Theories of Intelligence in Second Language Learning: A review of Skinner, Chomsky, Bandura, Vygotsky, Krashen, and Gardner


Chomsky’s theory has influenced the theoretical perspective of the philosophers that will be analyzed for the Breadth component. It will be shown that, for example, Chomsky influenced Bandura’s Social Learning theory, in the role that they both assign to language as a process acquired through interaction and the use of certain cognitive skills (Bandura, 1977). Similarly, Chomsky’s Universal Grammar (UG) is seen in Vygotsky’s theory of Constructivism, as the product of scaffolding, that is, building new information upon prior knowledge (Chomsky, 1955; Vygotsky, 1978). Krashen (1987) will show in his “Natural language acquisition approach” a rejection to formal methodologies for vocabulary-teaching that coincides with Chomsky’s rejection of context-free grammar teaching. Additionally, Krashen’s “Monitor language hypothesis” also mirrors a version of Chomsky’s aversion to structural linguistics as well as Chomsky’s development of new transformational grammar approaches (Chomsky, 1955; Krashen, 1987).

The analysis of Chomsky will end with how its influence permeates until today’s modern acceptance of the Multiple Intelligence theory by Howard Gardner. The mere inclusion of a “linguistic intelligence” in Gardner’s theory denotes a tendency to include Chomsky’s “linguistic corpus” hypothesis. Yet, how did this man’s perspective and thinking shun its light in both classical and modern language studies? Chomsky’s body of work all can be summarized into three steps: A rebuttal to a current view, the continuous experimentation of language and intelligence, and the production of a comprehensive philosophy that would summon all the major sciences to participate in research.

Before Chomsky: A rebuttal to B.F Skinner’s Verbal Behavior

The year was 1957. The post war era was witness to major developments in the fields of science and technology. This easily opened doors for research in other areas. We would find, judging from the major events that took place at the time, that the human race in general experienced a series of major events in a short period of time, pushing it to a “fast forward mode” into the future. One of the most scientifically influential happenings during the late 1950’s was the launch of the Soviet space shuttle Sputnick. This event marked the beginning of the Space Era, and innocuously united the East and the West in an accomplishment shared by the entire human race: The conquering of Space. What could the human race not be able to do?

This was the world as Chomsky would have known it: A place where scientific achievements and new developments continued to occur in great momentum. Yet Chomsky’s interest laid mostly in the fields of psychology, linguistics, and sociology. As a man with a deep respect for the empirical and solid evidence of theory, he disagreed with the methodology used in an investigative book written by B.F. Skinner, a social theorist who aimed to explain the process of learning, specifically, language acquisition. In Verbal Behavior, Skinner names behaviorism as the conduit for acquiring new information. The concept of behaviorism is a combination of social exposure, consistent interaction, and operant (constant) conditioning (Skinner, 1957). Therefore, in Skinner’s philosophy, learning is the result of exposure to external sources, followed by modeling and practice.

The implications of Skinner’s theory were that the internal processes that take place during learning are superseded by social exposure. Skinner supported his behaviorist axiom with the theoretical views that were common at the time, yet, the findings were not empirically supported by enough research. For example, Skinner takes for granted that the studies performed on the way animals acquire behaviors is enough evidence to support his operant conditioning theory that as long as there is enough input and conditioning the learning will be acquired. (Skinner, 1957). This paradigm applied to language learning in the same token. Skinner’s Verbal Behavior offered the linguistic community paradigms that involved identifying variables that control behaviors, the analysis on how they interact with the individual, and the notion that reinforcement, stimulus, and enough exposure are the conduits for acquiring language.

Chomsky did not agree with Skinner’s theoretical views. In fact, he wrote a rebuttal against Skinner two years after the publication of Verbal Behavior. In it, Chomsky points out the flaws in Skinner’s research and leads the way onto his own theory of learning, intelligence, and motivation.

Firstly, Chomsky criticized Skinner’s lack of empirical data as a major flaw in data analysis. In his opinion, Chomsky pointed out that Skinner’s inclusion of animal behavior studies onto the study of human behavior is not enough empirical support to solidify Skinner’s hypothesis. Additionally, Chomsky criticized the mere inclusion of this study, as it nearly forces a correlation between the operant conditioning of animals and humans (Chomsky, 1959 p. 23).

Secondly, Chomsky questioned Skinners usage of the phrase “functional analysis” to support his philosophy. In Verbal Behavior, Skinner states that verbal responses are determined by the element which triggers them. Chomsky argued that Skinner should not assume that controlling variables (that is, testing behaviors by changing environments and circumstances) do not determine the amount of stimulus, reinforcement, or depravation required to adopt a new behavior (Chomsky, 1959 p. 25).

In addition to Skinner’s presumed lack of further inquiry and the seemingly quick verification of a hypothesis, Chomsky questioned Skinner’s view of language acquisition as a merely learned skill rather than a naturally-acquired skill. By naturally-acquired, he implied that there is a biological element to the process that goes beyond exposure and interaction. Could language be acquired by an inherent disposition that could even overrule environmental stimuli? These were the postulates that encompass linguistic theory, according to Chomsky. His reaction to Skinner’s behaviorist views are what give Chomsky’s philosophy the exposure and strength upon which, to this day, continues to be researched.

A bi-partite concept of language learning

Chomsky had already formulated a transformational theory of linguistics even prior to his rebuttal to Skinner. In 1955, he had developed the idea of a “transformational grammar”, that is, language which is acquired, analyzed, and transformed into what the individual decides in natural way. It is the notion of language as a bi-partite concept: a) Language is acquired by nature, and b) language is enhanced by social exposure (Chomsky, 1955 p. 113). Language acquisition is, in Chomskyan terms, a comprehensive process that integrates innate and external elements under the assumption that there is a set apparatus within each human being that enables this to happen (Chomsky, 1955).

Chomsky’s theory of learning: The metatheory of linguistics.

The combination of social and cognitive elements that serve as triggers to learning under Chomskyan perspective is notable for giving more emphasis on the study of how the brain works during the process of language acquisition. This leads to the creation of the linguistic theory. For this focal reason, Chomsky views the theory of linguistics as a “metatheory” where mental, psychological, and cognitive processes supersede a mere behavioral input (Chomsky, 1955 p. 113). Chomsky argues that language is comprehensive: It involves listening, accepting and rejecting information, conceptualizing the input, organizing it, and producing further language within the parameters of the social context where the language takes place is being shared, and within the limits of our natural capabilities (Chomsky, 1955 p. 114). However, there is an additional dimension that ultimately separated Chomsky from his contemporaries, and it is the idea that all these processes occur in a part of the brain where a proposed “apparatus” enables all this to occur: The Language Acquisition Device.

The Language Acquisition Device (LAD)

The metatheory of linguistics, or language learning, according to Chomsky consists on two premises: The first premise states that humans are born with an already-established body of common grammatical knowledge, or intelligence which can also be described as a capacity, or a competence for language. This intelligence, which he calls linguistic corpus, is triggered by social discourse and interaction (p. 74). As interaction takes place and new language is acquired, the second premise of Chomsky’s theory states that a specific place in the brain which he calls the “Language Acquisition Device” or LAD. Chomsky proposes that the LAD exists inside the brain (Chomsky, 1975). It is, theoretically speaking, a congenital organ that enables the skill of acquiring language. This organ would allow individuals to use minimal rules and regulations of language to create more words, and more sentences (p. 105).

The premise of his philosophy lays Chomsky’s observations of children, and his preocupation about how steadfastly children acquire language. Chomsky observed that the manner in which children acquire language, make similar mistakes, and develop further words, must obey a general mechanism that with a specific tendency of operation. These social and cognitive components of the process of language learning imply Chomsky’s integration of psychology, human development, and linguistics as part of his theory. That is the way that Chomsky defines “learning”. Yet, once the learning takes place by the means that he suggested, what happens to the acquired knowledge? Concisely, how does he define the term “intelligence”?

