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Kaitlyn Laprise

Implications of Gardners MI Theory for Music Education
Gardners theory of Multiple Intelligences is based on the idea that human
intelligence cannot be appropriately described on a simple, linear model. He
believes that we all possess varying amounts of multiple forms of intelligence which
allow us to solve problems or create products that are relevant to different aspects
of our lives. He studied people around the world using evidence from human
development, evolution, cross-cultural studies, and brain research in gifted people
as well as people with specific disabilities or brain damage to define a list of
intelligences which each possess the following criteria: they all are inherently
common to all people to some extent, involve the ability to solve problems or
fashion products that are important to a cultural setting or community, apply
universally to all of mankind, are triggered by either internal or external information,
and are possible to encode in a system of symbols. His theory states that while
often in life we are presented with situations which require a combination of
intelligences, we cannot each become an expert in every intelligence; we must
consider ourselves as part of a larger community of learners who each possesses
expertise in the areas for which they show the most aptitude, thereby completing
the knowledge within our community as a whole. Gardner also believed that a lot of
natural aptitude for certain careers is often wasted due to a lack of understanding
about some forms of intelligence and, therefore, that information about
intelligences should be used to inform vocational and avocational decisions in order
to use the strengths of the learners in our community more effectively.

My most immediate thoughts about the idea that music is one of the only
seven types of intelligence which are universal to all people and necessary for
success in any culture are slightly daunting. I am constantly in awe of our subject
and humbled by the responsibility of sharing such an essential part of life with our
students. It means that we as a profession have a lot of important questions to
answer about what it means to be musically intelligent. Does it have to do with
listening, notation-reading, or performing? Is it related to an amount of musical
training? What does it mean to be at risk in musical intelligence? Our reading said
that a student who is at risk would be likely to fail in tasks involving that
intelligence. How do we define these tasks? My grandfather, for instance, knows
and appreciates an unbelievable amount of information about musical style, form,
sound, and repertoire of the Classical and Romantic eras from so much listening
throughout his life, but he cannot read notation and has never performed music. Is
he considered musically intelligent, or is he considered at risk because he cannot
express his intelligence musically and he must rely instead on linguistic intelligence
to communicate his thoughts? Our students spend hours a day listening to their
favorite singers on their IPods; does this impact or reflect their level of musical
intelligence? Can passive listening and enjoyment be a task in music or do we need
to be actively engaged in understanding the music for it to contribute to our
intelligence? I do not have definitive answers to these questions, but I have to
believe that intelligence in music is related to genuine musical experiences and
understandings in many forms, which suggests important implications for our field.
I believe that the biggest implications of this theory in music education stem
from Gardners belief that all children are born with some amount of musical
intelligence, because it means that all people are capable of musical learning and

that their success in life is dependent on a least some amount of musical

intelligence. We do not all need to become experts in music, but we do all need
music as a central part of our education. It is important to note here that while there
is no specific, quantifiable amount of intelligence each person needs to have in
music, it is essential that they continue to learn and grow in music throughout their
life. We as a profession need to determine exactly what types of experiences and
understandings students need in music in order to help them each reach their own
personal aptitude. His discussion of crystallizing experiences has immense
implications for those teachers concerned with recruitment. If we can help to
provide these spontaneous discoveries of affinity for music for our students, they
are more likely to pursue music and continue to develop their skills in the area. The
special musical moments which are essential to a childs musical education are
recruitment in and of themselves! Gardner also mentions in his work that notation is
necessary for development especially in older children. This has the profound
implication that if a child is only ever rote-taught in music, which happens fairly
frequently in ensemble settings, their involvement in music may not necessarily
increase their intelligence in music. Lastly, his discussion of the plurality of the
intelligencesthe idea that they can be both the content and the means of
instructionmeans that music cannot be fully explained in the linguistic medium of
words or in the mathematical medium of logic; at some point, music as an
intelligence must speak for itself. This is a common experience in music, and has
important implications for a current discussion going on among band directors
about relevance and finding ways to involve more students in music. Leaders in the
profession from all over the country are arguing about whether large ensembles are
still a relevant form of music education or are there other potentially more valuable

musical opportunities for students that we should be focusing more of our attention
on? However, if Gardner is correct that we need to have meaningful experiences
which cannot be described or understood through the medium of any other
intelligence, then performing in ensembles is currently one of the most relevant
forms of music education and their contributions to the musical intelligence of their
members should put any arguments about the necessity of ensemble music-making
to rest. The challenge in our field right now with respect to this theory of
intelligences is that in some areas, children are not given opportunities to
experience music, and in other areas where children are given opportunities, their
experiences do not contribute to their musical intelligence as effectively as they
could. I have always believed that if the subject of music was truly taught to its
fullest extent by every music educator in this country, we would have no reason to
have to fight against music programs getting cut; our students learning would
speak for itself. We as a community of music educators need to maintain our subject
as an essential part of the human experience and teach with the intent that our
students learning in music is always contributing to the development of their
musical intelligence, and, therefore, to their development as people.