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Howard Gardner and His Theory of Multiple Intelligences: Critical Overview of Academic Performance

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Do you know how self-concept influences academic performance?

Today we have all heard about self-esteem and we have more or less clear what this concept means. However, it should be remembered that it corresponds to the evaluative perception of ourselves, that is, how we value ourselves. Now, do we know what self-concept is? And more importantly, what is the relationship between this and academic performance?

Although self-concept and self-esteem are similar concepts, we should not confuse them. This is the first maxim that we must respect to understand how this psychological component influences a student's academic performance. In fact, this area of ​​study is essential to improve our education system and the way we teach the smallest of our society.

Thus, we can say that self-concept can be defined as the set of perceptions, ideas, and thoughts that a particular individual possesses of himself. That is, it would be a fundamental part of the 'I' or the idea that a person has of who he is.

So what is the difference between self-concept and self-esteem? While the self-concept only describes the image we have of ourselves, without entering to value it; Self-esteem consists precisely in the subjective assessment we make of our personal characteristics.

Another way of understanding self-concept is like the construct based on the relationships that a subject maintains with society and its environment. In this way, the way we see ourselves will greatly influence how we act in the different areas of our lives, including education.

In the opinion of the child and youth psychologist Elisabet Rodríguez Camón, there are two works that have changed the study of academic performance. One refers to the theory of multiple intelligences, by Howard Gardner, and the other is the book Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman, in which the importance of self-concept is discussed. In this chapter, we will see how these ideas apply to education.

What is academic performance?

A fairly accepted definition of academic performance is understood as the capacity for learning and response presented by the student. However, to study this phenomenon, it is necessary to understand the different factors that affect it.

The elements on which academic performance depends are varied. They highlight among them the skills of the student himself and also his motivation. But there are other factors that we should not put aside. For example, the capacity and quality of the teacher, the educational program in which the student is immersed, the school, his family, and the social environment ...

However, one of the factors that most influence a person's ability to learn (and one of the least studied) is self-concept.

Relationship between self-concept and academic performance

Various research shows that there are strong relationships between self-concept and academic performance. Now, how does this first act on the second? According to the latest experiments, some factors can be highlighted:

  1. The assessments made by close and meaningful people to the student greatly influence how he perceives himself in his student role.
  2. A student's self-concept determines academic performance, since, at the qualitative and quantitative level, it will have an impact on the student's perception of the effort they need to invest to learn something new, the difficulty of tasks they face ...
  3. Self-concept and academic performance maintain a two-way relationship and influence each other. If either component is modified, the entire system changes until a new equilibrium are reached.

'Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.'

-William Butler Yeats-

How to develop a good self-concept in the student

In the light of these discoveries, it seems clear that the development of a good self-concept is vital for the student to obtain optimum academic performance. In fact, it will be vital in various facets of its growth and maturation. Therefore it is important to consider the following:

A feeling of family belonging is basic. The student must observe and find in their nucleus of understanding, interest, affection and consideration, well-being, etc.

It is also important that the child feel unique. He must feel like someone special and unrepeatable, but he must know specifically what differentiates him from others; staying humble at all times and focused on what you have to improve.

The student must believe himself capable of reaching the proposed and established goals. In addition, you will have to know what factors are involved in such achievement, which will lead you to learn for future experiences. To do this, you must master your self-control, which will allow you to react better in the face of adversity.

A safe, stable, and coherent behavior framework must be established in the child's life. The acquisition of positive models that encourage and encourage those aspects that are most important to your success comes into play here. This will also serve to modify unwanted behaviors.

“Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never stop growing.

-Anthony J. D'Angelo-

We hope this chapter has convinced you that promoting good self-concept in children is recommended for their academic performance. In this work, we are all involved, from the student himself to his relatives, educators, and the rest of the individuals in society.

Howard Gardner and his theory of multiple intelligences

For decades it was thought that intelligence was a unitary mental function that described our ability to solve problems, primarily in the logical-mathematical area. However, almost three decades ago Howard Gardner questioned this idea and did so with good arguments. His alternative to the global conception of intelligence was the theory of multiple intelligences.

Thus, Gardner realized that people did not have a global intelligence that could be applied to all spheres of their lives, but that they developed different types of intelligence which he called multiple intelligences. In this way, the latest theories in psychology about the multiplicity of intelligence leave behind the more classical, and probably unfair, conception of intelligence.