Chomsky on intelligence: Generative grammar, universal grammar, FLB, and FLN

The general definition of “intelligence” is, according to the Encarta Dictionary “the ability to learn facts and skills and apply them, especially when this ability is highly developed” (Encarta dictionary, 2006). In a Chomskyan linguistic perspective, intelligence is defined a foundation of language that all humans already possess as part of our biological make-up. This innate body of knowledge is what he calls “universal grammar” or the “linguistic corpus”. This body of language knowledge changes through time, as the individual makes additional social connections, acquires new words, or decides how to make use of language depending on the circumstances in which it is required. This ability to transform the language and change it through time makes it “generative” in nature. (Chomsky, 1955 p. 114-116)

The process of transformation of universal to generative grammar

The concept of universal grammar could be described cognitively as an innate foundation and a capacity for language usage and production. It is found within the brain, where the Language Acquisition Device (LAD) proposed by Chomsky would be triggered into action when the individual is exposed to language. This exposure leads to the acquisition of new words which, as they are learned, fall unequivocally in a pattern of use that is general to the group who is speaking. An example of this pattern would be the subject-verb-predicate model. The implication rests in that, as we socialize, our internal capacities already in place will act as a “word catcher” that will automatically place the words in a pre-set order shared everyone within our own language system and will continue to grow and expand. The process of establishing the language rules, and expanding language further through time and level of complexity leads to deem it as “generative grammar” (Chomsky, 1955 p. 117)

FLB, FLN and Recursion

Chomsky succeeded in transmuting his theory into quantifiable data. A recent research co-developed by Chomsky in 2002 brings out another dimension to his theory of intelligence. The research will be further explained in the depth component of the Knowledge Area module, but its findings serve as a demonstration of how Chomsky’s theory permeates recent research, and his argument for the inclusion of the disciplines of biology, anthropology, psychology, and neuroscience for the study of language. This makes his theoretical perspective go from pragmatic to empirical. This is the theory of the Faculty of Language for Broader purposes (FLB) and the Faculty of language for Narrow purposes (FLN) (Hauser, Chomsky, Fitch, 2002).

The theory states that, within the LAD and along with the Universal and generative language, there is a bipartite ability that distinguishes communication from humans and animals. This bipartite diversification consists on the faculty of language in the broad purpose (FLB) and faculty of language in the narrow purpose (FLN). Concisely, language in the broad purpose (FLB) is all the language produced for general and immediate responses. This faculty is not only inherent to humans, but also to animals. Its basis is the common need to express a message, and consists on any form of communication that is possible among living things. Therefore, FLB is responsive, immediate, and instinctive language usage that could also be explained as language of survival for immediate purpose (Hauser, Chomsky, Fitch, 2002 p. 1569).

Yet, the distinguishing factor between humans and animals in terms of communication is that, within the FLB, there is an integrative system that involves concepts and intentions along with the biological and neuropsychological elements that are required to perform operations that require computation for recursion, the generation of mannerism and expression, and the ability to correlate intonation, expression, and affect into language. This element of distinction is the FLN, or faculty of language for Narrow purposes. The FLN involves critical thinking, decision making, inferencing, computation, if/then conclusions, and the capacity of “recursion” (Hauser, Chomsky, Fitch, 2002 p. 1569).

Recursion is the key element in the FLN, and is the main ingredient that sets humans apart from other living organisms. Recursion is basically a programming technique within the brain which assigns tasks to diverse areas to do certain duties. In other words, it is a uniquely human component that composes the generative and universal capacity for language. This capacity for recursion is called the Faculty of language for narrow sense (FLN). (Hauser, Chomsky, Fitch, 2002 p. 1570)

An FLN goes beyond the usage of language for general purposes. It is an intelligence that is entirely decided by the individual and, since it is inherited, can be put to work at any time (p. 1571). Yet, Chomsky et al insist that an ability of this nature must have surged in an ecological level for reasons “other than language” (p. 1569). For instance, the studies that compare the language of humans to the communication means developed by animals show that navigational skills, social relations, general communicative language, affect, and even the use of computation and linguistics at the same time are skills used as if for survival at some point in time (p. 1574).

Conclusively, FLB and FLN are both natural intelligences possessed by humans. Its empirical value within the process of quantifiable data might allow theory to turn into law, as Chomsky taxonomized the findings on how the acquired body of communicative knowledge that is inherent to all living things transforms into an intelligent entity of its own nature within humans. This research conducted by Chomsky et al, as previously stated, will be a part of the depth component of the KAM, yet, it also serves as an anchor that shows how strongly bound to current research Chomsky’s theory really is.

Conclusion on Chomsky and his interrelation to other theorists.

This study on Chomsky reveals his theories of learning and intelligence under a linguistic perspective. His metatheory of linguistics contains his theories on human intelligence. According to his linguistic theory of learning and intelligence, all humans possess and inborn body of knowledge, or a linguistic intelligence, in the form of human capacities and competence. This natural body of knowledge, according to Chomsky, is triggered for usage in a cognitive way by environmental inputs, but is only achieved through the usage of an inherent apparatus which he deems the “Language Acquisition Device” or LAD. Within the LAD, the acquired knowledge will be prepositioned into a pattern that is natural to the individual’s system of code and communication, which he calls the “Universal Language” (UG). Not only will the LAD allow for the pattern of words to take place, but will go from broad-purposed language usage (FLB) to specific, or narrow, language usage (FLN) as a unique ability possessed by humans to use language in a more discriminate way, so that affect, purpose, specificity, and proper usage is correctly applied.

Perhaps the most important things about Chomsky’s theory of intelligence is its granting nature: The fact that, from the beginning, it granted that the ability to acquire intelligence is already possessed, and that nature has granted us an apparatus ready to be put to use under our command. Recent research by Chomsky himself shows that his views are not merely pragmatic, but that they can be dully deemed as quantifiable, and invite further research in linguistics combining the fields of biology, neuroscience, linguistics, anatomy, cognitive science, education, and psychology.

Chomsky’s theory is reflected in the works of Bandura, Vygostky, Krashen, and Gardner, as it will be demonstrated in the upcoming analysis of the Breadth component. The fact that Chomsky identified the environment as a social trigger for the further involvement of the Language Acquisition Device has a behavioral undertone that will be seen in Bandura’s Social learning theory. In that theory, Bandura cites in a subtle way that inherent psychologies help activate the social triggers that enable learning. This concretely demonstrates a Chomskyan view on the combination of nature and nurture in the development of language as a system. Similarly, Vygostky’s theory of Constructivism and Krashen’s Natural Order hypothesis will denote a combination of environmental and cognitive foundations for the acquisition of new information in the form of language, built on the foundations of prior knowledge.

Furtherly, it will be shown how Krashen would also agree with Chomsky in the rejection of context-free language, and context-free grammar, that is, if any new language (or information) is to be taught, it has to be relevant, natural to the learner, and boundary-free. Chomsky’s influence is even more evident in Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence (MI) theory which will also be part of the Breadth discussion: Chomsky’s undying efforts to categorize linguistics as a cognitive science and not just as a language art have apparently reached a new peak, as Gardner includes linguistics as an “intelligence” the way Chomsky would deem it, and not just as a discipline to be learned in school. It is a fact that Chomskyan theory has been influential and innovative. The study of Albert Bandura, Vygotsky, Krashen, and Gardner will also be as influential and important to the theories of learning, intelligence, and motivation. Albert Bandura, seemingly following a Chomskyan perspective on the combination of behavioral and cognitive science, will help us explore under a different perspective a possible approach to the study of linguistic learning.

Albert Bandura


Nearly twenty years after Chomsky’s metatheory of linguistics, Albert Bandura developed a learning theory that follows the paradigms established by behaviorists and cognitive researchers. Bandura is a social psychologist, and his social learning theory was officially established in his 1977 book Social Learning. Similarly to Chomsky, Bandura proposes that a diversity of factors act together as agents of learning. These factors can be behavioral, social, personal, and/or environmental (Bandura, 1977, p. 9). He bases the process of learning on observation and modeling. The notion of reinforcement, stimulus and conditioning offered by Skinner is not entirely rejected but is seen more of a tool that facilitates the acquisition of behaviors, rather than the only agents of change in a person (p. 10). Lastly, Bandura will demonstrate how his theory is applicable to language acquisition and learning, as it shows that language is a behavior of its own.

Bandura on learning

Bandura (1977) explains the manner in which individuals learn new behaviors through a process that involves observation, interaction, and modeling (Bandura 1977, p. 22). Similarly to Chomsky, his theory reflects language as a very important element of development that requires both cognitive and social input. Throughout one’s lifetime, the consistent interaction to other people’s behavior lead to our own adoption, or imitation of the behaviors of others depending on whether we choose to do it (Bandura, 1977, p.43). This change in behavior is what Bandura defines as “learning”. The fact that such learning occurs in a social and interactive context is what renders the theory the name of “Social Learning” (Bandura, 1977). The process through which Social Learning occurs is comprehensive, dynamic and interactive.

