by Lola Prieto and Carmen Ferrándiz

Prof. Lola Prieto is a professor of Educational Psychology in the University of Murcia (Spain). She graduated in Pedagogy and Psychology from Valencia University. She specialized in Learning Potential Assessment with Dr. Reuven Feuerstein in Jerusalem. She has also worked in Triarchic Intelligence Theory in Yale University with Professor Robert Sternberg. She has published several books and articles focusing on learning strategies, education of gifted children, multiple intelligences, and intellectual styles.

Prof. Carmen Ferrándiz is an assistant researcher for the Spanish Ministry of Education and graduated in Pedagogy from Murcia University. She is doing her Ph.D. in Multiple Intelligences. She has been in Yale University working with Professor Robert Sternberg in Tacit Knowledge and Triarchic Intelligence Theory. Prof. Ferrándiz has published some articles about gifted and talented children, creativity, multiple intelligences and learning styles. She and Professor Prieto have published the book entitled Multiple Intelligences and the School Curriculum.

Correlating Kindergarten with College

In 1983, when Howard Gardner published Frames of Mind, nobody would have imagined the educational implications that the theory was going to have. Most of these implications have been felt in elementary and secondary education. Largely because of efforts such as the conference at New Jersey City University, it is becoming apparent that Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory (MI) is also relevant at the post-secondary level.

Although it is not often discussed, there seems to be a correspondence between (1) the unique combination of skills and abilities that students have before they ever set foot in a classroom, and (2) the skills and abilities that they will use to pursue advanced studies in post-secondary education. Ideally, if teachers along the way are aware of and respect these abilities, then each student’s journey through elementary and secondary school will be based on his or her well established areas of strength.

It is of critical importance that the existence of special abilities and talents be recognized at all levels including kindergarten and college. Such recognition provides for a wide, harmonious and continuous development of human interests. In such an environment, each student senses the teacher’s welcoming acceptance and approval. There emerges a confidence on the part of the student who can then find or create a set of activities and interests that has a deep and personal meaning for him or her. These activities should be nurtured and developed to the fullest extent possible.

On the other hand, a broader and more inclusive approach on the part of the teacher will promote a richer and more fulfilling development of the skills that are so valuable at higher levels. Post-secondary teaching should not be considered as inherently different from the lower levels. Although the material is more complex, the students have not put away the psycho-dynamic structure of approaches and attitudes that made them unique individuals in their youth. In the essays in this book, again and again, we see teachers who are courageous enough to operate according to the principles that constitute MI Theory. The effect seems obvious and perfectly predictable—students are more interested, learn more and are very probably less inclined to leave the university. In fact, though it would be difficult to measure, data might well be kept on the relation between teaching style and retention.

Such parallels of interest and ability might seem obvious, but quite often they are neglected. Education designed without such an awareness will very likely be narrow, disconnected and inefficient. One example of this occurs if we accept the belief that I.Q. scores are sufficient and dependable indicators of the general ability to learn. A person who makes a low score often suffers from it during all of the years of study and even later in the career to which he is guided. This is quite unfortunate, considering that what the traditional I.Q. test measures is limited to ability in mathematics and language. In itself, this is quite useful. But these tests say little or nothing of the individual’s ability to relate to other persons or to the self, of the architect’s ability to perceive and work with space, of the artist’s ability to find relationships between color and form that human beings will perceive as pleasing and beautiful, of the musicians ability to find different progressions of chords that resonate in the human mind and emotions. In short, they are about those things that we consider dear to us as feeling human beings.

In methodology that is broad and intended to include different abilities and talents, children tend to respond in terms of their own talents and abilities and to become more involved in the activities of the classroom. It is a win-win situation. They feel more fulfilled as children and are more productive as adults. There is a place for each of them in our society, and it is our responsibility to help them find it. All people have the right to lead lives in which they are aware of what they do well, and hopefully can be employed in those areas.

If a man like Beethoven or Shakespeare scores relatively low on an I.Q. test, does this mean that his life will be narrow and uninteresting? Hardly. However, outrageous tragedies of frustration and feelings of low self-esteem will occur if we attempt to apply the results of the traditional I.Q. scores to areas where they have no meaning. In this book, a wonderful thing is done. Specific subjects taught in the university such as history, statistics, language, art, biology, music, and education itself are dealt with from points of view that focus on the student’s individual combination of skills and abilities, as well as from deep respect of the academic field.

