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Educating Today's Learner
  Howard Gardner - Theory of Multiple Intelligences

I have chosen Howard Gardner as my learning theorist. I created a new avatar, Gardner Hermit, in Second Life that I think looks a lot like him (although younger)! This is the beginning as I wanted to make sure I could make my avatar first. Now I am on to the research about his learning theories. The subject of multiple intelligences has always interested me, especially spiritual and moral intelligence. Created by Kathleen Lepori?

The first thing that I noticed about Howard Gardner was his impressive 67-page vitae. I have personally seen many vitas throughout the years but none as extensive and notable as his. This is his short bio:

Howard Gardner is the Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Senior Director of Harvard Project Zero. Among numerous honors, Gardner received a MacArthur?? Prize Fellowship in 1981. He has received honorary degrees from twenty-two colleges and universities. In 2005 he was selected by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines as one of 100 most influential public intellectuals in the world. The author of over twenty books translated into twenty-seven languages, and several hundred articles, Gardner is best known in educational circles for his theory of multiple intelligences, a critique of the notion that there exists but a single human intelligence that can be assessed by standard psychometric instruments. He has also written extensively on creativity, leadership, and professional ethics. His latest book Five Minds for the Future was published in April 2007. For more information see

I have now read several of papers regarding Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences and here are some of my thoughts and reactions to two of them:

Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences
Interestingly enough, Gardner does not consider himself an educator and has never proposed a program for the education of multiple intelligences (MI Theory) and yet MI Schools are popping up all over the world. It was his “empirical work with normal and gifted children, and with brain-damaged patients on the other, that convinced him that the standard view of a ‘single, unitary, undecomposable intelligence’ could not be correct.” Gardner proposes that every human being has at least seven (perhaps as many as nine) multiple intelligences that include: linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal.

MI After Twenty Years
This paper was written by Gardner and is a personal look into why and how he developed his theory of multiple intelligences. He defends that his development of the MI Theory was not meant to “slay IQ” tests. It is important to understand, says Gardner that “Multiple intelligences should not in and of itself by an educational goal. Educational goals need to reflect one’s own values, and these can never come simply or directly from a scientific theory.” He believes that “MI approaches are particularly useful when a student is trying to master a challenging new concept—say, gravity in physics, or revolutions in history.” In this article, he points out that a crucial point in his theory was to define and stipulate criteria for what constitutes intelligence. Gardner claims, “all human beings possess not just a single intelligence (often called “g” for general intelligence.) Rather, as a species we human beings are better described as having a set of relatively autonomous intelligences.” Other theorists would like to add to his list of multiple intelligences and as Gardner says, MI has taken on a life of its own and the decision about what counts as an intelligence is a judgment call and not an algorithmic conclusion. He poses a great question in this paper, one he says that he wishes he had time and energy to work on – “How does human logical-mathematical intelligence relate to the various sciences, mathematics, and computing software and hard ware that have emerged in the last few thousand years?”

Multiple Lenses on The Mind
In this article, Gardner discusses three topics: Gardner, the son of Nazi refugees, was heavily influence by an uncle who turned him on to his first psychology book. During his graduate studies, he worked with Bruner and colleagues on a 5th grade curriculum called Man: A course of Study. The curriculum was designed to answer three questions: What makes human beings human? How did they get that way? How could they be made more human? This shifted his interest from personality and psychotherapy to cognitive studies and developmental psychology. Gardner believes that cognitive development continues well past adolescence, and that various cognitive capacities—like creativity, leadership, and the ability to change the minds of other persons. He started to separate himself from standard intelligence (IQ) testing.

The Western hemisphere has been following Binet’s theory of general intelligence for nearly a century. Garner’s approach to intelligence is not dependent on results of a paper and pencil test to determine one’s intellectual capabilities. He looks at criteria from neurology: which brain regions mediate particular skills; anthropology—which abilities have been valued in different cultures across history and pre-history; special populations with jagged intellectual profiles, such as prodigies, savants, and individuals with learning disabilities.

I find myself in agreement with his theory of multiple intelligences. Other intellectual faculties, besides traditional scholastic intelligences, should be recognized as intellect as well. Gardner defines and gives examples of these other intelligences as:
1. Linguistic intelligence—the intelligence of a writer, orator, journalist
2. Logical mathematical intelligence—intelligence of a logician, mathematician, scientist
3. Musical intelligence—capacity to create, perform, and appreciate music
4. Spatial intelligence—capacity to form mental imagery of the world
5. Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence—capacity to solve problems or fashion products using your body
6. Interpersonal intelligence—capacity to understanding of other persons
7. Intrapersonal intelligence—capacity to understand oneself
8. Naturalist intelligence—capacity to make consequential distinctions in nature
9. Existential intelligence—the ‘intelligence of big questions’

Gardner is still “speculating” on these last two types of intelligences. As humans, we all posses these multiple intelligences but some are more dominate than others. He is also a firm believer that minds can be changed with seven different “levers.” The levers are available for anyone to use, but the most important lever, says Gardner, is the final lever of mind change—recognizing resistances and overcoming them. Most people when asked how does one change a mind would give a behavioral theorist answer of reward and discipline. The problem with the reinforcement theory is that it is more likely to change behavior than to change minds.

According to the author, there are five kinds of minds; three kinds of cognitive mind (disciplined, synthesizing, and creative), and the other two have to do with the treatment of the human sphere (respectful and ethical). Gardner is very much into respecting diversity therefore the cognitive minds are not as important as the later two.