are a number
of intelligences that are developedand can best be detectedin culturally
meaningful activities (Gardner, in press, a). In the remainder of the paper,
we describe our approach to assessment and broadly survey our efforts to
assess individual intelligences at different age levels. In addition, we
report some preliminary findings from one of our projects and their implications
for the confirmation (or disconfirmation) of MI Theory.
If, as argued, each intelligence displays a characteristic set of psychological
processes, it is important that these processes be assessed in an "intelligence-fair"
manner. In contrast to traditional paper-and-pencil tests, with their inherent
bias toward linguistic and logical skills, intelligence-fair measures seek
to respect the different modes of thinking and performance that distinguish
each intelligence. Although spatial problems can be approached to some degree
through linguistic media (like verbal directions or word problems), intelligence-fair
methods place a premium on the abilities to perceive and manipulate visual-spatial
information in a direct manner. For example, the spatial intelligence of
children can be assessed through a mechanical activity in which they are
asked to take apart and reassemble a meat grinder. The activity requires
them to "puzzle out" the structure of the object and then to discern
or remember the spatial information that will allow reassembly of the pieces.
Although linguistically inclined children may produce a running report about
the actions they are taking, little verbal skill is necessary (or helpful)
for successful performance on such a task.
Whereas most standard approaches treat intelligence in isolation from the
activities of a particular culture, MI theory takes a sharply contrasting
tack. Intelligences are always conceptualized and assessed in terms of their
cultural manifestation in specific domains of endeavor and with reference
to particular adult "end states." Thus, even at the preschool
level, language capacity is not assessed in terms of vocabulary, definitions,
or similarities, but rather as manifest in story telling (the novelist)
and reporting (the journalist). Instead of attempting to assess spatial
skills in isolation, we observe children as they are drawing (the artist)
or taking apart and putting together objects (the mechanic).
Ideally, one might wish.to assess an intelligence in a culture-independent
way, but this goal has proved to be elusive and perhaps impossible to achieve.
Cross-cultural research and studies of cognition in the course of ordinary
activities (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989; Laboratory of Comparative
Human Cognition, 1982; Lave, 1988; Rogoff, 1982; Scribner, 1986) have demonstrated
that performances are inevitably dependent on a person's familiarity and
experience with the materials and demands of the assessments. In our own
work, it rapidly became clear that meaningful assessment of an intelligence
was not possible if students
had little or no experience with a particular subject matter or type of
material. For example, our examination of bodily-kinesthetic abilities in
a movement assessment for preschoolers was confounded by the fact that some
four-year-olds had already been to ballet classes, whereas others had never
been asked to move their bodies expressively or in rhythm. This recognition
reinforced the notion that bodily-kinesthetic intelligence cannot be assessed
outside of a specific medium or without reference to a history of prior
Together, these demands for assessments that are intelligence fair, are
based on culturally valued activities, and take place within a familiar
context naturally lead to an approach that blurs the distinctions between
curriculum and assessment. Drawing information from the regular curriculum
ensures that the activities are familiar; introducing activities in a wide
range of areas makes it possible to challenge and examine each intelligence
in an appropriate manner. Tying the activities to inviting pursuits enables
students to discover and develop abilities that in turn increase their chances
of experiencing a sense of engagement and of achieving some success in their
Putting Theory into Practice
In the past five years, this approach to assessment has been explored in
projects at several different levels of schooling. At the junior and senior
high school level, Arts PROPEL, a collaborative project with the Educational
Testing Service and the Pittsburgh Public School System, seeks to assess
growth and learning in areas like music, imaginative writing, and visual
arts, which are neglected by most standard measures (for further details,
see Gardner, in press, b; Wolf, 1989; Zessoules, Wolf, & Gardner, 1988).
Arts PROPEL has developed a series of modules, or "domain projects,"
that serve the goals of both curriculum and assessment. These projects feature
sets of exercises and curriculum activities organized around a concept central
to a specific artistic domainsuch as notation in music, character and dialogue
in play writing, and graphic composition in the visual arts. The drafts,
sketches, and final products generated by these and other curriculum activities
are collected in portfolios (sometimes termed "process-folios"),
which serve as a basis for assessment of growth by both the teacher and
the student. Although the emphasis thus far has fallen on
local classroom assessments, efforts are also under way to develop criteria
whereby student accomplishment can be evaluated by external examiners.
