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Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom

Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom | ITTT | TEFL Blog

At the beginning of the 20th century, a group of psychologists developed intelligence tests that measure intelligence and express it in numbers or the ’IQ’ score.

However, 80 years later, a Harvard psychologist, Howard Gardner proposed that this is a narrow definition of intelligence and that there are 8 different types of intelligence. According to Gardner, intelligence has to do with the capacity for solving problems and setting products in a context or a naturalistic setting.

This text will describe all 8 types of intelligence proposed by Gardner and set them in the classroom.

Linguistic intelligence

The first type of intelligence is linguistic and it has to do with the ability to use words in writing and speaking. It includes the ability to manipulate syntax, phonology, semantics and pragmatics of a language. It also encompasses the ability to convince others to take a specific action, the ability to remember information, metalanguage, and a rhetorical use of language.

Logical-mathematical intelligence

The second intelligence type is logical-mathematical and it implies the capacity to effectively use numbers and reason. This intelligence type has to do with logical patterns and relationships, functions, and other related abstractions. Processes that are encompassed by this intelligence are categorization, classification, inference, generalization, calcualtion, and hypotheses testing.

Spatial intelligence

The third intelligence type is spatial intelligence which has to do with a person's ability to perceive space and perform transformations upon those perceptions. This intelligence type includes sensitivity to color, line, shape, form, space, and the relationship between those elements and the ability to graphically represent visual or spatial ideas and orient oneself appropriately in space.

Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence

Bodily-kinesthetic is the fourth intelligence type. This type of intelligence has to do with one's ability to use body to express ideas, and feelings, and use hands to produce or transform things. It also includes some physical activities like coordination, balance, dexterity, flexibility, speed, strength, and tactile, haptic, and proprioceptive activities.

Musical intelligence

Musical intelligence is the fifth intelligence type and it encompasses the capacities to perceive, discriminate, transform, and express musical forms. It has to do with one's sensitivity to the rhythm, melody, and tone of a musical piece.

Interpersonal intelligence

The sixth intelligence type is interpersonal intelligence which deals with the ability to make distinctions in moods, intentions, feelings, and motivations. It relates to facial expressions, voice, and gestures and one's ability to effectively respond to those cues in some pragmatic ways

Intrapersonal intelligence

The seventh type of intelligence is intrapersonal and it relates to one's actual image of oneself, the inner moods, motivations, temperaments, and desires as well as the capacity for self-discipline, self-understanding, and self-esteem.

Naturalist intelligence

The final eighth type is naturalist intelligence which expertises in the recognition and classification of different species of flora and fauna. It includes the sensitivity to other natural phenomena and the capacity to discriminate among inanimate objects.

Every person possesses all eight types of intelligence which are arranged in a unique way. Gardner suggests that all people can develop all intelligence types to a very high level and that all intelligence types work together in complex ways.

Multiple intelligences in the classroom

All of these different intelligences require different ways of teaching in the classroom. Highly linguistic kids need a lot of books, dialogues, diaries, writing tools, debates, and stories. Those who are logical-mathematical love experimenting, questioning, calculating, and solving problems. They need science materials to experiment with. Students who are highly spatial love images and pictures and they need a lot of designing, drawing, imagination games, art, movies, Legos, etc. Children who are highly bodily-kinesthetic think through somatic sensations and love dancing, running, jumping, sports, and hands-on learning. Musical kids love singing, whistling, humming, etc. Intrapersonal students think by getting ideas from other people and love reading, organizing, manipulating, meditating, and partying. Interpersonal students think in relation to their needs, feelings, goals and love dreaming, planning, and reflecting. Naturalist children think through nature and natural forms. They love pets, gardening, investing in nature, and caring for the planet. They need access to nature and animals.

The best way to know which student is dominant in which intelligence type is for the teacher to keep notes about each student. The teacher can also make a template with every intelligence type and check the abilities that the student has in order to determine the dominant intelligence type which should help him/her know which activities to focus on. By doing this, the teacher sparks the students' attention and motivates them to learn the language. Additionally, by taking part in different activities that are suitable for different intelligence types, the students develop all eight types of intelligence.


Gardner's 8 intelligence types can be a great way to organize classes in many different ways. The teacher should be the one to estimate which types of intelligence are the most present in the class and choose the activities that will suit the needs and interests of the students.

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