What Type of Intelligence Are We Looking For?

If you went through the American school system within the past 30 years or so, I am sure you could say that you have taken your fair share of standardized tests – tests that force you to sit down, bubble in an answer sheet for 100+ items, or write a well-thought out essay in less than an hour. These tests measure your “intelligence” based on a few particular skills, and they use a scale of scores to tell you where you stand compared to your peers or even the rest of the nation in terms of academic ability. Although some of these tests may provide a good starting point for locating deficiencies within the school system for particular groups of people, these tests are only looking for a certain type of intelligence; they are looking for intelligence related to recalling facts, memorization, and large vocabulary words weaved into a standard five-paragraph essay, and if  you aren’t proficient enough in these particular skills, you are labeled as “below average”. The problem lies in the fact that there are other types of intelligence that these standardized tests fail to measure that can be just as valuable as the intelligence that they are looking for.

In 1991, Howard Gardner of Harvard contrived a theory of multiple intelligence that challenged the way that we usually think of intelligence (Here). He claimed that our educational system “assumes that everyone can learn the same materials in the same way and that a uniform, universal measure suffices to test student learning.” The problem is that, as we know, we all differ in the way that we learn, and we are all skilled at different things. Although these individual differences are actually quite beautiful and make each person unique, our school system deems certain skills as “less worthy” than the linguistic and logical-quantitative modes of education” that they value. Gardner argues that this in itself is the problem, and that “a contrasting set of assumptions is more likely to be educationally effective .” He continues by arguing that, “if disciplines could be presented in a number of ways, and learning could be assessed through  variety of means,” our educational system would improve greatly as well as students’ experiences within the school system.

Image result for multiple intelligence

The seven types of intelligence mentioned in the article are below, and the article even provided examples for how we can teach or enhance these particular skills.

(1) Visual-Spatial: these are skills that pertain to physical space and awareness of the environment. People with visual-spatial intelligence will likely succeed as architects, sailors, artists, graphic-designers, photographers, etc. These skills can be taught through drawing, and using verbal and physical imagery. Certain tools that would benefit this instruction could include things such as graphics, photographs, multimedia, charts, and other models.

(2) Bodily-Kinesthetic: these are skills that pertain to using the body effectively and communicating through body language.People with bodily-kinesthetic intelligence will likely succeed as dancers, artists, fitness leaders, physical therapists, and actors. This can be taught through “physical activity, hands-on learning, acting out, and role-playing.” Certain tools that would benefit this instruction could include things such as real objects, props, and fitness equipment.

(3) Musical: these are skills that pertain to rhythm and sound. People with musical intelligence typically love music and are sensitive to sound within their environments. They will likely succeed as musicians, music teachers, sound techs, etc. This can be taught by teaching through lyrics, tapping out time, and speaking rhythmically. Certain tools that would benefit this instruction could include things such as musical instruments, sheet music, multimedia, videos, radio, and maybe even poetry.

(4) Interpersonal: these are skills that pertain to understanding of and interaction with others, so basically social skills and emotional intelligence. People with interpersonal intelligence typically have many friends, have “street smarts”, and show empathy for others. These skills could be beneficial in almost any career field, and can be taught through group projects, dialogues, and forced interaction.

(5) Intrapersonal: these are skills that pertain to one’s interests and goals. People with intrapersonal intelligence are typically shy and independent. They usually have deep internal wisdom, intuition, and motivation, and they have strong confidence and opinions. They will likely succeed as writers, philosophers, teachers, and other types of leaders. These skills can be best taught through independent study, and tools that could be beneficial include books, diaries, privacy, and creative material.

(6) Linguistic: these are skills that pertain to using words effectively. People with linguistic intelligence are typically learners with great auditory, reading, and writing skills. They will likely succeed as writers, journalists, and even teachers. These skills can be taught through reading, playing games, making up stories, etc. and can benefit by using tools such as computers, books, multimedia, games, and lectures.

(7) Logical-mathematical: these are skills that pertain to reason, calculating, abstract thought, and patterns. People with logical-mathematical intelligence like to experiment, ask questions, investigate, and will likely succeed as investigators, scientists, mathematicians, or surgeons. These skills can be taught through experiments, logical games, and direct instruction form teachers.

There is an eighth type of intelligence that was not mentioned in the attached article, but it is an important one. It is naturalist intelligence, which pertains to knowing about and caring for nature and the environment. People with naturalist intelligence would likely succeed as environmentalists, wildlife-biologists, conservationists, or anything related to nature. These skills could be taught through teacher-led instruction, outdoor adventure, and individual study, and as we all know, this skill could be particularly useful in light of our environmental problems that we face today.

So, as you can see, there are several types of intelligence that most standardized tests fail to measure, and these skills can lead to successful outcomes in life. As teachers and educators, it is our job to use our resources and implement certain tools to create an environment where all of these skills can be promoted to make sure that all of our learners are succeeding. As for the tests, maybe they should look a little deeper into what intelligence can really look like.


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2 Responses to What Type of Intelligence Are We Looking For?

  1. madisongoers1 says:

    Autumn, I absolutely love the focus of this post and wish it could be shared with teachers worldwide. As the further I get in my schooling, I realize more and more the importance of different learning styles and the various ways to gauge intelligence. And I would have to agree that taking a standardized test doesn’t holistically measure one’s intelligence. I appreciated the argument that Howard Gardener presents as it highlights the struggles that many students face when being forced to take these standardized tests and “rank” against their peers.

    The part of your post that really stuck out to me was how you described the seven/eight measures of intelligence and how each of these contribute to a person’s learning styles, skills they may be good at, and ways to be successful. I would argue that this is a much greater way to assess intelligence and provides a basis for our differences, which is what we should value, right? I love how each of these types of measures highlighted specific environments where success can be cultivated, and how none of these measures highlight success found in taking a strategic multiple choice test. I wonder how teachers could assess students to identify where their strengths and weaknesses lie in order to teach to the receptiveness of these individuals? While this sounds like it may be daunting and could consume a significant amount of class time to assess, I think teachers should recognize the important of identify this information early on. I would love to hear your thoughts on this, Autumn, or if you came across any ideas for “testing” these intelligences while researching!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Autumn Grace says:


      Thank you for commenting on my post!

      I have actually questioned how we could stimulate multiple intelligence in the classroom myself, because it does seem like it would take a significant amount of class time to adhere to each type of intelligence individually. Therefore, I think it would be best if teachers could target more than one type of intelligence in some of their assignments to try and cover all of them throughout the year.

      I think implementing these strategies in the actual classroom is a work in progress and will definitely take a lot of planning and strategy, but it would definitely be worth it in the end.


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