At the elementary level, Patricia Bolanos and her colleagues have used MI
theory to design an entire public school in downtown Indianapolis (0lson,
1988). Through a variety of special classes (e.g., computing, bodily/kinesthetic
activities) and enrichment activities (a "flow" center and apprentice-like
"pods"), all children in the Key School are given the opportunity
to discover their areas of strength and to develop the full range of intelligences.
In addition, over the course of a year, each child executes a number of
projects based on schoolwide themes, such as "Man and His Environment"
or "Changes in Time and Space." These projects are presented and
videotaped for subsequent study and analysis. A team of researchers from
Harvard Project Zero is now engaged in developing a set of criteria whereby
these videotaped projects can be assessed. Among the dimensions under consideration
are project conceptualization, effectiveness of presentation, technical
quality of project, and originality, as well as evidence for cooperative
efforts and distinctive individual features.
A third effort, Project Spectrum, co-directed by David Feldman of Tufts
University, has developed a number of curriculum activities and assessment
options suited to the "child-centered" structure of many preschools
and kindergartens (for details, see Hatch & Gardner, 1986; Krechevsky
& Gardner, in press; Malkus, Feldman, & Gardner, 1988; Ramos-Ford
& Gardner, in press; Wexler-Sherman, Feldman, & Gardner, 1988).
At present, there are fifteen different activities, each of which taps a
particular intelligence or set of intelligences. Throughout the year, a
Spectrum classroom is equipped with "intelligence-fair" materials.
Miniature replicas and props invite children to deploy linguistic intelligence
within the context of story telling; household objects that children can
take apart and reassemble challenge children's spatial intelligence in a
mechanical task; a "discovery" area including natural objects
like rocks, bones, and shells enables children to use their logical abilities
to conduct small "experiments," comparisons, and classifications;
and group activities such as a biweekly creative movement session can be
employed to give children the opportunity to exercise their bodily-kinesthetic
intelligence on a regular basis.
Provision of this variety of "high-affordance" materials
allows children to gain experiences that engage their several intelligences,
even as teachers have the chance unobtrusively to observe and assess children's
strengths, interests, and proclivities. More formal assessment of intelligences
is also possible. Researchers can administer specific games to children
and apply detailed scoring systems that have been developed for research
purposes. For instance, in the bus game, children's ability to organize
numerical information is scored by noting the extent to which they can keep
track of the number of adults and children getting on and off a bus. Adults
and children and on and off constitute two different dimensions. Thus, a
child can receive one of the following scores: Ono dimensions recorded;
1disorganized recording of one dimension (either adults and children or
on and off); 2labeled, accurate recording of one dimension; 3disorganized
recording of two dimensions; 4disorganized recording of one dimension and
labeled, accurate recording of one dimension; or 5labeled, accurate recording
of two dimensions (for further information, see Krechevsky, Feldman, &
Gardner, in press).
We have also created a related instrument, the Modified Spectrum Field Inventory,
that samples several intelligences in the course of two one-hour sessions.
Although this inventory does not draw directly from the curriculum, it is
based on the kinds of materials and activities that are common in many preschools.
In addition, related materials from the Spectrum curriculum can be implemented
in the classroom to ensure that the children will be familiar with the kinds
of tasks and materials used in the inventory.
Preliminary Results from
Although none of these programs is in final form, and thus any evaluation
must be considered preliminary and tentative, the results so far at the
pilot sites seem promising. The value of rich and evocative materials has
been amply documented. In the classrooms in Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, and
Boston, teachers report heightened motivation on the part of the students,
even as students themselves appreciate the opportunity to reflect on their
own growth and development. Moreover, our programs with both older and younger
children confirm that a consideration of a broader range of talents brings
to the fore individuals who previously had been considered unexceptional
or even at risk for school failure.
