Howard Gardner: On Education
During the course of an average life, millions of different learning experiences present themselves. Some stick. Some do not. The level of impact that an individual’s experiential learning event has can be attributed to each person’s different learning style. Learning is the source of intelligence. Various articles and books have been published on the creation by Howard Gardner of his ‘multiple intelligence” theory and exactly what it means. Merriam Webster defines intelligence as ‘the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills; the skilled use of reason; the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one’s environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria’. (“intelligence”). Like most of us, as he began his educational studies, developmental psychologist Howard Gardner based his definition on similar traditional beliefs. Over the expansive course of his continued education, Gardner began to challenge this traditional thinking through theorizing and eventually adopted the idea that each person possess ‘multiple intelligences’ and that the recognition of this in an individual provides an element to learning that presents a far more effective level of output. Gardner realizes that while a person may be capable of doing somewhat well in all areas of intelligence, most are especially gifted in particular areas more so than others and if this ‘area’ is recognized, the individual may more readily excel.
A studious and musically inclined child, Howard Gardner was born to Jewish immigrant parents that fled Nuremberg, Germany just prior to World War II, in Pennsylvania July 1943. The son of parents that has experienced tragedy with their first child, Gardner grew up sheltered and overly protected. Because physical activity, in his childhood, were discouraged, Gardner was encouraged in intellectual and creative pursuits (Gardner 22). The first of his family to attend college, Gardner’s interest in education flourished upon his admittance to Harvard in 1961. Originally slated to study history in anticipation of a law degree, Gardner fortuitously contracted a tutor named Eric Erickson. The introduction of this man into Gardner’s life changed his ambition and direction irrevocably (Gardner 23). He graduated summa cum laude in 1965. Upon entering the doctoral program at Harvard he became a part of a research team that focused on arts in education called Project Zero (of which his connection remains to date) and finished his PhD in ‘71. While remaining a member of Project Zero he stayed at Harvard as a lecturer and then as a professor of education. In 1975, Howard Gardner released his first book, The Shattered Mind. To date he has published some fifteen more. As of this writing, Howard Gardner holds the title of Professor of Cognition and Education at the Graduate School of Education at Harvard. He is also associated with the School of Medicine at Boston University.
The publically recognized work of Howard Gardner is directly related to the work that he began at Project Zero. It was while working here that he first developed his fascination with human cognition. During the time that he was with Project Zero there evolved a study called Project on Human Potential. This study was established to get a better understanding of the realization of human potential and how it was acknowledged in the scientific community.
Frames of Mind (Gardner 1983), Gardner’s initial public release of his theory on multiple intelligences, resulted because of this study.
“The capacity to solve problems or to fashion products that are valued in one or more cultural settings” (Gardner & Hatch) is the way that Howard Gardner interpreted intelligence. His criteria involved the use of eight indicators of intelligence. His research brought him to the above provisional list of intelligences, which have been highly utilized in the educational system, the arts, and in personal the accomplishment of individual personal growth.
While Howard Gardner continued to work in conjunction with others, he began to devote more time to his personal ideas on the powers of the mind. His venture into education included The Unschooled Mind (1991), Disciplined Mind (1995), and Intelligence Reframed (1999). In 1993 he published Creating Minds with a focus on the minds ability to ‘create’, and Learning Minds was directed to the role of personal leadership potential and was released in 1995. Two thousand four brought Changing Minds and Five Minds for the Future to the table. Howard Gardner’s latest book, Truth, Beauty, and Goodness Reframed (2011) is centered in “defining virtues of civilization” (Gardner 2011).
Howard Gardner is highly regarded as a contributor to the study of psychology but his theory of multiple intelligences has more greatly impacted the concepts now being widely practiced in classroom education. Inspirations have been drawn from his theory influencing applications of educational curriculum both in the United States and, progressively, throughout the world. Gardner firmly believes that the practice of education is a reflection of personal values and goals and warns that neither theories nor scientific innovation serve as the only means of educational accomplishment. Gardner wrote The Disciplined Mind embracing the fundamental goal of understanding the principle disciplines generally thought necessary to develop an educated person but he reminds that an understanding of the theory of multiple intelligences can facilitate a smoother more personalized method of achievement of this development. Howard Gardner does not believe that the practice of psychology must directly dictate the means of delivering education. He says, “It merely helps to understand conditions within which education occurs” (Gardner 1993). This ‘understanding’ has impacted methods of educating throughout the world in what can only be seen as the most positive of ways.
Teaching in a time where the differences of individuals has entered into prominence, integrating the tool of multiple intelligence theory is impactful. Utilization of MI can aid students in becoming directed to learning more successfully yhrough programs that are tailored to their individual intelligence fields. Educators should maintain a knowledge base of curriculum based on the principles of MI sa that they can recognize the individual intelligence profile of the student that may be having subject comprehension difficulties. This knowledge would aid the educator to enable learning with an appropriate guide to receptive capabilities for each individual. When a student cannot learn through books and is denied additional resources, they are limited in what they may actually be capable of achieving. Learning styles should be adjusted to the learner. By incorporating MI into a curriculum, students learn to their strengths.
Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory is the realization that people are different and absorb learning in different ways but allows for that difference to become an advantage instead of a hindrance by enhancing the learning experience. Every person/student brings something to the education table that can be shared. The narrowness of standardization must be redirected towards a connected use of all of the puzzle pieces to provide additional opportunities for learning to an individual that is meaningful and enduring.