Multiple Intelligences


Developed by Howard Gardner, Ph.D., Professor of Education at Harvard University the Multiple Intelligence theory suggests that human potential connects to the preferences in which an individual learns. The theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI) identifies learning styles and preferences that can be used by individuals, teachers, and business, in the learning process. (University) This report will explore the process framework for workforce improvement and adult learning by utilizing the MI model of learning while identifying shortfalls and limitations the model can present.

Gardner suggest that all people learn differently and combine several different intelligences to accompany the learning process. These intelligences are as follows:

  • Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence identify well-developed verbal skills and sensitivity to the sounds, meanings and rhythms of words.
  • Logical-Mathematical Intelligence adhere to the ability to think conceptually and abstractly, and the capacity to discern logical or numerical patterns.
  • Musical Intelligence is the ability to produce and appreciate rhythm, pitch and timbre.
  • Spatial Intelligence creates the capacity to think in images and pictures, to visualize accurately and abstractly.
  • Kinesthetic Intelligence allows the individual the ability to control one’s body movements and to handle objects skillfully.
  • Interpersonal involves the capacity to detect and respond appropriately to the moods, motivations and desires of others
  • Intrapersonal encompasses the capacity to be self-aware and in tune with feelings, values, beliefs and thinking processes.
  • Naturalist is the ability to recognize and categorize plants, animals and other objects in nature.
  • Existential is the sensitivity and capacity to tackle deep questions about human existence, such as the meaning of life, why we die and how we got here


This model as a framework for workforce improvement, promotes creativity in addressing problem solving and learning new skills and abilities. This also allows for a greater field of skills and abilities to be considered when implementing training programs for learning adults in the workplace. This approach is being utilized at Gonzaga University with Graduate students. Janet Z. Brougher, an assistant professor, says students are enthusiastic and creatively engaged. Following examples, she uses in her course instruction can reasonably be applied to help adult learners in a quickly changing workplace the includes more collaboration and teamwork that utilizes technology in ways many adults are not familiar with using in their everyday lives. Creating a learning environment that allows a person to decide on how to learn new skills and capabilities could be implemented into a workforce improvement plan for generational learning gaps that have occurred with adults, as technology use is becoming ubiquitous worldwide.

This model can be implemented in a variety of ways for each intelligence that Gardner proposes in the nine intelligences that are used in learning new skills and abilities. The following are consideration of some of the intelligences identified and how it could be used with adult learners to provide workforce development needs.

Logical-mathematical intelligence were made easier to learn at Gonzaga when students wrote a melody to explain the eight stages of Erik Erikson’s explanation of psycho-social development. Using this type of technique would allow adult learners to incorporate similar ideas to introduce new procedures involving complex problem solving. Using personal knowledge of other intelligences creates new and easier ways to learn new tasks for jobs.

In the area of verbal-linguistic intelligence Brougher mentions using word games and puzzles to incorporate the language needed in certain scenarios. Oral presentations were also mentioned as means of increasing this intelligence. Adult workers could benefit from these types of activities in training sessions to improve speaking skills and vocabulary.

Musical intelligence allows humans to communicate from the soul, Brougher writes and can modify mood, sharpen focus of thought, and deepen insight. As she mentions in her article music is an energizer. Musical inspiration is not a new concept but utilized in training settings could relax learning adults. The different music types available can produce focus in individuals.

Visual and Spatial intelligence allows learning through graphical images. Complex topics can often be explained much easier by using diagrams and graphs to illustrate relationships of tasks in certain jobs.

Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence indicates students and learners learn better when actively participating. This intelligence can be improved through role-playing in a training setting. Adult learners could benefit from this activity especially if they are involved in customer service needs. Practicing how to handle different conflict situations prepares learners how to respond to customer needs.

Interpersonal intelligence can be increased by working in groups as the Brougher’s article suggests. Incorporating small group interaction in the workplace would allow adult learners to increase cultural awareness and diversity in the workplace. Generational differences could be a topic of training for adult learners in group sessions.

Intrapersonal intelligence lets learners make sense of their lives. Reflection of the new skills and abilities adult learners have been taught, should be incorporated as part of training and development. This can be accomplished through the use of writing or activities that give the learner time to evaluate what they have learned.

Existential intelligence may be possessed more by adult learners who have experienced more time in the workplace and life. Addressing the needs of an aging workforce presents a real challenge as adult learners may be closer to retiring. Training could be provided to adult learners to prepare them for the deeper questions of life. For example, preparation for end-of-life issues could be presented to and aging workforce which could alleviate worries about how this aspect of life will be handled.

Limitations presented using the MI approach can involve serious generational learning gaps that cannot be identified through the intelligences listed. As suggested, there are many other “intelligences” that can be added to this list. Designing a centralized plan for a specific adults training could not be accomplished using this method. As Gardner mentions everyone learns differently, even identical twins, so implementing a centralized training course would be almost impossible with the many different domains the adult learner may utilize to understand a new skill, ability or concept. As Generation Z becomes more involved in the workplace and business technology expands the adult learners may have a difficult time adjusting to rapidly changing technology.

In conclusion the Multiple Intelligence theory proposed by Gardner works well in educational settings and is widely used. Implementing this approach in the workforce development of adult learners involves several different combinations of the intelligences identified by this model. Improving the adult learners’ chances in workplace success may require a less structured approach and more options to acquire new skills and abilities needed in a rapidly changing environment involving technological training for adult learners in the workforce. Generation Z has been specifically trained in the digital age the world has evolved to while the oldest living generations learned and trained drastically different. Using the multiple intelligence method would allow adult learners to apply different approaches to learn new skills and abilities needed in the workforce.


Brougher, J. Z. (1997). Creating A Nourishing Learning Environment for Adults Using Multiple Intelligence Theory .

University, N. I. (n.d.). Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences.

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