As for the assessment instruments under development, only those of Project
Spectrum have been field tested in classrooms. In 1987-89, we used these
instruments in two different settings to investigate the hypothesis that
the intelligences are largely independent of one another. To examine this
hypothesis, we sought to determine (a) whether young children exhibit distinct
profiles of intellectual strengths and weaknesses, and (b) whether or not
performances on activities designed to tap different intelligences are significantly
correlated. In the 1987-88 academic year, twenty children from a primarily
white, upper-middle-income population took part in a year-long Spectrum
program. In the 1988-89 academic year, the Modified Spectrum Field Inventory
was piloted with fifteen children in a combined kindergarten and first-grade
classroom. This classroom was in a public school in a low- to middle-income
In the preschool study, children were assessed on ten different activities
(story telling, drawing, singing, music perception, creative movement, social
analysis, hypothesis testing, assembly, calculation and counting, and number
and notational logic) as well as the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale,
Fourth Edition. To compare children's performances across each of the activities,
standard deviations were calculated for each activity. Children who scored
one or more standard deviations above the mean were judged to have a strength
on that activity; those who scored one or more standard deviations below
the mean were considered to have a weakness on that activity. This analysis
revealed that these children did not perform at the same level across activities
and suggested that they do have distinct intellectual profiles. Of the twenty
children, fifteen demonstrated a strength on at least one activity, and
twelve children showed a weakness on one or more activities. In contrast,
only one child was identified as having no strengths or weaknesses, and
her scores ranged from -.98 to +.87 standard deviations from the mean.
These results were reinforced by the fact that, for the most part, children's
performances on the activities were independent. Using Spearman rank-order
correlations, only the number activities, both requiring logical-mathematical
intelligence, proved significantly correlated with one another (r
= .78, p < .01). In the other areas, music and science, where
there were two assessments, there were no significant correlations. Conceivably,
this result can be attributed to the fact
that the number activities, both of which involved calculation, shared more
features than the music activities (singing and music perception) or the
science activities (hypothesis testing and mechanical skill). Of course,
the small sample size also may have contributed to the absence of powerful
correlations among measures.
A comparison of the Spectrum and Stanford-Binet assessments revealed a limited
relationship between children's performances on these different instruments.
Spearman rank-order correlations showed that only performances on the number
activities were significantly correlated with IQ (dinosaur game, r
= .69, p < .003; bus game, r = .51, p < .04).
With its concentration on logical-mathematic and linguistic skills, one
might have expected a significant correlation with the Spectrum language
activity as well. Conceivably, there was no significant correlation because
the Stanford-Binet measures children's vocabulary and comprehension, whereas
Spectrum measures how children use language within a story-telling task.
In the second study, eight kindergartners (four boys and four girls) and
seven first graders (five girls and two boys) were assessed on the seven
activities of the Modified Spectrum Field Inventory (MSPFI). This inventory,
based on the activities developed for the year-long Spectrum assessments
of preschoolers, consists of activities in the areas of language (storyboard),
numbers and logic (bus game), mechanics (assembly), art (drawing), music
(xylophone games), social analysis (classroom model), and movement (creative
movement). These assessments were administered in two one-hour sessions.
Each activity was videotaped and children were scored by two independent
observers. Spearman rank-order correlations between the scores of the two
observers ranged from .88 (language) to .97 (art) and demonstrated the interrater
reliability of these scores.
As in the first study, strengths and weaknesses were estimated using standard
deviations. Unlike the findings from the earlier study, however, these results
revealed that some children performed quite well and others performed quite
poorly across many of the activities. It appears that the small sample size
and wide age ranges may have contributed to this result. Of the five first-grade
girls, none demonstrated a weakness in any area; all showed at least one
strength, with one girl having strengths in six of the seven areas. The
two first-grade boys showed no strengths, and both demonstrated weaknesses
in three areas. Of the kindergartners, only two showed any strengths, with
all but one of the other children showing at least one weakness. Quite possibly,
these results reflect differences in developmental level, and perhaps gender
differences as well, that did not obtain in the preschool sample and that
may have overpowered certain individual differences. It is also conceivable
that a more extended exposure to, and greater familiarity with, the Spectrum
materials and activities, as in the year-long Spectrum program, may have
made the individual differences among younger children more visible.