The process of learning, according to Bandura

As it was previously stated, Bandura defines learning as a change in behaviors that results from social exposure. The definition of behavior under Bandura’s theory is the combination of all idiosyncratic activities performed by individuals ranging from the way they talk, to the way eat, and walk. This is not a passive process that happens without the individual’s consent, or by instinct. Bandura explains that learning is in fact a very active process that requires involvement from all of whom are participating from it (Bandura, 1977, p. 15).

The manner in which this involvement takes place is taxonomized into five methodologies which, in Bandura’s theory, are part of everyday people’s life:

  1. Interactive methods: People learn from others through conversation, discourse and open communication. The exchange of new information and feedback mediates learning.

  2. Dynamic methods: People go from one source to another to get different kinds of input, and in the process of receiving this input new behaviors continue to be learned, accepted, or rejected and then modeled and adopted.

  3. Consistent methods: People are constantly exposed to other people’s behaviors either in a communal context at work, school, church, and the neighborhood, to an independent context through the media, and the internet.

  4. Intrapersonal methods: People exchange of traits and characteristics that are inherent to each person involved in the process of communication. Engaging in conversation, sharing information, creating bonds, establishing rules, becoming part of a social system and a group allows for this method of communication to set the conditions for learning. (Bandura, 1997, p. 25-30)

Bandura’s theory points to nearly every environmental input available to individuals throughout their lives from peers, to media, technology, superiors, and family. In contrast, Chomsky would place the environmental input as the element which will only be enhanced and increased though cognitive activity. Bandura in some way declares the opposite: The consistent exposure to environmental triggers will create a habit in the individual, the individual will undergo a process of adaptation or adoption of the new behavior and, eventually, he or she will integrate (or completely reject) the ideas, mannerisms, idiosyncrasies and natural features of those to whom they became exposed in a lesser cognitive and higher social aspect (Bandura, p. 29). It is through the adaption or the adoption of the behaviors of others into our own what completes the full circle of “social learning”, the gist of Bandura’s theory. Comparatively to Skinner, Bandura’s theory might at first seem to follow its behavioral perspective. Yet, Bandura intermingles the social imputs which trigger behavior under the premise that they do follow a natural process that is inherent to all individuals. Contrastingly to Chomsky, Bandura does not officially defines or analyzes the internal processes that lead to learning. Yet, he is clear in that the process of learning is worth researching under a cognitive and psychological umbrella as it will be demonstrated in the analysis of Bandura’s definition of intelligence.

Bandura on intelligence: A Chomskyan cognitive approach?

The processes of behavioral acquisition through observation and modeling proposed by Bandura are achieved interactively (Bandura, 1977). The theory of Social Learning entails that learning is mainly behavioral, and extrinsically acquired (p. 29). It would be entirely unfair to conclude that Bandura’s theory does not open a window into the possibility of cognitive processes. Bandura’s theory mentions four elements which are part of the social aspect of learning, but that they are also cognitive in nature. These elements are activities that must take place in order for learning to happen. Maybe at the time Bandura unveiled the cognitive lining of his theory research had not been dully performed in brain activity and social learning. However, as with Chomsky, recent research will be briefly integrated to the analysis of Bandura’s theory as a way to illustrate that, in both theoretically and empirically, Bandura was correct. Bandura included a cognitive element to the process of social learning that, research will show, take place in specific areas of the human brain, making it clear that Bandura viewed these processes as part of a natural human response.

Bandura on intelligence: Social learning and brain activity

Bandura cites four major activities through which a person goes in order to a) obtain information or new behaviors: Attention, b) keep that new information inside their brains: Retention, c) repeat the information or behavior in a near future: Reproduction, d) become motivated to maintain it or expand it: Motivation (Bandura, 1977 p. 31)

These activities define how and why Bandura visualized them as part of a social context and a cognitive context. Additional information will be provided showing briefly how research in neurocognitive linguistics proves Bandura’s cognitive view of learning correctly. More detail on the recent research in brain activity will be expanded during the Depth component of the KAM. In summary, here are the learning processes postulated by Bandura, and the scientific support that warrants its accuracy.

a) Attention

The process of attention consists on focused observation that searches for the functional, affective, and unique value of the behavior (Bandura, 1997, p. 27). This function, however, is done cognitively. The Depth component of this KAM will show that research as recent as 2006, shows that the prefrontal and the parietal cortex in the brain attend to different attention modes (Miller, 2007). This fact makes Bandura’s theory both behavioral and cognitive.

b) Retention:

In Bandura’s behavioral perspective, retention is the process of cognitively attaining the characteristics of the behavior and bringing them to the core of the individual’s self (Bandura, 1977 p. 40). De Zubicaray, McMahon, Wilson, and Muthiah (2001) conducted thorough brain imaging which attributes retention to the central lateral prefrontal cortex of the brain. Additional research shows that the ventral lateral prefrontal cortex receives increased cortical signals selectively in that area during the process of memory retention under cognitive testing, and activity is also reported in the left brainstem, the inferior parietal lobule, and the right lateral premotor cortex. The depth component of the KAM will provide additional information on recent research based on the areas of retention and language reproduction. The importance of naming such research for the study of Bandura’s social learning lies in the fact that it shows the biopsychological implications of Bandura’s theoretical views of learning.

3) Reproduction:

In Bandura’s theory, reproduction is putting the acquired behavior into action. It is also repeating and adopting the learned behavior to apply further in a social context (Bandura, 1977 p. 38). In the same way, reproduction is also a cognitive and neurological process. Inoue and Mikami (2005) demonstrate that encoding information and the reproduction of it at a later time are two functions that occur in the neuronal activity from the lateral prefrontal cortex during serial probe reproduction tasks. Understanding reproduction as a cognitive and neurological action allows us to understand with more clarity why Bandura is specific about giving it a role within the process of learning.

4) Motivation:

The last method by which humans acquire information and learn is intertwined with motivation. Bandura defines motivation as an inner stimulus that leads to mimic the learned behavior. (Bandura, 1977 p. 43). This inner stimulus occurs in an area of the brain that, according to research by Kuntson, Westdorp and Sumner, (2000) is even more activated when the stimulus for motivation comes in the shape of rewards. Concisely, the area of the brain that is active during motivational tasks is called the striatal and mesial forebrain. This finding makes again Bandura’s theory look into the biological nature of learning as a process that is both social and neurocognitive.

Bandura on motivation: Self-efficacy

In addition to his outlook on motivation as a process that enables learning, Bandura is specific about the unique and particular attributes of motivation as an independent process on its own. This is evident in the coined term “self efficacy” (Bandura, 1994).

Bandura (1994) introduced the term “self-efficacy” as a component in human behavior.

Self efficacy entails the individual’s own perception about their performance on certain tasks throughout their lives (p. 71). Explained further, self-efficacy would determine performance and behavior, because the way people feel about themselves ultimately decides how much of their abilities they will use (or believe they can use) to succeed at something. A person will be able to learn as much as they feel that they can learn (p. 72). This motivation comes from a diverse round of sources. Bandura attributes them not only to the society of others, but also processes that include internal motivation, affection, and selection (p. 72). These processes come together internally, with external input. Such input comes as feedback, support, developmentally appropriate tasks, and motivation from others. It is important to point out the implications of these events within a classroom. A student who is motivated, feels accomplished through appropriately designed tasks, and receives positive feedback from peers and teachers develops that self-efficacy feeling that will encourage better performance.

Bandura’s theory is then a foundation that bases further theory on how learning is a product of environmental motivation and cognitive processes. Accoding to Bandura’s “most human behavior is cognitively motivated; forethought and expectations act in an anticipatorily manner forming ideals that delineate their capabilities” (Bandura, 1994 p. 75).

Along with expectations come goals, as well as methodologies that will anticipate the outcomes of actions (p. 75). Through this process, individuals place a value in the future of their actions. Bandura’s concept of motivation comes in three different forms: a) Causal attributions, b) outcome expectancies, and c) cognized goals. Self-efficacy would play a role in each of these forms of behavior.

Causal attributions are the ways in which some individuals believe of themselves as assets in any process, or what you could call a “If I succeed it is my gain, if I fail it is your loss” behavior. Therefore, causal attribution is a motivator that individuals use to place responsibility on something or someone else about their own actions.