As we said until recently, only logical-mathematical and linguistic intelligence were evaluated and enhanced. Unlike this conception, the theory of multiple intelligences understands cognitive competence as a set of mental abilities, talents, and abilities which it calls 'intelligence. ' All people possess these skills, mental abilities, and talents at different levels of development.

The theory of multiple intelligences understands cognitive competence as a set of mental abilities, talents, and abilities that Gardner calls 'intelligence.'

Definition of intelligence according to Gardner

Academic brilliance is not everything

Gardner defines intelligence as the 'ability to solve problems or produce products that are valuable in one or more cultures. ' Thus, first, it broadens the field of what intelligence is and recognizes what was intuitively known, that some intelligence classes are related to academic performance, but that there are others, no less important, than not. At least not directly and how intelligence has been evaluated in a traditional way.

On the other hand, the academic record is not usually the variable that best predicts how a person will develop in life. There are people who score very high in the classic intelligence tests, but who are unable, for example, to perform a minimum of skill when choosing their social relationships.

Succeeding in business, or in sports, requires being smart, but a different kind of intelligence is used in each field. Not better or worse, but different. In other words, Einstein is neither more nor less intelligent than Michael Jordan, simply his intelligence belongs to different fields. In fact, what is advocated in this theory of multiple intelligences is to adapt the way of teaching to the intelligence of each person, so that this adaptation decreases the cost of learning (times, resources, energy ...).

Intelligence is a skill that can be developed

Second, and not least, Gardner defines intelligence as a capacity. Until very recently, intelligence was considered something innate and immovable. He was born intelligent or not, and education could not change that fact. So much so that in times very close to the psychic deficient they were not educated, because it was considered to be a futile effort.

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Defining intelligence as a capacity makes it a skill that can be developed. Gardner does not deny the genetic component but maintains that these potentials will be developed in one way or another depending on the environment, the experiences lived, the education received, etc.

Intelligence is a skill that can be developed. All human beings are trained to expand our intelligence.

No elite athlete reaches the top without training, no matter how good their natural qualities are. The same can be said of mathematicians, poets, or emotionally intelligent people. Because of that, according to the model of multiple intelligences proposed by Howard Gardner, all human beings are trained for the broad development of their intelligence, based on their abilities and motivation.

Theory of multiple intelligences: 8 types of intelligence

Logical-mathematical intelligence

It is defined as the ability to understand abstract relationships. We use it to solve logic and math problems. It corresponds to the way of thinking of the logical hemisphere and with what our culture has always considered as the only intelligence (Morchio, 2004: 4).

This intelligence implies the ability to use numbers effectively, analyze problems logically and investigate problems scientifically (Gardner, 1999a). These people enjoy solving mysteries, working with complex numbers and calculations, counting, organizing information in tables, arranging computers, making puzzles of ingenuity and logic, and playing video games.

Also, they can estimate, guess, and remember numbers and statistics with ease (Armstrong, 2003). It is the intelligence of mathematicians, scientists, engineers, and logicians (Gardner, 1999a).

Linguistic intelligence

It is the most recognized intelligence in the teaching-learning of a foreign language because it includes reading, writing, listening, and speaking (Morchio, 2004). This intelligence implies a sensitivity to oral or written language and the ability to use language to achieve success in anything. It includes the ability to use syntax, phonetics, semantics, and pragmatic uses of language (rhetoric, mnemonic, explanation, and metalanguage) (Morchio, 2004: 4).

People who prefer this intelligence give the feeling of being very natural when they explain, teach or persuade because their precision when using language is very high. They prefer to spend time reading, telling stories or jokes, watching movies, writing in a newspaper, creating works, writing poems, learning foreign languages, playing word games, or researching (Armstrong, 2003).

It is the intelligence of lawyers, authors, poets, teachers, comedians, and speakers (Gardner, 1999a).

Musical intelligence

This intelligence includes the 'ability to perceive musical forms' (Guzmán & Castro, 2005: 185). It is a facility for the composition, interpretation, transformation, and assessment of all types of music and sounds (Gardner, 1999a).

These people have a “sensitivity to rhythm, cadences, tone and timbre, the sounds of nature and the environment” (Guzmán & Castro, 2005: 185). They are people who spend a lot of time singing, listening to music, playing instruments, attending concerts, creating music, or singing when they study (Armstrong, 2003).

