Theory of Multiple Intelligences and Student Evaluation

The Theory of Multiple Intelligences articulates eight criteria for intelligent behavior, rather than just a single, general ability. The founder of the theory, Howard Gardner, outlined eight intelligent abilities: musical-rhythmic, visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic. The idea is that people cannot be categorized into one type of these learning abilities, but a unique blend of them all, allowing for more “categorical” nuance. Gardner claimed the theory should “empower learners” as it suggests that everyone is intelligent in some, or multiple, ways.

The Theory of Multiple Intelligences opens up assessment to multiple modalities of learning. If intelligence is multi-fold, so too should be assessments. Assessments could incorporate several of the aforementioned intellectual abilities. One exam, for instance, instead of all being multiple-choice, could incorporate a multiple-choice section, a collaborative essay writing section, a visual/modeling section, an oral/auditive section, and so on. Now, this may be quite time-consuming, so it may be worth incorporating one or two of these abilities in each exam, and change the abilities for which we are assessing each time.

It is important to mention, however, that these multiple abilities speak directly to each other, and depend on one another. They can and should be combined to be assessed within just one type of evaluative section.

The idea is to begin thinking out of the box; to begin thinking of all types of intelligence when designing assessments. We can empower multiple types of learners by reinvigorating our evaluations. We can and should be inspired by the Theory of Multiple Intelligences to infuse creativity and innovation into our assessments from here on out.

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