Expectancy-value theory, contrary to causal attributions, is a behavior under which most people operate. It is characteristic of a series of possible outcomes that the individual would obtain if they engage in certain behaviors. An example of self-efficacy and expectancy-value theory would be the assumption that if you do good, something good will happen to you in return. Hence, activity is generated by the thought that something will happen in return. Yet, even this motivator is dictated by the individual’s personal interpretation of their capabilities. An example would be “if I do good something good would happen to me, but I am still not able to do good, so I will not do it” (Bandura, 1994). The underlying assumption behind this theoretical perspective of motivation states that goals would dictate how the individual would perform. The outcome of the performance is still entirely inherent to the beliefs of the person (Bandura, 1994). However, the mere existence of perceived efficacy does not automatically offer that performance will be excellent Bandura explains that too much self-concept may cause low performance, especially when a person who expects or is expected to excel, meets external circumstances that forbid or impede success. The result is that the person attributes their failures to insufficient efforts, yet the opposite happens with a person with low-self efficacy who attains a simple task but continues to give to credit to his or her ability (p. 402)

The final process of motivation is cognized goals. The role that goals play in motivation is proportional to the amount of cognitive processes that are used to compare actions to goals. Goals intensify the efforts of the individual and are completely influential in their lives. (Bandura, 1994). Yet, within motivation-based goals, there are three types of influences, according to Bandura: self-satisfying goals, self-dissatisfying reactions, perceived self-efficacy for goal attainment, and readjustment of personal goals based on one’s progress. (Bandura, 1994)

Conclusion on Bandura

In Bandura’s own words:

“most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: From observing others, one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action” (p. 22)

The above quote summarizes Bandura’s theory. “Social Learning” refers to the adoption and adaption of new behaviors that are found in daily and everyday contact. It is an active process where behaviors are observed and modeled in every context that rule the everyday lives of individuals. As people observe the traits of others they accept them, reject them, embrace them, imitate them, or adopt them. This process occurs under a methodology that is either: a) interactive, or through the connection and discourse with others, b) dynamic, or through the active seeking of information that one person transfers to another, c) consistent, or continuously at exposure with others’ behaviors, and d) intrapersonal, or through the bonds established through the communication with others.

Bandura avows that the consistent and reciprocal exchange of verbal and non-verbal communication in everyday human interactions stimulates a change, an adoption, or an adaptation of the behaviors of others to our own. The choice to repeat or adopt the new behavior is entirely dependent upon the individual. Although this might seem entirely behavioral and external, the consequences of learning preclude a theoretical perspective on the acquisition of intelligence.

It is clear that Bandura had a solidified concept of learning, motivation, and intelligence. His views included the concept of intelligence as a series of events that would eventually end up stored in the individual’s cognitive capacity. He viewed learning as the process by which individuals observe, absorb, adapt to, or adopt someone else’s behavior patterns. The option of repeating the behaviors is entirely left to the individual, yet, external motivators might be the key as to whether they will preserve the newly learned behaviors or exterminate them all at once.

Finally, Bandura explains how motivation is not a simple trigger or boost of energy to accomplish a goal. Individuals view motivation in three different ways according to his theory: They can perceive that their role in meeting goals is imperative, through self-efficacy motivators, or they would blame the failure of goals on external inputs.

Further theoretical analysis will show that Vygotsky also speaks of the process of learning under a zone of proximal development (ZPD). This zone entails the need for appropriate tasks that are developmentally agreeable to the student’s level and supported by peers and teachers for purposes of motivation to perform at, and above, such level (Vygotsky, 1978). Similarly, Krashen advocates that an “affective filter” will pronounce the ability of a student and will promote changes in behavior conducive to learning. Yet, it is Vygotsky’s theory that stems directly from Bandura, adding a cognitive edge to language as a tool for development.



Lee Vygotsky, like Bandura and Chomsky, views learning as a process that requires environmental input and social interaction. His theory will show how, within a set environment, individuals serve as each other’s monitors, supporters, and guides. His take on language as an actively-learned behavior will similarly agree with the views of the previous philosophers. Yet, what sets Vygotsky’s theory apart is the notion of scaffolding, or building upon a foundation, through a process of constructivism which takes place at a developmentally appropriate and prime learning zone, and where peers act as motivators to reach the next higher level of capacity and potential.

Vygotsky on learning and intelligence: Constructivism

While Albert Bandura’s theory philosophizes on observation and modeling as the cognitive conduits of social learning (Bandura, 1977), Vygotsky (1978) presents a different perspective where new behaviors and learning processes are built upon current behaviors and prior knowledge. This view of new behavior built on the foundations of current behaviors gives light to the term that defines Vygotsky’s overall theory of “constructivism” (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 34)

Constructivism stems from Bandura’s theory in that both place importance on discourse and interaction as the channels for learning (Feden & Voguel, 2003) Vygotsky, however, shifts slightly from the social perspective of the theory and focuses on language as the key to the cognitive aspect of learning (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 52). Similarly to Bandura’s social learning theory, the use of language is an important element of development. In Vygotsky’s theory, language is described as a “powerful psychological tool” that underpins the thinking processes and helps individuals develop both cognitively and socially (p.56). Feden & Vogel (2003) discuss that the rationale behind this philosophy is that spoken language is the first channel used to become a part of the environment even from infancy. We continue to use language as we progress through life, and it allows us to obtain, retain, and produce information. Concisely, brain and cognitive activity is pushed forward by the social contributions that come as a result of discourse, guided collaboration, and cooperative learning. In other words, it is language what helps us “learn”.

Vygotsky’s theory can be summarized in his own words as he states:

..”Every function in the child’s cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychological). This applies equally to voluntary attention, to logical memory, and to the formation of concepts. All the higher functions originate as actual relationships between individuals” (p. 57).

The higher functions to which Vygotsky refers occur in a particular time and place that is inherent to each individual as part of their biological and psychological make-up. This time and place is defined by Vygotsky as the Zone of Proximal Development, or the ZPD. It is there where the interpsychological and intrapsychological development occurs with the aid of the immediate support systems. Mentoring, collaboration, and peer relations are the key factors to make this happen.

Vygotsky on learning: Zone of Proximal Development and scaffolding

Vygotsky theorized that all human beings possess a “zone of proximal development, or ZPD”. This concept can be paraphrased as a measure of the potential of an individual at a certain human developmental stage versus the potential the individual could develop with added input and guidance from a mentoring environment. The notion of a ZPD presupposes that such human potential is unlimited and the capacity is expandable depending on the quality of input received from the immediate support systems, for instance, peers (Vygotsky, 1978 p. 85). Concisely, Vygotsky’s theory directly implicates sociology as an essential part of cognitive development. The conduit that connects the individual with its environment is language (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 86)

The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) entails that cognitive development is interdependent on environmental input, mostly in the form of peer influences that are created, strengthened and, eventually, solidified through language. An additional dimension to this theory also states that this process of interaction, input, and development, occurs within an organized system. This system is based on six steps through which individuals are guided towards the actual learning with the assistance of peers. This systematic approach to learning is called “scaffolding” (Vygotsky, 1962).

The process of scaffolding can be paraphrased as a period of constructive dialogue and interaction where the individual’s prior and current knowledge comes together with that of other people. The discourse that comes from sharing, particularly when tasks need to be accomplished with the aid of others who can help accomplish them, are conducive to learning. To this day, scaffolding is one of the methodologies that persist in most classrooms. It is exemplified in the constant exchange of ideas and information that occurs among students. Theoretically, the optimal learning environment is one in which students who know more than others will help their peers to attain the higher classroom goals by sharing their knowledge with the others, thus benefitting everyone in the classroom as a learning community. These students serve as pillars within the classroom sociology, and Vygotsky identifies them as the MKO’s or “More Knowledgeable Others” (Vygotsky, 1964).

Vygotsky on motivation: MKO and ZPDs

In Vygotsky’s theory knowledge, or intelligence, is developed further through the exposure to social systems and within the interactions with peers particularly those who are more knowledgeable, or MKOs. A MKO is not a set individual. It is whoever possesses the skills or knowledge about a specific subject or task at hand which will eventually lead the rest of the group towards more learning on that subject or task. A MKO can be a peer, a family member, a role model, or the teacher. The MKOs directly affects the ZPD by helping individuals teach their higher potentials by raising their levels of competence. The ways in which they do this include, but are not limited to motivating and engaging the learners, breaking the tasks into subtasks that can be easily accomplished, and maintaining focus (Vygotsky, 1978). The specific role of the teacher is to give the students the opportunity to engage in this type of collaboration and being the guide who will direct this process not as an authoritarian, but in a way in which the kids feel compelled to become like the teacher (Vygotsky, 1978).

