In 1983, Howard Gardner’s psychological work, Frames of Mind: Theory of Multiple Intelligences, became a highly embraced ideal in the realm of education. Over the subsequent twenty-seven years, Gardner’s initial seven intelligences have been expanded to nine, each one measurable to a certain degree in students from backgrounds as diverse as their learning styles. In his article An Intelligent Use for Belief, Matt Aborn expresses his views of the effectiveness of Gardner’s intelligences on the educational community and the impact it has made in practice among students.
Aborn declares the Multiple Intelligences Theory to be a drastic shift in ideology from the existing IQ tests which locked a student into a fixed aptitude for their academic life, and beyond. Multiple Intelligences, being more dynamic, has allowed for a more workable, limitless means of teaching students. He goes on to elaborate how Gardner’s theory enables students and teachers to better identify proficiencies and areas of improvement and urges his fellow educators to embrace Multiple Intelligences as a means to better help the students reach the apex of their respective abilities. This idea, he asserts, is essential when planning lessons and curricula due to the diversity of the students being taught.
While history shows the focus of education fluctuates between the extremes of developing well-rounded individuals and achieving high scores on tests as a measurable result of curricular effectiveness, one singe fact remains constant—every student is different. Each student, especially in an era of virtually free-flowing information and in a culturally diverse society, will have a different lifestyle and a different mindset. Furthermore, as more technology develops, its impact on society will change people. With the never-ending flux of daily life, it is logical to assume the mindset of people is likewise in a constant state of flux. In such a case, the educational system requires a “malleable definition of intelligence, as opposed to a fixed one,” (Aborn, 85). Gardner’s theory allows for a different style of learning per student, which remains dynamic as the student lives his or her life. As the student changes, so can their intelligences.
Aborn describes IQ tests utilized before the Multiple Intelligences Theory are “based on the premise of one type of intelligence that was genetic in nature and thus fixed throughout life,” (83). A single intelligence, however, should not be classified as static. History is full of constant changes in society and knowledge, and has proven that nothing stays the same. Therefore, it can be understood that the learning aptitudes of a student do not stay constant, as the student is a product of society and knowledge.
Aborn, Matt (2006, Fall). An intelligent use for belief. Education 127 (1) 83-85.