Building Adolescent Self Understanding as a Bridge to a Brighter Future Aligned with One's Multiple Intelligences Strengths

By C. Branton Shearer

Entering high school students stand on a precipice where they may continue to view themselves as "juveniles" or they may embrace their future potential as adults who will earn valued roles in the community. The world of the high school represents the bridge between the student's "childhood self" and his or her future "adult self." An evolving accurate self-understanding is fundamental for the successful navigation through the high school years. Several innovative programs in typical high schools in the United States build students' Intrapersonal intelligence and enhance their career planning with a unique assessment, utilizing the concept of the multiple intelligences (MI) that is followed up with an intensive educational program of knowledge building activities (Shearer, 2002).

The use of the MI (Gardner, 1993) perspective allows schools to actively build the student's self-knowledge and skill in self-management so as to enhance academic success, career development and community integration. Individually, the abilities described by MI theory are not especially surprising or unique because they are each reconceptualized from various sets of abilities, aptitudes, talents or skills long associated with career assessment and job task analysis. However, Gardner's unique definition of intelligence puts a meaningful twist on some old ideas so as to open up many more possibilities and opportunities for enhancing students' self-worth, career planning and personal development. This reframing of what it means to have "intelligence" is especially meaningful and important for those students who are not academic "stars" and those who are labeled as "not college materials."

Brief Overview of Multiple Intelligences Theory

Multiple intelligences theory expands the concept of intelligence so that it includes academic abilities (Linguistic and Logical-mathematical) as well as aptitudes / talents (Kinesthetic, Musical, Spatial, Naturalist) and the personal intelligences (Interpersonal and Intrapersonal). Gardner uses an inclusive definition of intelligence: "an ability or set of abilities that allows a person to solve a problem or fashion a product that is valued in one or more cultures" (1993, Preface) that has direct applications to instruction, curriculum design and career counseling at all age levels (Armstrong, 2006; Shearer & Luzzo, 2009). For more detailed information on each of the multiple intelligences you may refer to www.MIResearch.org or www.howardgardner.com  or http://pzweb.harvard.edu .

Description of MIDAS Assessment: Validity and Reliability

The Multiple Intelligences Developmental Assessment Scales (MIDAS) is a standardized self-assessment for the multiple intelligences consisting of 119 questions that results in a quantitative and qualitative profile of a student's strengths and limitations in the eight intelligences plus three intellectual styles (Shearer, 2007).

The MIDAS profile (see Sample MIDAS Profile) consists of eight main scales along with 26 subscales that describe specific skill domains within each main area. For example, the Intrapersonal main scale includes four subscales: Personal Knowledge, Calculations, Spatial Problem solving (e.g., metacognition), and Effectiveness. Scale scores range from 0 - 100%. The Professional Manual (Shearer, 2007) provides the following guidelines for interpreting scores: 80 - 100= Very high; 60 - 79 = High; 40 - 59 = Moderate; 20 - 39= Low; and 0 - 19= Very Low.

Numerous studies have investigated the reliability and validity of the MIDAS and many research results are summarized in detail in the Professional Manual. The MIDAS provides a profile of the respondent's "intellectual disposition" that has been favorably evaluated in Buros Mental Measurements Yearbook (Prackard & Trevisan, 1999; Hiltonsmith & Schneider, 2007) suggesting support for use within educational contexts. For summaries of research results you may refer to the Professional Manual or www.MIResearch.org

A MIDAS profile can serve as a "map" to point students in the direction that will maximize their chances for success based on their unique profile of intellectual strengths. For students to make the most use of their profile it is necessary that they be provided with follow-up information, learning experiences and guidance.

Student High Impact Project (SHIP) Curriculum

The MIDAS Student High Impact Project (SHIP) briefly detailed here is designed to focus on intrapersonal intelligence portion of the MI in order to make its development an efficient, explicit and systematic component of the curriculum rather than a hidden, implicit, haphazard activity.

