Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences is normally applied as learning styles to the education fields, but it’s applicable across our lives, and as I’ve found, to my own work and writing processes.
Introduction to the Multiple Intelligences
The original Multiple Intelligence theory was developed in 1983 by Dr. Howard Gardner, professor of education at Harvard University and published in the book, ‘Frames of Mind.’
The book suggested everybody has a different mind, with no two profiles of intelligence the same, so the traditional concept of measuring intelligence by I.Q testing is too limited. Gardner described an original seven (now 8 or 9) primary intelligences. A person can prefer and dominate in 1–3 of these, and will contain all 8 but at various levels of aptitude.
Since the initial seven, with peer feedback, Gardner added a further eighth intelligence – naturalism, and has hinted at another two – existential intelligence and moral intelligence.
More Multiple Intelligence information –
- Big Thinkers: Howard Gardner on Multiple Intelligences (video)
- A writer’s entry on creating smart characters, linking to MI’s.
- Howard Gardener’s Multiple Intelligences (this page also details VAK – visual-auditory-kinaesthetic and VARK or VATK – learning models)
- Bloom’s Taxonomy – Wikipedia entry
- Northern Illinois University (PDF) – Brief descriptions were taken from this document and extended as necessary
Learning Styles vs Archetypal Intelligences
Although the education system tends to use MI’s as “learning styles” Gardner points out that learning styles are different.
There are several attempts to classify learning styles – VAK (see above), left or right brained, impulsive vs reflective or several others. Many of these learning categories can fit roughly into the MI framework, with the closest match taken up by schools being that of Bloom’s Taxonomy. But intelligence is larger than learning.
“Human potential can be tied to one’s preferences to learning; thus, Gardner’s focus on human potential lies in the fact that people have a unique blend of capabilities and skills (intelligences). This model can be used to understand “overall personality, preferences and strengths” via businessballs.com via www.niu.edu/facdev
Knowledge of our own personal intelligence types provide ways of applying these across a life to drive our human potential and endeavours throughout our lives, including in our writing.
Below are brief summaries. For a much more detailed description, please download the bonus PDF “Multiple Intelligences for Writers” here.
This document, created especially for writers, includes each intelligence’s traits, names, relevant roles, examples from real-life and fictional characters, and as a writer bonus, relevant character archetypes for each, helpful for character development.
- Spatial-visual intelligence users have a capacity to think in images and pictures, to visualise accurately and abstractly
- Bodily-kinaesthetic intelligence is the preference to control one’s body movements and to handle objects skilfully
- Musical-rhythmic intelligence users have the ability to produce and appreciate rhythm, pitch and timber
- Interpersonal intelligence users are best in a crowd, and are externally focussed and good with people
- Intrapersonal intelligence users have a capacity to be self-aware and in tune with inner feelings, values, beliefs and thinking processes
- Verbal-linguistic intelligence users have well-developed verbal skills and sensitivity to the sounds, meanings and rhythms of words
- Logical-mathematical intelligence works with the ability to think conceptually and abstractly, and capacity to discern logical and numerical patterns
- Naturalist intelligence users have the ability to recognize and categorise plants, animals and other objects in nature.
- Existential intelligence relates to a sensitivity and capacity to tackle deep questions about human existence such as, What is the meaning of life? Why do we die? How did we get here?
Testing and Working with your Multiple Intelligences
1. Know (Test) for your MI’s
My next step was to work out my own MI’s.
- This is a PDF test, written by Walter McKenzie in 1999, available directly here. This quiz includes Existential Intelligence questions.
- This online test at BGFL will display a nice graph for you. Only the eight intelligences.
- This is another at Edutopia.
- This one requires Flash, but has some interestingly different questions.
- Here you will find a 70 question excel spreadsheet which really nuts out the first 7 intelligences.
Note that each assessment linked above has different questions per intelligence. I recommend taking a few of them to qualify your own results, particularly where something feels just plain wrong to you.
2. Considerations for a MI-Based Writing Process
Okay, so it was time to consider what I wanted to get out of this. Writing isn’t a process. In fact, writing is the product at the end of writing – the complete project. I could spend all my time working on my process, yet not deliver something.
And – it’s not just the one process – writing is a project of phases of writing, each with differing processes: – here are at least four, no matter what type of writing you are doing –
1. Writing Phases
- Ideation – taking an idea out to workability – may include research, plotting/planning
- Creation – the first draft
- Revision – assessing, editing, rewriting, several drafts
- Publication – self-publishing or submissions and further work
All of these writing phases may blend, but importantly, each phase requires differing mindsets, skills–and intelligences.
