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What is the Theory of Multiple Intelligences?

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Created by Howard Gardner, the theory of multiple intelligences suggests that standard methods of measuring intelligence are inadequate and only measure a small group of skills. Gardner identifies several primary intelligences and believes that individuals have varying levels of ability in each.

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According to Gardner's theory, many different ways of learning and retaining information exist. People who excel in the visual-spatial area tend to be aware of their environments and learn best when taught with the aid of drawings, models and other physical imagery, while people with strong interpersonal skills learn best through interacting with others. Other people may have especially high levels of musical intelligence and be able to compose music easily, while others are kinesthetically inclined and have a keen sense of timing and demonstrate great athletic ability.

The theory suggests that teachers should teach lessons in a variety of ways including the use of music, role-playing, multimedia and hands-on experiments to accommodate students who have difficulties learning material through traditional methods. Historically, education systems have focused primarily on linguistic and logical intelligence, which places people who have gifts in the other areas of intelligence at a disadvantage.

While intelligence is usually associated with linguistic and logic-mathematical abilities, Gardner argues that artistic, musical and athletic abilities are also types of intelligence. The theory has received a significant amount of criticism from other psychologists who say it lacks empirical evidence and seeks to redefine intelligence.

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