Conclusion on Vygostky

Vygotsky writes:

“…In this sense, education in every country and in every epoch has always been social in nature. Indeed, by its very essence it could hardly exist as anti-social in anyway. Both in the seminary and in the old high school, in the military schools and in the schools for the daughters of the nobility … it was never the teacher or the tutor who did the teaching, but the particular social environment in the school which was created for each individual instance”

(Vygotsky, 1997 p. 47)

The above quote basically reaffirms Vygotsky as a behaviorist and social theorist whose main theoretical framework consists on mutual interaction, consistent input, and collaborative learning. These basic elements coexist within regular human development, and are the basic foundations of social development. Building upon a foundation of knowledge is what makes his theory a “constructivist” philosophy. The main idea is that learning is a process of input and output between those who know more and people who need to learn from them.

The discourse that occurs from the exchange of ideas and knowledge from those who are most knowledgeable to others, help people build upon their current body of knowledge, and learn new information. The strategy to do this is called scaffolding, and the aim of it is to create and build confidence and skill among the learners in their zones of proximal development. These zones of development are the target that aims to be reached and elevated through the sociology that takes place in the classroom. In basic terminology, Vygotsky advocates for a learning environment in which students help each other learn more things, and where the teacher serves as a coach that guides the cooperative learning among peers. This community of learners will develop sociology of mutual support; engaging learning experiences, and focuses so that new experiences and learning can occur. Through this social component, Vygostky proposes that development is enhanced, for it is through the experiential processes that the internal development of individuals as healthy members of the community will take place.

The theory of constructivism as a whole conveys the extrinsic and intrinsic need for environmental input that will allow the individual to bring out their prior knowledge, connect it to current and new information, and then produce new behaviors. This process occurs within the person’s appropriate zone of development (ZPD) with the aim of extending the capacity and potential of the individual towards a higher goal. Concisely, constructivism is a very similar take on learning as in Bandura’s social learning, with the exception that Vygotsky emphasizes in the cognitive aspect of language as an acquisition process that will require scaffolding to easily enter the realms of the mind. The next theorist, Stephen Krashen, also views language acquisition as a series of sub processes and would agree with Vygotsky in the statement of language being “a most powerful tool.”

Stephen Krashen:

Introduction: Krashen on intelligence and learning: Input, monitoring, and affective filters

Krashen’s theory of second language acquisition focuses on the process of obtaining, retaining, and producing verbal communication. Much like the theories of Bandura and Vygotsky, Krashen renders the role of language and its acquisition as a social learning process that involves a number of cognitive methods. Krashen and Bandura would coincide that acquiring language is a social learning process that involves observation and modeling through the constant interaction and exposure to language in everyday life. Krashen and Vygotsky would agree that language acquisition is also a cognitive process in which recognition, prior knowledge, retention, and other mental processes build a foundation of knowledge that later helps to interact with the social environment. Yet, Krashen’s theory of second language acquisition mentions two different processes by which humans input external codes from their day-to-day interactions: Acquiring and Learning. These two ways of obtaining language are the axis of what Krashen’s theory of intelligence, motivation, and learning.

Language learned, language acquired

The theory of language acquisition combines both social and cognitive elements as part of a process which is a) acquired, and b) learned (Krashen, 1987 p. 12). In theory, these two processes are independent and based on each individual’s performance. The language which is “acquired” pertains to the cognitive component of human development. It occurs naturally along with other developmental processes that begin with infancy. For it to be triggered, however, there must be complete verbal interaction (p. 25). Krashen would agree that during the stage of language acquisition the natural language that results from the communicative act itself, that is, from the input, the feedback, the responses, the non-verbal communication, and the affect that results as a consequence of establishing a communicative relationship are the key to establishing a foundation for further learning (Krashen, 1987 p. 27)

Krashen’s language acquisition theory reflects Chomsky’s Universal Grammar (UG), in the concept of a language which is naturally obtained. Yet, much as with Chomsky’s faculty of language for narrow purposes, Krashen offers a “learned” language system theory. In Krashen’s view, language that is learned happens through the input one receives formally during academic instruction. The basic difference between these two systems is that acquired language is considered to be a “natural” consequence of mutual and consistent exposure to language during dialogue, whereas “acquired” language refers to rules and regulations about language that are learned to use it in diverse settings, for example, grammar and spelling tasks (Krashen, 1987).

Krashen would agree that the acquisition of natural language is more important in terms of relevance than the instructional language learned in school. For once, people are constantly and consistently engaged in some sort of communication during school hours, socialization, work, and home. Language comes as a need to enter the immediate environment, and to establish connections among speakers. Learned language is the teaching of the proper use of language according to the accepted grammatical rules of the culture: The way to use it, tense agreement, subject and verb agreement, the use of articles and the proper use of adverbs, and every other regulation that makes it general and for formal usage, for deferential purposes, and for specific reasons (Krashen, 1987 p. 67). The manner in which he defines the preponderance of natural versus learned language lays in his Monitor hypothesis of language acquisition.

Monitor hypothesis

Krashen explains that natural language is bound to exist in a higher echelon of relevance in an individual’s process of language acquisition because it consists on the primary utterances that are emitted to convey a thought or idea (Krashen, 1987). In a secondary tier within this concept, learned language would serve as the mold and frame that watches over the manner in which natural language is expressed. Krashen refers to it as “monitor” because of the rules and regulations that grammar, semantics, syntax, and spelling bestows upon the regular usage of language. Therefore, an individual’s natural tendencies to use language will be in constant interaction with the tasks that are expected from learned language. Eventually, a constant exposure to monitor language (through the academic use of language rather than its natural usage), both systems will coexist throughout the person’s lifetime. (Krashen, 1987).

The monitor hypothesis is evident in certain instances of second language learning where more emphasis is given to the correct spelling, semantic and syntactic use of the words rather than on the word itself. This is the reason why Krashen discourages favoring monitoring over free-based learning. In his view, if teachers adopt the teaching of language as a recital of rules and regulations, it will never come naturally to the student. Krashen rather embraces the allowance of free-flowing vocabulary and the affective and receptive methodologies of language teaching so that the learner makes it a relevant part of the process as she or he would with natural language. (Krashen, 2007)

Krashen even advocates free-based language learning to this day with the use of the internet, and any text-based exposure to second and first languages (Krashen, 2007). This does not mean that monitoring is considered a reductionist approach to second language teaching, on the contrary, it is a resource that defines and solidifies words within their contexts. The monitor language is what sets apart distinction and defines academics in society; it is not necessary to quote research or theory to state that those individuals who are deemed educated and intelligent are often characterized for the proper and careful use of learned language. Yet, Krashen hypothesized that these individuals might have acquired this skill in a manner which might be similarly acquired by other first and second language learners if the optimal learning conditions are in place and effective teaching goals are met. This is what Krashen called the “Natural Order” hypothesis of language acquisition (Krashen, 1987).

Krashen’s Natural Order hypothesis: A Chomskyan view of language processing?

The Natural Order hypothesis by Krashen is based on the premise that when language is learned by acquisition (not formally), there are still grammatical structures that will come, as the name implies, naturally throughout the process (Krashen, 1987). This is a theoretical perspective much similar to Chomsky’s Universal Grammar, in that the syntactic, grammatical (and we could also say semantic) formation of communicative language and spoken words will follow a specific pattern that is natural to the language to which the individual is mostly exposed. Concretely, an example of this process could be the learning of the Spanish language. The syntactic pattern of saying the noun followed by the adjective that describes it is inherent to the Spanish language and the opposite of English in which the adjective is said before the noun. Krashen’s Natural Order theory would agree that, with constant and consistent exposure to the target language, even these differences in grammar and syntax could be overlooked by the learner, as they will understand them as a natural element of the language to which they are becoming exposed. Krashen would also agree that such consistent exposure might make it a simple process for a learner to switch from one language to another even with these differences in usage. (Krashen, 1987)

Krashen’s Input hypothesis and Vygotsky’s ZPD

Krashen’s Natural Order hypothesis and Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development theory are very similar in explaining learning as a process in an individual’s prior knowledge and foundation are very important for the further acquisition of new information. In second language acquisition terms, an individual’s first learned language will be what will serve as a foundation to acquire the second one. This concept is very evident in the theoretical views of Vygotsky and Krashen.