2. Knowing Your Writer Self
On the PDF quiz linked above, I received the following results –
- 3/10 logical
- 5/10 musical
- 8/10 naturalist
- 7/10 existential
- 3/10 interpersonal
- 6/10 kinaesthetic
- 5/10 linguistic
- 9/10 intrapersonal
- 7/10 visual
After nearly half a century on this planet, I have a reasonable understanding of myself, so my results weren’t startling. The findings for linguistic (or words) was disappointing for me as a writer (but came about because the questionnaire focused on verbal questions).
After taking a few more tests to confirm my results, my logical, linguistic-words and interpersonal intelligences rose.
3. Break into intelligence tiers
Roughly, I broke out my own results into tiers –
- Top Intelligence Tier (1-3): mine are intrapersonal, followed a little below by naturalistic, visual and linguistic-words.
- Middle Intelligence Tier (2-6 of these): mine are existential, kinaesthetic, musical and linguistic-verbal (just)
- Bottom weaker intelligence Tier (1-3): mine is interpersonal, and still far down the bottom – logical-mathematical
4. Consider the writing phases and processes needed
I considered how these results matched and could inspire a better writing process for each of the writing phases.
As an example, my highly preferred intrapersonal intelligence is fabulous for the hermit writer in me, doing the ideation and creation phases above. But it’s not great for other phases like editing, which requires feedback from shock – other people.
Writers with an interpersonal bent, however, may suffer through the generally quiet and lonely task of the earlier writing phases. To bring in their higher interpersonal intelligence you may see these writers writing in cafes or public places, frequenting writing groups or collaboratively writing. I’ve tried and failed at doing all those things and now know why.
There was also a discrepancy with my musical result, due to the fact that as an HSP, powerful music can overcome my emotions. So I purposely avoid music unless I want to empower and energise certain parts of my life – and writing.
You may find you will need to analyse many of your MI results as relevant to what you know about yourself.
With this analysis I began to see how I had previously and very successfully setup Ideation and Creation writing processes which use my top and middle tiered MI’s. But I also now have the reason why in later processes such as revision I often get stuck. These need more logical and interpersonal skills – and I need to practice to strengthen them. To do this, I need to include bits of them in my favourite phases also.
Below are my own examples.
-Example for your reference-
Note that I wouldn’t normally write these down like this, but it’s for reference to show each multiple intelligence, tiered out into a writing work process and phase. I’ll give you a couple of examples. Also, I’ve created a tenth intelligence, that of the writing intelligence. *Grins*
Hunter’s Multiple Intelligence Writing Processes *example*
Ideation & Planning – The Idea to a Working (Rough) Plan
- Use: logical but visual-orientated tools (logical, visual) to play around with ideas, and to plan with (eg. spreadsheets, scene cards, mindmaps, maps, note-taking visual apps – analogue and digital)
- Where: on the road, out and about, in the sports-park or back yard (naturalist), in bed and at the desk(comfort)
- Use: writing tools and elements to progress the idea into a rough plan (writing intelligence)
- Don’t: overplan, just the basics (logic, intrapersonal)
Creation (First Draft) Writing:
- Work alone (intrapersonal)
- on: big picture concepts (existential) and story plans (writing intelligence) with great visual elements (visual – I like to collect a lot of character images for instance) to write the first draft (linguistic-words)
- by: getting out into nature (naturalist and spatial) and taking frequent energetic breaks (kinaesthetic) as these last two will re-energise you during working time.
- use: music and beats / sounds (musical) and play with words and language (linguistic – words) by reading out your work (linguistic-verbal) when in need of a break or as a half-task to re-motivate or re-energise myself
- don’t: spend too much time on logic, analysis or statistics (logical-mathematical) and avoid people (interpersonal) during first draft work.
Edification *sic* (Revision):
Where the middle and bottom intelligences (for me) come out –
- Work alone (intrapersonal) initially, then in final drafts with a few trusted others for feedback (interpersonal)
- Analyse and note problems in the draft (logic) via: spreadsheeting and other tools (visual) and by reading it out loud to yourself (linguistic-verbal)
- Rewrite methodologically, in sections (logic) and patterns ie. dialogue, action, scene, sequel etc (linguistic – words)
- Rest. Use music, nature and energetic actions to re-energise (musical, natural, kinaesthetic) while: Work on high concepts or the big picture across the full draft (existential) by: drawing/graphing/doodling/playing (visual)
- Repeat: 2-4 for each draft.
- Final drafts: seek feedback and critiques, participate in critique groups (interpersonal and logical)
- Image 1 Header : My own work, using free clipart icons
- Image 2: MJ Smart, 1999
- Image 3: Silvia Rosenthal Tolsano [Ipad MI Apps]