Multiple Intelligences: Categorize And Customize

Multiple Intelligences Theory: How To Develop Different Learning Strategies For Different Intelligence Types

"Multiple Intelligences" (MI) has become a sort of buzz word in the corporate learning industry. Like all trends in this industry, it is much hyped and talked about. Most learning specialists in the adult education space prefer to have knowledge about multiple intelligences and its significance. No doubt, it is an interesting subject which has caught the fancy of the training and development professionals. However, contrary to its popularity it is not widely adapted in the corporate world, perhaps because it is tough to categorize the intelligence types of the audience and tougher still to customize curriculum specifically for each category of intelligence type.

This article will explore how the different types of intelligences can be grouped and once grouped, what are the best methods to implement learning strategies aimed at the distinct intelligence categories. For the uninitiated, let’s start at the beginning and understand multiple intelligences before we delve deeper into the implementation aspect. The concept of multiple intelligences is credited to Dr. Howard Gardner, professor of education at Harvard University.

Gardner classified human intelligences into 6 categories, which has now expanded to 9 and will probably expand further in the future. The current list consists of the following intelligence categories:

  1. Linguistic  (verbal skills and sensitivity to words)
  2. Logical (analytical and numerical skills)
  3. Spatial (visual and imaging skills)
  4. Kinesthetic  (physical skills)
  5. Musical (rhythm skills)
  6. Interpersonal (capacity to respond to the behaviors and motivations of others)
  7. Intrapersonal (capacity to be self-aware and attuned to one’s dynamics)
  8. Naturalist (ability to respond to nature and natural phenomena)
  9. Existential (sensitivity and capacity to ponder over life’s deeper aspects)

Multiple intelligences is important because it delves into learning psychology and helps to recognize the fact that learners may have different learning aptitudes and preferences. Just as a Shakespeare cannot be an Einstein, a person with an artistic bent of mind may not really learn, behave, articulate or crack assessments in the same way a person with a logical mindset can. Therefore, within the constraints that commercial needs impose on learning, it is important to find a way to customize learning to the learner’s aptitude. In the corporate world, this would mean people would learn better and translate this learning to on-the-job performance if they really learn in the way they like.

Grouping The Intelligence Types

In the real world of corporate learning, where budgets and timelines are stringent, it is practically impossible to classify the learning programs/courses to map to each of the 9 intelligence types. So, to implement MI in your learning programs take the following into consideration:

  • First, the subject matter should be such that it warrants customization.
  • Second, a common thread must be found to tie a few of these "types" together, and then a curriculum must be devised to map to a particular "type."

Not an easy task because every organization has hundreds of learners who have more than one type of intelligence. Before addressing this larger challenge, let us see how the intelligences can be grouped.

Here is an attempt at the classification of the 9 intelligence types, though this is not a rigid classification. This is just one of the methods and there can be other methods of categorization that can be used. The table below explains the categories, the corresponding MI types, and the rationale for grouping.

Sensory (Artistic) Learners

  • Naturalist
  • Musical
  • Kinesthetic
  • Spatial
  • Linguistic

These MI types can be categorized as sensory learners as they learn/perceive knowledge from nature, people, art and active participation in the world around using their sensory abilities. They are perceived to have artistic abilities and work through their imagination and senses.

Perceptive (Intuitive) Learners

  • Intrapersonal
  • Existential

These MI types are categorized as intuitive learners as they rely on their own inner perception of things, people and the world around them. They display a tendency to lean on themselves to interpret knowledge and learn.

Logical Learners

  • Logical
  • Interpersonal

These MI types are categorized as logical as their mental and analytical abilities foster their learning and they learn through their analysis of things, people, and experiences.


The implementation is the trickier part and can be time-consuming and a bit expensive. Therefore, you can decide to use the approach only if you have the required effort and time. A simpler effort may not prove very accurate in ascertaining the MI types. Only if you are absolutely certain that the most effective learning outcome can be obtained through a customized curriculum and not a generic one, you can choose to opt for this method. For example, critical behavioral trainings/leadership trainings, etc.

The implementation can be categorized into 3 phases:

  1. Assessment of MI types
  2. Validate the assessments
  3. Devise the curriculum and roll out

1. Assessment Of MI Types

For any learning program where MI needs to be incorporated, the most important phase is correctly assessing the intelligence type of the learner to achieve the following objectives:

  • Profile the learners as per their predominant MI type
  • Combine the MI types into logical clusters

This can be extremely challenging when the audience size is very large. Equally difficult is coming to any conclusion based on any first-level analysis. Therefore, it is recommended to use a two-layer approach. At the back end, it is important to code each MI cluster to the response options. This would mean that each specific option chosen by a learner gives a decisive clue about their MI type of the learner and the codes help to form the groups of learners based on the MI cluster.

(1) Psychometric tests with specific questions aimed at understanding the predominant MI type of the learner:


From where does most of your learning come from?

  • Nature and natural phenomenon or human behavior
  • Discussions with friends
  • Introspection: films and literature
  • Real-life situations
  • Logically analyzing situations

(2) Surveys with scenario-based questions that elicit the learner’s response to a specific situation/scenario:

Karen is a new joiner in the team. Imagine you are Karen. Which of the options should she choose?

  • You will approach your colleagues and befriend them as you like working as a team.
  • You will prefer to carry on your work alone and wait for the situation to resolve itself, as you prefer working alone.

Ryan has been facing a difficult situation in his office. What would be an ideal choice to help him feel motivated and rejuvenated?

  • A well-written motivational skit or speech
  • An inspirational song
  • An introspective book

2. Validate The Assessments

  • Assess the findings of phase 1 and phase 2
  • Carefully compare the codes that relate to the responses and identify whether the responses belong to similar clusters
  • Group the learners into the MI cluster based on the assessment

3. Devise The Curriculum And Roll Out

Quite obviously, when a common training has to be rolled out, there will be sections which will be common to all MI types and some sections which will be customized for the MI clusters either as:

  • Specific modules
  • Activities/scenarios/problem-solving questions/games interwoven into the modules

Multiple intelligence concepts, assessments, and results when used effectively are a great tool for customizing the learning content to the learner’s aptitude. It is of far greater use if used in schools and colleges as it can help to engage the students in the most effective way. MI can be a great tool to understand the aptitude of students and counsel them to choose the right career/educational streams.

In corporate life, it can be a powerful tool to make people learn effectively and enhance on-the-job performance