As we suggested above, the phenomena of multiple intelligences does not vanish after elementary school, but remains as an integral part of the lifelong intellectual and personality profile of a person. Through a high level of personal commitment, each contributor to this book shows a high respect—not only for the different fields of study—but for the perspectives of the learner and of his of her human potential. This is being done more and more in pre-university education. There is a time for all things, and the time for the application of Multiple Intelligences Theory to post-secondary education is here.

For the above reasons, we welcome the efforts being made by the contributors to this anthology. In university classrooms and faculty lounges, methodology is not often spoken of. These writer/professors, however, have demonstrated here the courage, not only to talk about techniques that might work, but to discuss in detail the practices and principles they are following with their students today. This approximates a paradigm shift in higher education from the widespread preoccupation with the lectern and the lecture. We applaud their noble and productive efforts. They show us how we can make university education a broader and more fulfilling experience for all students. We also salute the attempt to cooperate in the transformation of college-level teaching methods being made by New Jersey City University in the USA. They are, by example, doing a much-needed and innovative service for higher education in all countries.

A Very Brief Introduction to Multiple Intelligences

Gardner assumes that intelligence is multi-dimensional and that people have different cognitive potentials, which implies different cognitive styles. He has identified the existence of eight intelligences or capacities required for problem solving or for making products which are valued in a cultural context. These intelligences are Linguistic, Mathematical/Logical, Musical, Spatial, Bodily-Kinesthetic, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, and Naturalistic. One aim of Multiple Intelligences Theory (MI) is to assess and identify the strengths of students in different learning areas. For that purpose, a set of instruments, measurements and procedures have been designed to evaluate abilities, knowledge and attitudes implicit in the learning process. The most important is related to observation. The best way to evaluate MI is to observe the child while he/she learns by manipulating materials. MI includes a set of tasks which, when performed, allow the child to express his/her cognitive competence within specific curriculum areas such as math, writing, reading, and science.

Assessment is a dynamic process for obtaining information about individual potential, with the aim of achieving useful data about the cognitive profile of the pupils. The difference between this kind of assessment and the test is that in the former, we include all kinds of information derived from the teaching-learning process within the classroom context. The project offers teachers a portfolio assessment, whose objective is to design the cognitive profile of children.

MI and the Curriculum

MI has made a great contribution to education because it offers a large repertoire of techniques, strategies and tools for teaching the eight intelligences throughout the curriculum as well as at all school levels. The psycho-pedagogical roots of MI theory are in Maria Montessori, Decroly and Dewey, who defend the school centered on the individual. Montessori believed that children learn through the senses. She designed a set of materials to develop the children’s awareness of their ability to make sense of their experience. In order to do this, Montessori designed didactic materials to prepare the children to acquire learning in such areas as writing, reading and math. She was also interested in the child’s abilities and strategies for every-day life.

Decroly based his teaching methods on the active experience of the child, who learns through his/her own interests. For him, the globalization of education is important. This will take place through the “interest centers,” which are complex thematic units where the diverse contents of subjects are grouped, with some relations between them. One “interest center” could include some notions of language, natural sciences, social sciences, and math, all of which could be studied at different levels according to the interests and capacities of the child. Observation is the tool which, according to Decroly, is used to awaken the child’s interest in learning.

The influence of Decroly in Gardner’s work is clear because he includes and uses Decroly´s “interest centers” as a way of organizing the classroom, so that all the children explore the materials of the eight intelligences. Gardner uses Decroly´s ideas and proposes “learning centers” as a way of creating learning spaces, organized around learning domains, where a set of materials in which each of the intelligences is manifest, are included. Dewey’s concepts of learning by doing, instruction centered on the individual as well as cooperative learning, are present in the instructional principles of MI theory. Both Gardner and Dewey believed that the child has to interact with the learning materials and his/her peers, discovering and building through social interaction.

In short, in MI Theory, Gardner includes the following New School principles: a) the classroom is a pedagogical laboratory where the child learns by doing; b) in the classroom, work is organized according to the children’s interests and capabilities in such a way as to awake their creativity; c) the classroom activities are centered on the individual and his/her diversity; d) cooperative learning is encouraged; and e) the school prepares the child to be a future citizen.