A fundamental goal of the MIDAS SHIP curriculum is to provide students with a realistic yet positive view of how their MI strengths can be employed to create a successful life. A positive self-concept and teacher beliefs about students' potential can provide a good starting point for academic success, but it takes more. The second goal of the SHIP activities is to answer the many "So what?" questions that students and teachers have. So what do I do with an MI profile? So what can MI do to actually help students? The MI profile serves as map that can enhance decision-making and the creation of strength-based action plans. This map is designed to be readily understood by most teenagers, their parents and teachers when connected to practical, real-life questions and concerns.

The MIDAS SHIP program is designed to be a flexible yet comprehensive curriculum that can be tailored to be incorporated within any secondary course of study. It has been implemented effectively in grades 8th through 12th and a variation of it was used for more than 10 years to assist confused college students to select an academic major and clarify career objectives.

The complete MI SHIP curriculum consists of ten parts that can be implemented collectively or selectively depending upon curricular goals and circumstances:

1) Overview of the multiple intelligences

2) MIDAS self-assessment and verification

3) Peer sharing and parent feedback

4) MI inspired study strategies

5) Choosing high school courses and career program to maximize strength development

6) Extra-curricular activities matched to each intelligence

7) Careers that require specific MI strengths

8) Career shadowing and informational interviewing

9) College majors matched to the MI

10) Final Reflections and Future Planning

The SHIP curriculum has typically been implemented in five or six 45 minute class sessions. This period of time may be lengthened to incorporate more experiential activities and practical applications but it should not be shortened by more than two or three sessions if it is to be effective. Students require sufficient time and practice to become comfortable with the MI language / activities to use it successfully. To maximize impact it is also helpful if teachers in other classes can assist student to understand MI by providing exercise in the use of MI language and projects. Extension and reinforcement activities in other classrooms will impress upon students the practical benefits of the MI information and increase its effective use. 

Research with undecided college students over a period of 10 years found that the inclusion of the MIDAS profile into the career exploration process resulted in greater career clarity, improved decision making and enhanced self-understanding (Shearer, 2009).


Armstrong, T. (2006). Multiple intelligences strategies for building reading and math skills. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Gardner, H. (1993). Multiple intelligences:Theory into practice. New York: Basic Books.

Hiltonsmith, R.W., Schneider, W.J. (2007). [Review of the MIDAS: Multiple intelligences developmental assessment scales.] In Plake, B. S., & Impara, J. C. (Eds.). The seventeenth mental measurements yearbook. Lincoln, NE: Buros Institute of Mental Measurements.

Prackard, A. Trevisan, M.S. (1999). [Review of the MIDAS: Multiple intelligences developmental assessment scales.] In Plake, B. S., & Impara, J. C. (Eds.). The thirteenth mental measurements yearbook. Lincoln, NE: Buros Institute of Mental Measurements.

Shearer, C. B. (2002). The MIDAS student high impact project: Building intrapersonal  intelligence. Kent, OH: MI Research and Consulting, Inc.

Shearer, C. B. (2007). The MIDAS: A professional manual. (Rev. Ed.). Kent, OH: MI Research and Consulting, Inc.

Shearer, C.B. (June, 2009). Exploring the relationship between intrapersonal intelligence and university students' career confusion: Implications for counseling, academic success, and school-to-career transition. Journal of Employment Counseling. 46, 52 - 61.

Shearer, C.B. and Luzzo, D. (Sept., 2009). Exploring the application of multiple Intelligences theory to career counseling. Career Development Quarterly, 58, 1, 3 - 13.

Branton Shearer Dr. C. Branton Shearer is a neuropsychologist who has taught about the creative and practical applications of multiple intelligences since 1990 at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. He is the creator of the Multiple Intelligences Developmental Scales (MIDASTM www.MIResearch.org) that have been translated into 12 languages and implemented by educators and researchers in more than 20 different countries. He is the president of MI Research and Consulting, Inc. Send correspondence to 1316 S. Lincoln St. Kent, Ohio 44240, sbranton@kent.edu.


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