As previously analyzed, Vygotsky’s theory of Zone of Proximal Development explains that learning consists in a collaborative and mutual exchange of information between those who are More Knowledgeable than Others (MKO) and those whom they will help with specific tasks. These interactions occur within an individual’s zone of proximal development, or the appropriate developmental cognitive state at which an individual is at the moment when he or she is about to learn a new task. As discussed, individuals often work one step above their zone, which is the moment where they need to learn a new task and obtain the help of others more knowledgeable than them. The ultimate goal of the collaboration between MKO’s and the rest of the learners is to increase and expand knowledge within that zone, and increase the potential for further development; i.e.: To reach the top of the zone, which was already set at a higher cognitive level.

Krashen similarly defines the process of acquiring a new language (or language learning) through his Input theory. It was previously analyzed that, in Krashen’s terms, “acquired” language is that language learned naturally by people, and “learned” language refers to formal grammatical studies of language. Granting this, Krashen’s theory is similar to Vygotsky’s ZPD in that the process that involves receiving input in the second language one step ahead of the current foundation of knowledge of the learner. Just like with the ZPD, the goal is that the learner reaches a higher level of knowledge by being exposed to new information. In Krashen’s theory, the equivalent to a zone of proximal development would be a “natural communicative input” (Krashen, 1997) While Vygotsky theorized about acquiring a new skill under a ZPD, Krashen theorized about the individual acquiring new vocabulary under a pattern of “basic language , plus” (Krashen, 1987 p. 45), in other words, using the current linguistic competence of the student and adding new terminology in a consistent basis. This is a similar pattern to Vygotsky’s ZPD theory where the current zone of student development would be increased by the addition of more and new skills through collaborative learning (Vygotsky, 1978)

The Input hypothesis is Krashen’s suggestion for the development of second language curricula, under the premise that not all learners will learn at the same time, or at the same rate, therefore, this formula for input would result in an effective way to monitor student language learning (Krashen, 1997).

Krashen on motivation: The Affective filter

According to Krashen, a student becomes more motivated through free-based learning, free-based web surfing, and free-based reading (Krashen, 1987, 2001, 2007). This reflects a vestige of Chomskyan theory, since Chomsky also rejects that language could be learned without a context. In fact, as previously analyzed, Chomsky advocates for the integration of language as a natural acquisition to all humans. Therefore, Krashen’s view on language to be learned without boundaries, in a natural environment, and with relevance, blends both theories together.

Within Krashen’s penta partite theory of language learning and acquisition there is a fifth hypothesis that points at one particular element as a trigger of motivation: This element is the Affective filter.

The affective filter is a combination of variables that facilitate learning. Within these variables motivation is a key factor as well as other types of affect such as fear, anxiety, self-confidence, and other feelings that occur during the learning process (Krashen, 1987). Krashen can be credited with research-based evidence supporting his claim that students who are highly motivated, and are well-liked are more likely to have less levels of anxiety and thus their affective filter will be open to acquisition of new information, instead of blocked by disturbing emotional obstacles that would impede accepting input from the environment. This is where the term “mental block” is often referenced. (Krashen, 1987)

The synergism between affect and motivation

Krashen’s theory also points out to motivation as part of the learning process. The affective filter serves as a facilitator for learning thanks to a series of variables. Motivation is a key factor that, depending on the positive or negative influence of emotions, will occur, cease. Feelings such as fear, and anxiety will block the student’s mind and disable the capability of learning; the opposite would occur in a positive, open environment where the proper teaching practices take place (Krashen, 1987).

Krashen, Bandura, and Vygotsky can all be credited with the advocacy of effective learning through cooperative learning, and with the view of the classroom as a microcosmic stratus of society. Within this environment of mutual support, teaching, learning, and guidance, individuals become part of a sociology that aims nothing but to acquire, and expand towards new skills and information; a social group that engages in activity that promotes social change.

Conclusion on Krashen and the similarities among theories

When revisiting Chomsky, Bandura and Vygotsky, their philosophical view of language is viewed as a tool that is best used when the individual feels that it is important, natural, and relevant to them. In Chomsky’s theory, the inherent nature of language makes it a foundation for the acquisition of new communication, and the natural organization of such information within the brain (Chomsky, 1955). In Bandura’s theory, language is an important part of an individual’s social development, since verbal communication is the tool that brings together all social systems (Bandura, 1964). In Social learning, motivation is a key element for this to occur. Bandura’s theorizes that from the contact with others, individuals will make connections and become part of a social system. The motivation that comes out of making these connections result in people imitating and often acquiring new behaviors learned through the input that comes from the behaviors of others (Bandura, 1964).

Similarly, in Vygotsky’s view, the collaborative interaction of learners as part of a social system within the classroom takes place between students who are MKOs (More Knowledgeable than Others), and their peers. The cooperative learning with MKOs helps empower their peers to absorb new information, and to allow learning to take place as a process. A difference from Bandura, however, is that Vygotsky theorizes that this process occurs within a student’s ZPD (Zone of Proximal Development) and that the goal of the relationship between the MKOs and their peers is to extend the peers’ ZPD by increasing the knowledge, and expanding their learning potential (Vygotsky, 1978). Concisely, both Bandura and Vygotsky concide in that the learner’s role within a society that invites the acquisition of new behaviors and skills is the underlying motivator that enables the learning to occur.

This is how, whether cognitively, intra or inter psychologically, socially, or behaviorally, these theorists embody the promotion of social change through the theoretical notions of learning and acquisition that are promoted in their philosophical benchmarks.

Krashen’s theory of second language acquisition is one that combines social learning and cognitive development. It agrees with Bandura in that language is a process that is learned through observation and modeling. It does give importance to language as a social process that is necessary as a tool that empowers psychological development through the use of cognitive abilities leading to changes in behavior, which coincides with Chomsky, and Vygotsky as well. Language, therefore, is a two-fold composite made of natural and monitor verbal codes, one is natural, and one is a monitor of the other. Both codes are used simultaneously, and are equally important.

Krashen is a cognitive and social theorist, and his theories can be used as continuums of Chomsky, Bandura and Vygotsky. Its influence in today’s development of curricula is most evident in the focus that schools give to learning as a natural process that should not be taught in isolation, but as part of the student’s environment. Krashen can be credited with a change in the views of education and of second language learning. Perhaps his theory could be summarized in the saying “Less is More”, that is, allow students to learn the basics within a framework of constant exposure, and the brain will do the rest. This cognitive part is what brings us to Chomsky, as a foundation theorist and modern theorist who also visualizes the learning process as a brain ability, but with a twist on how exactly humans are able to perform it.

Howard Gardner


Previously in the Breadth, it was stated that the Encarta (2006) definition of intelligence can be synthesized as a “capacity” or “skill”. Under Chomsky’s perspective, it was the capacity or faculty that is inherent to us to acquire language. Under Bandura’s perspective, such capacity is triggered by social exposure. Under Vygotsky, as well as Krashen, that capacity is enabled by the construction of new knowledge over prior knowledge. Gardner (1989) continues the trend of intelligence as an inherent capacity, and specifically diversifies it towards a multicultural dimension. He deems it as “the capacity to solve problems or to fashion products that are valued in one or more cultural settings” (Gardner, Hatch, 1989).

Gardner on intelligence and motivation

Intelligence, in Gardner’s view, is (as with our previously reviewed theorists) also an innate capacity or potential to solve problems, and fashion products within our culture. This capacity is acquired by nature, and natural to all human beings (Gardner, Hatch, 1989). When his theory first took shape back in 1983, Gardner applied a mainly cognitive and Chomskyan approach to his views on intelligence and goes even further by isolating factors that would demonstrate its existence in each individual. Gardner takes an additional neurocognitive stand by separating intelligence into seven categories (Gardner, 1983). These categories will be described in the next section.