Nonetheless, an examination of children's ranks on each of the activities
revealed a more complex picture. Although the first-grade girls dominated
the rankings, all but two children in the sample were ranked among the top
five on at least one occasion. All but one child also scored in the bottom
five on at least one activity. Considered in this way, children did exhibit
relative strengths and weaknesses across the seven activities.
To determine whether or not performance on one activity was independent
of performance on the other activities, we standardized each of the scores
with a mean = O and standard deviation = 1 (Sattler, 1988) and performed
Spearman rank-order correlations. Because of the superior performance of
the first-grade girls, the performances of kindergartners and first graders
were computed separately. Consideration of the kindergartners alone revealed
only one correlation, between art and social analysis, that approached significance
(r = .66, p < .071). For the sample of first graders, including
the "high"-scoring girls, there were a number of significant correlations:
language and assembly (r = .77, p < .04), language and
numbers (r = .81, p < .027), movement and social analysis
(r = .77, p < .04), and assembly and numbers (r
= .79, p < .034).
With the exception of the performance of the first graders in the second
study, these results are reasonably consistent with the claims of Ml Theory.
For younger children, performances on the Spectrum activities were largely
independent, relative strengths and weaknesses were uncovered, and there
was a significant correlation between preschoolers' performances on the
Spectrum activities and the Stanford-Binet in one of the two areas where
it would be expected. Further investigations need to be conducted to establish
norms, to identify strengths and weaknesses consistently, and to examine
fully the effects of age and gender on the Spectrum activities.
In this essay, we have sketched the background and the major claims of a
new approach to the conceptualization and assessment of human intelligence.
Put forth in 1983, the theory of multiple intelligences has inspired a number
of research-and-development projects that are taking place in schools ranging
from preschool through high school. Until now, our focus has fallen largely
on the development of instruments that can assess strengths and weaknesses
in an "intelligence-fair" way. This research-and-development process
has proved time consuming and costly. The measures must involve materials
that are appealing and familiar to children; there is little precedent for
developing scoring systems that go beyond linguistic and logical criteria;
and materials appropriate for one age group, gender, or social class may
not be appropriate for others. Of course, it should be recalled that huge
amounts of time and money have already been invested in standard psychometric
instruments, whose limitations have become increasingly evident in recent
Once adequate materials have been developed, it becomes possible to begin
to address some of the theoretical claims that grow out of MI Theory. We
have presented here some preliminary findings from one of our current projects.
These results give some support to the major claims of the theory, inasmuch
as children ranging in age from three to seven do exhibit profiles of relative
strength and weakness. At the same time, even these preliminary data indicate
that the final story on Multiple Intelligences may turn out to be more complex
than we envisioned. Thus, the rather different profile of results obtained
with our two young populations indicates that, in future research, we must
pay closer attention to three factors: (a) the developmental appropriateness
of the materials; (b) the social class background, which may well exert
an influence on a child's ability and willingness to engage with diverse
materials; and (c) the exact deployment of the Spectrum materials and assessment
instruments in the classroom.
Some critics have suggested that MI Theory cannot be disconfirmed. The preliminary
results presented here indicate some of the ways in which its central claims
can indeed be challenged. If future assessments do not reveal strengths
and weaknesses within a population, if performances on different activities
prove to be systematically correlated, and if constructs (and instruments)
like the IQ explain the preponderance of the variance on activities configured
to tap specific intelligences, then MI Theory will have to be revamped.
Even so, the goal of detecting distinctive human strengths, and using them
as a basis for engagement and learning, may prove to be worthwhile, irrespective
of the scientific fate of the theory.
The research described in this article has been generously supported by
the Grant Foundation, the Lilly Endowment, the Markle Foundation, the Rockefeller
Brothers Fund, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the Bernard
Van Leer Foundation, and the Office of Educational Research and Improvement's
Center for Technology in Education at the Bank Street College of Education.
We thank our colleagues at the Eliot-Pearson Children's School and in the
Somerville Public School system for their collaboration. For comments on
an earlier draft of this paper, we are grateful to Robert Glaser, Robert
Sternberg, Joseph Walters, and an anonymous reviewer.
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