©2007 NewFoundations

Howard Gardner's Educational Theory (interpretation I)

Analyst : Lauren Wheatcroft


edited 1/7/19

”We have schools because we hope that someday when children have left schools that they will be able to use what it is they’ve learned. There is now a massive amount of evidence from all realms of science that unless individuals take a very active role in what it is they’re studying, unless they learn to ask questions, to do things hands on, to essentially recreate things in their own minds and transform them as needed, the ideas just disappear. The student may have a good grade on the exam, we may think that he or she is learning, but a year or two later there is nothing left.

“If, on the other hand, somebody has carried out an experiment himself or herself, analyzed the data, made a prediction, and saw whether it came out correctly, that’s the kind of thing that is going to adhere, whereas if you simply memorize a bunch of names, a bunch of facts, even a bunch of definitions, there’s nothing to hold on to.”
                                                                                                                                                -Howard Gardner

                        According to Indiana University’s biographical profiles, “Howard Gardner has established himself as one of the world's foremost authorities on the topics of inelligence, creativity, leadership, professional responsibility, and the arts.” Gardner is regarded as a brilliant man having written hundreds of research articles on the art of teaching. “Dr. Gardner is the Senior Director of Harvard University 's Project Zero, an educational research group dedicated to understanding and enhancing "learning, thinking, and creativity in the arts, as well as humanistic and scientific disciplines, at the individual and institutional levels”.  Gardner and the members of Project Zero strive to design alternatives to traditional “pen-and-paper” intelligence testing. Children learn differently and “each person has a unique combination, or profile. Although we each have all seven intelligences, no two individuals have them in the same exact configuration -- similar to our fingerprints.” (pbs.org)

  1. Theory of Value: What knowledge and skills are worthwhile learning? What are the goals of education?

Most notable is Dr. Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. This theory was developed in 1983 and supports the development of intelligence through seven different areas: logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal and intrapersonal. Each intelligence allows our students "to solve problems, or to create products, that are valued within one or more cultural settings” (Gardner, 1983/2003). However, in recent years Gardner has added two more intelligences to his theory. These two are verbal and communicational. Doctor Gardner argues that there “is both a biological and cultural basis for the multiple intelligences.”  He feels as though all areas of this theory are equally important. “Accepting Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences has several implications for teachers in terms of classroom instruction. The theory states that all seven intelligences are needed to productively function in society.” (Smith). Gardner’s theory supports a value system which “maintains that diverse students can learn and succeed, that learning is exciting, and that hard work by teachers is necessary.” (Smith). Gardner also states, “I want people at the end of their education to understand the world in ways that they couldn't have understood it before their education.” (Brockman, 2).

2. Theory of Knowledge: What is knowledge? How is it different from belief? What is a mistake? What is a lie?
According to Dr. Howard Gardner, knowledge is “the ability to resolve 'genuine problems of difficulties' within certain cultural settings.” (Smith).  How this is measured is an issue Gardner has spent his life trying to improve. He has questioned the idea that intelligence is a single entity, that it results from a single factor, and that it can be measured simply via IQ tests, hence, Gardner’s work with Project Zero (pbs.org). According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a belief is “a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing.”  Gardner does not articulate his stance on “belief” in the educational sense. However, it is different from his definition of knowledge because he speaks of genuine problems, not what is “believed” to be a problem.  A mistake is defined as “to identify wrongly: confuse with another” (Merriam-Webster). Mistakes are a part of the learning process and will help students to solve problems.

3. Theory of Human Nature: What is a human being? How does it differ from other species? What are the limits of human potential?
Doctor Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences “provided 'a new definition of human nature, cognitively speaking' (Gardner 1999: 44). Human beings are organisms who possess a basic set of intelligences.” (Smith).  People have a unique blend of intelligences that other species do not have. “Gardner argues that the big challenge facing the deployment of human resources 'is how to best take advantage of the uniqueness conferred on us as a species exhibiting several intelligences' (ibid.: 45).” (Smith).  Seven kinds of intelligence can seem intimidating to educators. One form of intelligence is difficult enough to teach, what about seven? However, according to Gardner, “Seven kinds of intelligence would allow seven ways to teach, rather than one. And powerful constraints that exist in the mind can be mobilized to introduce a particular concept (or whole system of thinking) in a way that children are most likely to learn it and least likely to distort it. Paradoxically, constraints can be suggestive and ultimately freeing. (Smith).

4. Theory of Learning: What is learning? How are skills and knowledge acquired?
Learning takes place when an individual has the ability to solve genuine problems and they can take their knowledge and adapt it to their individual learning styles. Skills and knowledge are acquired by adapting information to fit the different intelligences of each individual and utilizing their cultural backgrounds and differences to aquire the knowledge.

5. Theory of Transmission: Who is to teach? By what methods? What will the curriculum be?
Those who should be teaching are those who can integrate the intelligences into their lesson plans and classroom instructions. In order to assure this will take place; teachers need to attend to all intelligences. It is common to see educators attending to the first two (linguistic intelligence and logical-mathematical intelligence), which have been the traditional concern. Educators must be able to accommodate each of the areas of intelligence and help students adapt their knowledge to the appropriate intelligence. In order for students to perform these adaptations, educators must allocate them “extended opportunities to work on a topic.” (Smith). Therefore, educators must plan their curriculum around the immediate educational context. According to Gardner, for the curriculum to be effectively learned, students must acquire a deep understanding of the material through performance, exploration, and creativity. Instead of “delivering” information to students, educators should aid students in finding the information and adapting it to the intelligence that will allow them to acquire the knowledge.

6. Theory of Society: What is society? What institutions are involved in the educational process?
According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, society is “a community, nation, or broad grouping of people having common traditions, institutions, and collective activities and interests.”  For Gardner, “intelligence is seen as a flexible, culturally dependent construct and as such it reflects a social constructivist perspective.” (educ-reality.com).  Therefore, society largely influences education and the adaptation of intelligences. When questioned about educational intuitions, Gardner states “One mistake that many people make, including me, is to equate education to school. Of course schools are only one of many institutions involved in education. In the United States the media probably do as much education and miseducation as the schools; there are messages on the street, there are messages in the family, church, all those other institutions.” (Brockman, 2). Hence, the influence of society and culture on each individual’s education is a large part of the learning process.

7. Theory of Opportunity: Who is to be educated? Who is to be schooled?
Each and every individual has the right to be educated. In Howard Gardner’s interview with John Brockman, he discusses education and his role by saying:
“…I'm writing a book about how everybody in the world ought to be educated…. I want people at the end of their education to understand the world in ways that they couldn't have understood it before their education. In speaking of the world I mean the physical world, the biological world, the social world and their own world, their personal world as well as the broader social and cultural terrain. I believe that these are questions that every human being is interested in from a very young age. They're questions which kids ask all the time: who am I, where do I come from, what's this made out of, what's going to happen to me, why do people fight, why do they hate? Is there a higher power? Questions like that -- they don't usually ask them in their words, they ask them in their play, in their stories, the myths they like to listen to and so on.”

8. Theory of Consensus: Why do people disagree? How is consensus achieved? Whose opinion takes precedence?
                        Doctor Howard Gardner does not focus on the interactions between people. Instead, he focuses on the interaction of students and the nine areas of intelligence. Within this focus, Gardner believes each child has their own individual way of learning. Therefore, consensus does not need to be reached.

Work Cited
Plucker, Jonathan. “Howard Gardner.” Human Intelligence. 2007. Indiana University. 1 April 2008. http://www.indiana.edu/~intell/gardner.shtml

“Howard Gardner’s  Multiple Intelligences Theory.” PBS.org., 28 March 2008. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/gperf/education/ed_mi_overview.html

Brualdi, Amy C. “Multiple Intelligences: Gardner's Theory. ERIC Digest.” ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation Washington DC. 1996. 28 March 2008. http://www.ericdigests.org/1998-1/multiple.htm

Smith, M.K.  “Howard Gardner and Multiple Intelligences.” The Encyclopedia of Informal Education. 2007. 20 March, 2008. http://www.infed.org/thinkers/gardner.htm.

Brockman, John. “Truth, Beauty and Goodness: Education for All Human Beings: A Talk With Howard Gardner.” The Third Culture. 25 March 2008. http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/gardner/gardner_p2.html