Gardner intrinsically embeds motivation within his intelligence theory. An individual should be tasked in the areas where he or she is the strongest in order to strengthen the skill and take it to a further level of ability. (Gardner, 1983). If an individual is not tasked and challenged in the areas where he or she is deemed most intelligent, the skill might be lost, underused, or underdeveloped (Gardner, 1983). It is notable that this is also a Vygotskyan look at learning as a process that requires constant monitoring. It also reflects a tendency for Skinner’s operant conditioning theory, and Krashen’s theories of language learning through natural means. Concisely, Gardner’s views of motivation are much similar to those of the other theorists in that learning will happen most effectively in an environment where the skills that are known and dominated by the student are served with appropriate tasks

The multiple intelligence (MI) theory

Howard Gardner’s premise is that every human being possesses a series of qualities which add up to a capacity, or “intelligence”. There are seven intelligences, according to Gardner. They are different from each other, but do not work independently. In this theory, brain activity is necessary from all frames of thought and ability to bring out the skill (Gardner, 1983 p. 4) Intelligence is prevalent and has the potential of increasing with developmentally appropriate tasks much like Vygotsky’s theory of Zones of Proximal Development or (ZPDs). Similarly also with Chomsky, Gardner views intelligence (particularly linguistic intelligence) as an inherited trait, which everyone can cultivate and which will change as the circumstances to which it is expose become more or less complex through time (Gardner, 1983 p. 10). Gardner even extends the skill and natural process of intelligence to a biological axiom. He theorizes that even a person who is brain damaged does not cease to be intelligent; the potential intelligence simply goes unused or perhaps even isolated in specific areas that would make the person greatly compensate for that which they cannot do, and become savants in areas where they can (p. 6).

The fact that intelligence can be enhanced, mixed, and manipulated epitomizes the gist behind Gardner’s theory: Each individual is capable to excel, or perform confidently, in a series of skills and tasks. Some do better than others in different things, therefore, within the acquired intelligence possessed by all humans some intelligences excel in one area while others excel in other areas. This logic is what compiles the theory that he deemed as “multiple intelligences” : The differentiated capacities of human brainpower, and the way that they manifest from person to person (Gardner, 1983 p. 7).

Initially, Gardner combined typical and modern views on what could be included in his catalog of intelligences. At first he listed seven intelligences, two of which are tested in psychometrics for school entrance tests (math and reading). He was able to integrate artistic intelligences to his list and one cannot help but wonder the level of radicalism that such integrations might have implied during times when psychometrics were rampant in the field of education, and only certain intelligences were accepted to be tested. To add to the diversified vision that Gardner offered to the fields of psychology, education, and even linguistics, Gardner included intelligences that combined personality (interpersonal and intrapersonal) to his list (Gardner, 1999 p. 40). Concisely, Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory combines both cognitive and behavioral concepts that diverse and specific to the intelligences of each individual.

The intelligences are:

  1. Visual and Spatial-

The ability to make observations and perceive the visual details of objects, or the competence to take abstract ideas and visualize them concretely by connecting them to actual, tangible objects (Gardner, 1983). The implications for visual and spatial relationships in teaching, particularly language teaching, involve the use of imagery, pictures, and observational enhancers that enable the learner to make connections during the learning process

(Gardner, 1989 p. 10).

  1. Linguistic intelligence-

This intelligence entails an ability to produce language, acquire words, integrate them to conversations, and even create new vocabulary (Gardner, 1989, p. 21) It is interesting to note the Chomskyan influence in the inclusion of this intelligence as part of the list. As detailed earlier, Chomsky had a view of the linguistic corpus as an inherited intelligence that is expanded by the Language Acquisition Device. Therefore, an implication to the field of education based out of this ability is to emphasize in activities involving word formation, etymology games, and intelligence-based tasks that would enhance the skill.

  1. Logical mathematical intelligence –

Conveys an ability to use higher thinking skill to conduct problem solving activities, identify patterns, work with the abstract, follow axioms and paradigms, to inquire and experiment, make calculations, identifying and producing research data, and overall understanding all units of measurement individually. The parts of the brain that are used for these abilities can be drilled and put to work in a way that the student can extend the skill and strengthen it.

  1. Body Kinesthetic Intelligence-

This intelligence is expressed in the ability to control gross and fine motor systems as well as body movements, good balance, hands-on experiments, acting, using the body to convey expression, and the use of coordination.

  1. Musical and rhythmic intelligence-

The learners of this group, similarly to the linguists, and the spatial groups, tend to bring their thought into sounds, patterns, music, and rhythm. They can differentiate sounds from noises, and they appreciate all sorts of sounds from either instruments to those naturally occurring in the environment.

  1. Interpersonal intelligence –

According to Gardner, this group of thinkers is able to sympathize, commiserate, understand, and relate to others in ways superior to the mere attachments of friendship. These individuals can sense the affect of people, even in those that they are not familiar with.

  1. Intrapersonal intelligence-

This intelligence pertains to having an understanding of yourself, of 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 because those people tend not to screw up. They tend to know what they can do. They tend to know what they can’t do. And they tend to know where to go if they need help.

The list of intelligences has grown, and is perhaps expected to continue to grow as more discoveries are made in the fields of cognitive neurolinguistics, biology, psychology, education, and language. An interesting intelligence included by Gardner is the logical-mathematical intelligence. The inclusion of “logic” to mathematical intelligence implies that it goes beyond mere ability. It does not only include the capacity to memorize multiplication facts and the order of operations as it would have been tested in the past, but it also entails the understanding of the problem solving process, the conceptualization of the axioms and paradigms that are involved in true mathematical thinking, and the usage of neurological skills to obtain a product which goes beyond the mere recognition of organized numbers. (Gardner, 1999 p. 50) From a mathematical perspective, and in a similar tangent, enters the “spatial” intelligence.

For example, in a typical mathematical entrance examination test facts, concepts, axioms, and spatial intelligence had been tested as one, students who are versed in one of those skills, and not all, would have produced a false score showing perhaps that they were not versed in Math in the first place. Gardner, however emphasizes basically that just because something “looks” mathematical does not mean that the same type of brain capacity is being used, nor that the individual necessarily has to possess it. Spatial intelligence is similar to Mathematical intelligence in that it acquires, recognizes, processes, conceptualizes, integrates, and is able to produce pattern-thinking, yet, spatial intelligence also includes “patterns of wide space as well as enclosed areas.” (Gardner, 1999 p. 45). In this writer’s opinion, such intelligence is granted to artists, and not necessarily to mathematicians, otherwise all mathematicians would be able to also be cartoonists or painters, though there is no denying that both groups are categorized as “clever” by most social standards, and the research in the depth component will show the level of interconnection of such intelligences.

Gardner does not emphasize in any intelligence as being superior to another (Gardner, 1999 p. 44). He is specific in the importance of them all as part of a composite, or as relevant to the individual’s needs. Maybe, in the past, the arts (for example) were not considered as important as the sciences. However, such paradigm stops with Gardner since he gives importance to musical intelligence, kinesthetic (bodily) intelligence, and the “personal” intelligences with as much rank as the more quantifiable sciences (p. 45). Intelligences in categories involving personality and artistic ability are viewed as more pragmatic and less empirical in most modern and capitalist eyes, in this writer’s opinion. Yet, the attribute of Gardner’s theory is the importance it equally grants to each of the intelligences. For instance, Gardner defines “musical” intelligence as a skill that involves not only the production of a musical piece with an instrument, but also the ability to perform it, to compose it, recognize its patterns, and to appreciate them by connecting them, comparing them, and contrasting them to the patterns of other styles of music (Gardner, 1999 p. 51). It is important to note that Gardner agrees that linguistic and musical intelligences go hand in hand because they use abilities needed to recognize patterns in both fields. Therefore, we could conclude that, in Gardner’s opinion, language is music, and music is a form of language (Gardner, 1999 p. 52).

An important note to consider about Gardner’s theory is that each intelligence does not work independently, in fact, they all need the skills and competences available to each one of them to work as one entire composite (p. 47).

