The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Britt Brantley,
Executive Director &
Education Coordinator


Graduate students discuss Nine Multiple Intelligences theory

When Britt Brantley spoke to Dr. Chrystal L. Partridge’s class of graduate students in education recently, he was happy to see that many of them held other professions before entering education. He was hesitant to call each one a “renaissance man or woman,” but he encouraged the students to approach education with a different point of view and to bring their interests to the classroom.

Brantley’s experience ranges from teacher to principal to a 12- year career as a stockbroker, and back to education again as Executive Director and Education Coordinator of the Chattanooga Regional History Museum. While he was principal at the prestigious American Community Schools in England, he was tapped to participate in workshops with Howard Gardner, who pioneered the theory of Nine Multiple Intelligences.

“Using the theory is the best way to engage large and small audiences of learners,” Brantley said. “This takes some work on the part of the teachers and a lot of enthusiasm.”

Brantley spoke directly with about half of Partridge’s students, asking them each a few questions about what they like to do and how they approach their career, and then quickly assessed them as specific kinds of learners. He says the teacher’s familiarity with students would lead to similar assessments.

“For instance, if I am going to teach a math lesson and it may not be a student’s favorite subject, they may be much more interested if I say ‘Take a look at this graph or chart I have prepared.’ A student may learn spatially first, and still learn the lesson,” Brantley said.
Best of all, Brantley said the approach works well in lower income schools in elementary school and even in early childhood and preschool classes.

“I told the students in the UTC class that Hamilton County school teachers can embrace this theory. It can even apply in magnet schools, where it would complement an existing learning style,” Brantley said.

Benefits to the student are obvious; Brantley also says there are benefits to the teacher who tries a different approach to learning.

“Teachers need satisfaction. They need to know they connected with a student. How often can we pull back and say I was engaging these students?” Brantley asked.

Visit the Harvard website detailing research projects based on Howard Gardner’s theory.

Howard Gardner’s Nine Multiple Intelligences at a glance:

  1. Linguistic Intelligence: the capacity to use language to express what's on your mind and to understand other people. Any kind of writer, orator, speaker, lawyer, or other person for whom language is an important stock in trade has great linguistic intelligence
  2. Logical/Mathematical Intelligence: the capacity to understand the underlying principles of some kind of causal system, the way a scientist or a logician does; or to manipulate numbers, quantities, and operations, the way a mathematician does.
  3. Musical Rhythmic Intelligence: the capacity to think in music; to be able to hear patterns, recognize them, and perhaps manipulate them. People who have strong musical intelligence don't just remember music easily, they can't get it out of their minds, it's so omnipresent.
  4. Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligence: the capacity to use your whole body or parts of your body (your hands, your fingers, your arms) to solve a problem, make something, or put on some kind of production. The most evident examples are people in athletics or the performing arts, particularly dancing or acting.
  5. Spatial Intelligence: the ability to represent the spatial world internally in your mind -- the way a sailor or airplane pilot navigates the large spatial world, or the way a chess player or sculptor represents a more circumscribed spatial world. Spatial intelligence can be used in the arts or in the sciences.
  6. Naturalist Intelligence: the ability to discriminate among living things (plants, animals) and sensitivity to other features of the natural world (clouds, rock configurations). This ability was clearly of value in our evolutionary past as hunters, gatherers, and farmers; it continues to be central in such roles as botanist or chef.
  7. Intrapersonal Intelligence: having an understanding of yourself; knowing who you are, what you can do, what you want to do, how you react to things, which things to avoid, and which things to gravitate toward. We are drawn to people who have a good understanding of themselves. They tend to know what they can and can't do, and to know where to go if they need help.
  8. Interpersonal Intelligence: the ability to understand other people. It's an ability we all need, but is especially important for teachers, clinicians, salespersons, or politicians -- anybody who deals with other people.
  9. Existential Intelligence: the ability and proclivity to pose (and ponder) questions about life, death, and ultimate realities.
    — Taken from PBS website