It is the intelligence of music lovers: composers, singers, sound engineers, musicians, music teachers, etc. (Guzmán & Castro, 2005).

Spatial intelligence

Space intelligence encompasses the ability to form and imagine two- and three-dimensional drawings (Armstrong, 2000a). It also encompasses the potential to understand, manipulate and modify the configurations of ample and limited space (Gardner, 1999a).

For people whose most developed intelligence is space, it is easy to remember photos and objects instead of words. They look at the types of cars, bicycles, clothes, and hair (Armstrong, 2003).

These individuals prefer to spend time drawing, scribbling, painting, playing video games, building models, reading maps, and studying optical illusions and labyrinths. It is the intelligence of architects, pilots, navigators, chess players, surgeons, and artists. Also as of painters, graphic artists, and sculptors (Gardner, 1999a).

Body-kinesthetic intelligence

Body-kinesthetic intelligence constitutes the ability to use the body (in total or in parts) to express ideas, learn, solve problems, perform activities or build products (Gardner, 1999; Morchio, 2004).

They are those people who acquire physical skills quickly and easily. They love to move and play sports. His favorite part of the school is a recess or physical education class (Armstrong, 2003). They can dance gracefully, act, and imitate the gestures and expressions of various people (Armstrong, 2003). These people think when they move and can learn better when they are moving (Armstrong, 2003).

This intelligence is what is usually very developed in athletes, dancers, actors, surgeons, artisans, inventors, mechanics, and technical professions (Gardner, 1999).

Interpersonal intelligence

Interpersonal intelligence encompasses the ability to look at things important to other people, remember their interests, their motivations, their perspective, their personal history, their intentions, and often predict the decisions, feelings, and actions of others ( Armstrong, 2003; Gardner, 1993a; 2006).

Individuals who primarily have interpersonal intelligence are those who like to talk, learn in groups or in pairs, and work or do activities with other people (Armstrong, 2003). They spend a lot of time helping people and volunteering for several important causes (Armstrong, 2003). In addition, 'they are good mediators of social conflicts' (Guzmán & Castro, 2005: 187).

They are good communicators, using body and verbal language. In addition, they have many friends, sincerely care for others, and understand how to motivate others (Armstrong, 2003). It is the intelligence of teachers, therapeutics, counselors, politicians, vendors, and religious leaders (Gardner, 2006).

Naturalist intelligence

Naturalistic intelligence is determined by a sensitivity to the natural forms and geological characteristics of the earth. It covers the ability to distinguish and classify the details and elements of the urban, suburb, or rural environment (Morchio, 2004).

These people enjoy camping, hiking, caring for pets, and finding out and categorizing the names and details of people, animals, plants, and objects in their environment (Armstrong, 2003). This intelligence is more important for cultures dependent on hunting, fishing, and harvest.

It is the intelligence of natural and social scientists, poets, and artists; they usually recognize the details and use their perceptual skills in their professions, while developing it (Gardner, 1999a).

Existential intelligence

We may have an existential intelligence or intelligence of big issues. However, Gardner (2006) has not claimed that it is true intelligence. It satisfies almost all the criteria except the evidence that there are certain parts of the brain that have to do with the philosophical questions of existence.

The key to this intelligence is the tendency to lead your thinking to the questions and search for more momentous answers. These people deliberate on issues such as: Why does life exist? Why does death exist? Why is there war? What will happen in the future? What is love? (Gardner, 2006).

Within existential intelligence is spiritual. It is not considered intelligence by itself. In fact, very spiritual people who are very concerned with religious matters influenced Gardner to investigate existential intelligence. The truth is that there are some people who have a better ability to meditate. They have more spiritual or psychic experiences (Gardner, 1999a).

Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences is a revolution. It broadens the spectrum of people whom we can consider intelligent, opening a fascinating path that invites us to consider the possibility that any person has unique potential and can achieve success if he or identifies and develops them. The theory of multiple intelligences provides a generous vision of the human being, which seems more realistic than the selective discrimination of a few that emanates from the unitary and more classical conception of intelligence.

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Howard Gardner and His Theory of Multiple Intelligences: Critical Overview of Academic Performance. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 8, 2023, from
“Howard Gardner and His Theory of Multiple Intelligences: Critical Overview of Academic Performance.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
Howard Gardner and His Theory of Multiple Intelligences: Critical Overview of Academic Performance. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 8 Dec. 2023].
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