Gardner on Learning:

Gardner’s theoretical framework entitles the premise that learning is done independently, and circumstantially. Evidence of this is show in his Frames of Mind book where he quotes intelligences as “pieces” that are associated to their culture, linked together, and complementing each other (Gardner, 1999 p. 44). Similarly to the views of Bandura and Vygostky, the acquisition of intelligence occurs in an environment where individuals free free and safe to manifest their current knowledge, and build upon it. In Gardner’s theory, the implications to teaching do not rely necessarily on how people learn, but on how the intelligences can be accommodated in a process of learning. It was stated before that there is a Chomskyan perspective in Gardner’s theory based on his vision on intelligence as an “acquired” skill (p. 45). Yet, he says that the challenge lies on taking advantage on those set skills and expanding them to the fullest (Gardner, 1999 p.45). Gardner also insists that the seven theories of intelligence grant seven different ways of learning, therefore, there should be also a myriad of ways for teaching. Gardner is being used for the creation of curricula around the country when it is considered that his vision is that students will excel when the areas with which they are more attuned are the focal point of the teaching process. This does not mean to cater to the particular tastes of each student, but to offer teaching alternatives that will help students correlate the new information to their particular abilities, and perhaps even discover additional ones (Gardner, 1999).

Gardner on motivation

The theory of Multiple Intelligences grants great importance to the uniqueness of each individual, and the mental, physical, emotional, and personal capacities naturally-possessed by people. This entails that each intelligence correlates to the circumstances in which people engage their time, and experiences. Motivation is the key to allowing intelligence to manifest (Gardner, 1999). It is clear in the review of the MI theory that Gardner advocates for teaching that is relevant and natural to students. Long are the days where books had to be memorized or endless sentences with no contextual meaning had to be written in dozens for students to acquire learning of some sort. Gardner’s transcendental view of human intellect rests on the need to circumvent meaningful learning experiences which, in turn, will grant the student the opportunity to engage in a deep exploration of information, and thus will motivate him to expand, and integrate knowledge (Gardner, 1999).


The theoretical analysis of this KAM summarized, analyzed, compared, and contrasted the main theories of learning, intelligence, and motivation under the scope of second language acquisition according to Chomsky, Bandura, Vygostky, Krashen, and Gardner. The analysis began with Chomsky’s philosophical views on language learning, and his rebuttal to the purely behavioral theories of learning proposed by Skinner. Chomsky’s preoccupation for a proper scientific foundation in the study of linguistics was the basis of his philosophical perspectives. Chomsky ensured that his own future investigations would combine a methodology that would solidify findings in the areas of language learning. Chomsky proposed an inherited body of linguistic knowledge possessed by humans which he called the “Language Acquisition Device” (LAD). This theoretical speculation of an apparatus in which language is processed and modified conveys the importance of neurological operations in the development of language and in learning. Chomskyan influence permeates current learning theories and research as investigators continue to link language learning to specific brain activities showing the need to include both biological and social factors in the study of linguistics. These researches will be discussed in the depth component of the KAM. Conclusively, the manner in which Chomsky influenced the views and theories of the philosophies discussed in this KAM is proportional to the manner in which each theorist ended up influencing each other throughout time.

In contrast with Chomsky, Bandura (1977) reverts back to Skinner’s behavioral models. In Social Learning (Bandura, 1977) terminologies such as “self- efficacy” and “modeling” are described as key factors to acquire information, and to learn and adapt new behaviors. Similarly to Skinner, Bandura views language as a process that requires different approaches in order to learn it. These approaches are a result of the different phrases through which language is acquired which, in Bandura’s theory are: a) Attention, or the process of focusing in a particular circumstance through observation, b) Retention, or the process of keeping details in short and long term memory with ease to retrieve at any time c) Reproduction, or the process of retrieving information and use it, in this case, the actual use of the learned language d) Motivation, or the required amount of energy that the learner will voluntarily employ to do the entire process. (Bandura, 1977). The four steps of learning proposed by Bandura imply the inclusion of several forms of brain activity that allow them to happen. For this reason, Bandura’s social learning theory can extend and expand towards a cognitive and biological realm where internal and external activity is interdependent on each other. Bandura also influences current theoretical streams, particularly with its implications on education. A safe and productive learning environment with appropriate activities is likely the best situation for a student to be able to put the processes of learning to work: Attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation will not happen on their own, unless the individual is properly equipped to undergo these processes appropriately. Bandura’s views on modeling behaviors and acquiring behavior from observation and self efficacy is further delineated by the views of Vygotsky, and the way in which he perceived language and learning in an appropriate environment. This is similar to the views of Bandura and Chomsky.

Vygotsky solidified the view of learning as a process of scaffolding, or building upon prior knowledge. The concept of scaffolding implies that there is a need for biological processes to function in developmentally- appropriate settings to allow for the learning to take place. Motivation, in both Chomskyan and Banduran perspectives, is the product of combining proper tasks and correct rewards to trigger the individual’s craving to perform at a higher scale. Vygotsky grants the need for developmentally appropriate activities and learning environments in which individuals would help each other reach higher goals. Cooperative learning, that is, learning in groups, and the Most Knowledgeable Others (MKO’s) are concepts that give importance to behaviorism and modeled learning as part of a social environment. Vygotsky’s Zones of Proximal Development (ZPDs) and his hypothesis of Scaffolding would be the cognitive and psychological are the doppelgangers of the behavioral processes of observation and modeling. Vygotsky demonstrated that both cognitive and behavioral elements are equally important to be included in a classroom environment. Like Bandura and Chomsky, Vygotsky’s theories have implications in the field of education because it conveys the message that learning does not happen in a passive environment, where the teacher is the main speaker over a set of hopefully listening ears, but that the process is active, requires interaction, movement, cooperation, models, and enough input to motivate learning.

In a similar way, Krashen’s theory of language acquisition denotes elements of Bandura’s social learning, Vygotsky’s cooperative learning and scaffolding theories, and Chomsky’s assumption of an acquired linguistic corpus and the Universal Grammar (UG) theories. It proposes the existence of a natural language which is inherent to all of us, followed by the “editing” nature of the monitor language which helps us use it properly in a cognitive level. Krashen’s analyzes the concept of motivation with the affective filter theory, which is the creation of a circumstance in which the individual finds relevance and importance to what is being taught. This concept also alludes to Bandura’s self-efficacy theory, and Chomsky’s own theories of learning. Krashen, along with the rest of the theorists, agrees that learning can only take place when the information is relevant, and appeals to the interest and circumstances of the student.

Finally, Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligence shows that individuals are naturally skilled in some areas more than others. This premise calls for close attention to what are the individual needs of students in a classroom, particularly noting to what extend can people’s intelligence can be served best. Gardner mentions that the intelligences continue to be discovered as neurocognitive studies expand research to unveil the abilities of the brain. Intelligence, in Gardners view, is therefore a composite of abilities that can improve and expand with proper teaching methodologies. The inclusion of a “linguistic” intelligence, that is, the ability to encode, decode, recognize, reproduce, and create words and language clearly identifies its theory to that of Chomsky’s claims of an inherited linguistic corpus, and Krashen’s natural input and natural language hypothesis. Vygotsky’s scaffolding method and Bandura’s self-efficacy are also evidenced in Garner’s claims to the proper identification of educational needs of students with the aim that the intelligences will be nurtured properly Coinciding with the rest of the theorists, Gardner points out that learning takes place where the individual is motivated to do so, and that motivation will come as a result of a correct and developmentally-appropriate set of tasks that will embrace the uniqueness of the student and bring the best out of him or her.

Positively, Chomsky, Bandura, Vygostky, Krashen, and Gardner denote similar principles in their views of how individuals acquire knowledge, whether it is by nature, or through nurture. Regardless whether they possess a cognitive or behavioral view of learning, the all agree in that each individual possesses a unique set of traits that should be addressed by teachers and parents. When these traits are properly included in a learning program, all theorists agree that the effects are additive, as the individual will build new information upon prior knowledge, creating a body of intelligence. Finally, all theorists also coincide in that motivation is a product that comes from the successes that the individual experiences as a result of the learning process, and feeling as a relevant part of the learning experience.

Conclusively, the implications of the theoretical works of Chomsky, Bandura, Vygotsky, Krashen, and Gardner in the teaching of second languages call for a) the proper identification of the unique learning traits of each student , b) developmentally-appropriate tasks followed by feedback and guidance, c) teaching under a premise that the student can indeed build upon prior knowledge, d) providing of a basic and solid foundation of information that includes the student, making him or her part of the entire learning process, e) allowing for a creative and safe environment that engages and motivates the student to use their skills to the fullest potential.

The practice of teaching methodologies that comply with the theoretical views and suggestions proposed by the theorists of this KAM are meant to ensure a successful learning experience, the acquisition of a rich body of intelligence, and the creation of motivational experiences that encourages the individual to dare and desire to continue to learn.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: