Would you consider yourself a smart person? When posing the question inward, I am immediately reminded of test scores. It was all that my peers could talk about senior year of high school. What you got on your SAT’s and usually the first question would answer the second, what college you would attend? Now almost a decade later looking back on it, I feel that people are a lot smarter than those tests where letting on. Who’s to say that since numbers to me appear as a foreign language that I’m not intelligent? Or to find the meaning of Shakespeare’s plays would be like finding a needle in a haystack so I must not be intelligent. In 1983 Howard Gardner wrote a book entitled Frames of Mind. In it he explores not only the intelligence traditionally assessed by the SAT’s, which are defined by Gardner as linguistic intelligence and logico-mathematical intelligence. He also explores six other ways by which people excel. They are bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal and intrapersonal, naturalist and spatial intelligence. His emphasis on multiple intelligence gave many people more to ponder than measurable scholastic performance. It gave some hope for a brighter tomorrow and for others all it gave them was a head-ache. In this paper I will explore Gardner’s theory and examples of why some think multiple intelligence or MI should and shouldn’t be used as a basis for education. To answer the initial question taking Howard Gardner’s theories and methods into mind, I would have to say yes, I am smart! Howard Gardner was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania on July 11th 1943. His family had fled Nazi Germany five years prior. Due to the untimely death of this brother Eric, in a sleighing accident, Howard was persuaded away from athletic activities by his parents. His was always a very studious adolescent and he headed off to Harvard in September of 1961 and says, “I loved Harvard; it was an Elysian field for the mind.” (Gardner 2006) Howard Gardner has been a research psychologist for over thirty-five years now and has dove into an assortment of topics such as breakdowns after brain damage as well as cognitive development in gifted children. What he may be best known for is his many books; one in particular was the reason behind my own research. Frames of Mind was Gardeners’ introduction to the world of his theory of multiple intelligence. What some believe is one of the most remarkable features of his theory of multiple intelligences is how it “provides eight different potential pathways to learning”. (Armstrong 1994) Teaching children using all eight pathways isn’t the answer. They are used individually as well as together to choose the most effective way to teach children. To better understand Gardner’s theories we must first look closer at the eight different pathways he suggests. Linguistic intelligence is defined as sensitivity to the meaning and order of words. Logical-mathematical intelligence is the ability in mathematics and other complex logical systems to sort out and compute the correct answer. Musical intelligence is the ability to understand and create music. Spatial intelligence or the ability to think in pictures helps to perceive the visual world accurately, and recreate it in the mind or on paper. Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence is the ability to use one's body in a skilled way, for self-expression or toward a goal. Interpersonal intelligence or the ability to perceive and understand other individuals -- their moods, desires, and motivations and Intrapersonal intelligence is an understanding of one's own emotions. (Nolen 2003) A perfect example of applying all eight to the same topic is, “If you’re teaching or learning about the law of supply and demand in economics, you might read about it (linguistic), study mathematical formulas that express it (logical-mathematical), examine a graphic chart that illustrates the principle (spatial), observe the law in the natural world (naturalist) or in the human world of commerce (interpersonal); examine the law in terms of your own body [e.g. when you supply your body with lots of food, the hunger demand goes down; when there's very little supply, your stomach's demand for food goes way up and you get hungry] (bodily-kinesthetic and intrapersonal); and/or write a song (or find an existing song) that demonstrates the law (perhaps Dylan's "Too Much of Nothing?”). (Armstrong 1994) Not all felt that Gardeners’ theories would change the world. Some would call these non-believer old fashions or just plain scared of change. “Many psychologists have criticized the lack of scientific measures of Gardner’s intelligence and some educators say this leads to failed educational policies, such as ending ability grouping in schools.” (Matthews 2004) On the other hand, Gardner’s book and theory in many opinions was introduced at exactly the right time. In 1983, American educators were being criticized for failing to teach reading, writing and arithmetic and national reports showed a decline in SAT scores. A change was need in the eyes of the world and Howard Gardner provided a possible solution. He felt that his theory has served its original purpose, “to challenge a century-old orthodoxy that defined intelligence only as doing well on multiple choice tests.” (Matthews 2004) “In many ways a scientific theory like MI is like a Rorschach test in the educational world. People find what they are looking for to support what they already believe.” (Gardner 2006) Howard Gardner’s theories may not be adequate for all; however his belief in multiple intelligence has changed the curriculum in many schools across the United States. One of only two schools named after and strictly following Gardeners beliefs is right here in Scranton Pennsylvania. The Howard Gardner School for Discovery began in 1975. It is now a private school that focuses on its learners and their strengths. With small class size and teachers devoted to researching and writing innovative curriculum, the HGSD is dedicated to helping students truly discover learning. His theories have opened a lot of eyes and minds, including my own, to redefining what make a person smart. His determination and vision is still continuing today. Howard Gardner has published over twenty books and written many articles on an array of subjects. He has also collected numerous honors of achievement throughout his career. I think that Howard Gardner is an incredible man with and incredible vision.
Henshon, Suzanna E. “An Evolving Field: The Evolution of Creativity, Giftedness, and Multiple Intelligences: An Interview with Ellen Winner and Howard Gardner” Roeper Review. Bloomfield Hills: Summer 2006 Vol. 28, Issue 4; Pages 191-195
Matthews, Jay. “21 Years Later, ‘Multiple Intelligence’ Still Debated; Educator Pushes Appealing to All Types of Learners” The Washington Post September 7, 2004 Section A09
Nolen, Jennifer L. “Multiple Intelligence in the Classroom” Education. Chula Vista: Fall 2003 Vol. 124, Issue 1; Page 115
Howard Gardner Hobb Professor of Cognition and Education Harvard Graduate School of Education In His Own Words 2006 April 1, 2007 (http://www.howardgardner.com/docs)
Multiple Intelligences 1998-2000 April 1, 2007 (http://www.thomasarmstrong.com/multiple_intelligences.htm)