MI Theory and Teachers

There are a large number of teaching and assessment strategies which go beyond traditional methods of instruction:

a) The identification of the strengths and weaknesses that the children
show while learning.

b) The development of the identified strengths, so that they can be used to
reduce weaknesses during the teaching-learning process.

c) The teaching of children to transfer the experiences involving their
strengths to other curriculum contents where they could have weaknesses.

To achieve these aims, the teacher has a wide variety of materials and instructional strategies for each of the eight intelligences.

MI and Special Education

In the MI school, there many interesting initiatives with respect to educational innovation. An important aspect that must be highlighted is the attention given to children with special needs in the ordinary classroom (both children with learning difficulties and gifted children). The findings of MI theory take into account the fact that everybody has strengths and weaknesses within the eight intelligences. For this reason, it offers a much wider and more natural context in which to understand the teaching learning process. In this sense, we all have weaknesses in some intelligence: the MI Theory works within the parameters of a growth paradigm versus a deficit paradigm. Some points of interest are: a) the establishment of new and more efficient collaborative teaching and learning models; b) the avoidance of labels; c) the use of materials, strategies, and activities for different intelligences; and d) the improvement of the instructional process to facilitate the development of personal and social interaction.

A Project in Murcia

Some years ago, a field of research was begun in Murcia (in the South of Spain) whose aim was to validate MI Theory in the classroom. The aim of the Spectrum Project is to develop an innovative approach to assessment and curriculum for the preschool and early primary years. The work was based on the conviction that each child exhibits a distinctive profile of different abilities, or spectrum of intelligences. The following procedure was used: first, the Spectrum Project’s materials were translated and adapted for Preschool and Primary children; secondly, the cognitive competence of 237 children was evaluated using eleven activities from the Spectrum Project; thirdly, an IQ test to measure cognitive profiles was used; finally the data was analyzed using the statistic procedure employed by Krechevsky and Gardner (1990).

Throughout this study, we have highlighted the innovations of the MI model, pointing out the richness of the data and information when it comes to evaluating competence in the students. Although this evaluation supposes an alternative to psychometrics, in our empirical study we have used it complementarily to contrast the two types of information: quantitative and qualitative. The MI evaluation model permits us to design the classroom profile, detecting the strong points and gaps in basic abilities which make up each of the intelligences.

The procedure suggested by MI to assess students’ ability, knowledge, attitude, and work habits can be adjusted quite well to the teaching-learning process that occurs inside the classroom. It is a very useful procedure, especially for assessing exceptional students. What distinguishes this type of evaluation with respect to psychometrics is that techniques are used to extract information about the use that students make of their abilities and knowledge during the teaching-learning process. Based on our experience, we would like to highlight some of the repercussions of MI Theory.

On Our Schools:
  • It allows the creation of efficient schools centred on the development of
  • It focuses inclusive classroom where all kinds of intelligences and ways of
    learning have a place.
On Our Students:
  • It instills in them the necessity and curiosity to discover.
  • It teaches them to think by exploring different alternatives, using all the
    information processing channels.
On Our Teachers:
  • It trains them in methodology focused on exploiting the hidden potential of
    the students, especially those who need tutorial learning.
  • It offers them strategies and resources for teaching the children a wide
    spectrum of learning areas.
On Our Curriculum:
  • MI theory allows us to design strategies for the transfer of knowledge and
    skills beyond the classroom.
  • MI theory enriches the curriculum and favours the multimodal teaching,
    through which any content can be learnt through all the processing
    information channels.
On Our Parents:
  • They are involved in MI teaching, because they can help their children and
    the teachers to develop different skills.
  • It teaches them to observe how the different intelligences are shown in an
    everyday context.

This book offers a wide range of experiences and reflections on MI Theory that are taking place in the USA. Throughout the chapters, diverse strategies are presented to apply the theory to the classroom and the curriculum. The derivation of the model for the study of biology, statistic, music, inter and intra skills development, and creativity are also discussed. The authors try to adapt MI theory to individual cases throughout the teaching-learning process. In each chapter the authors present constructivism philosophy from which this model emanates.


Decroly, O. (1929). La function de globalization et son application a
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Dewey, J. (1906). The School and the Child. London: J. J. Findlay.

Krechevsky, M. and Gardner, H. (1990). “The Emergence and Nurturance of
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              Development of Exceptional Skills and Talents
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Montessori, M. (1964). The Montessori Method. London: Schocken Books.