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Howard Gardner's Theory Of Multiple Intelligences

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 1713 words Published: 16th May 2017

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Howard Gardner, born on July 11th, 1943, is one of modern day’s greatest psychologists. (Smith) He was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania to parents who escaped from Germany because they were Jewish. (Winner) The holocaust was an influential factor in his life. (Gardner) Another great influence in his life is the death of his brother Eric, although his parents rarely talked about the matter, it significantly impacted his thinking and development. (Smith) In other words, his family and peer greatly shaped who he became today. (Myers 118) He was a brilliant young child, who ended up going to Harvard University with a degree in Law but his interest in psychology and the social sciences grew. (Gardner) Eventually he developed his theory of Multiple Intelligence in 1983 in his book Frames of Mind: theory of multiple intelligences. (Gardner) During that time period psychology was increasingly popular. For example, a prominent field during the 80’s and 90’s is cultural psychology which assumes the idea that culture and mind are inseparable. (“Cultural Psychology”) Also that time period contained a lot of economic, social and general change which makes his new idea more acceptable. More importantly the fact that he is American means that he grew up in a free thinking society so he can take from what he learned and transforms it into what he believes is true then pass on his opinions.

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Three other psychologists who influenced him greatly are Jean Piaget, Jerome Bruner and Nelson Goodman. (Gardner 3 of 7) Jean Piaget who deals with the nature of knowledge and how humans can gradually to obtain it, create it, and use it. Also, Jerome Bruner contributed to cognitive psychology and cognitive learning theory in educational psychology. Goodman dealt with inductive reasoning based on human habit. (Gardner 3 of 7) The three of them goes along with Gardner’s argument of how children learn knowledge. Also their works caused Gardner to become more interested in social science.

Waldorf education developed in the early 1900s by Rudolf Steiner was similar to Gardner’s ideas. (Why Waldorf Works) It was about integrating practical, artistic and conceptual elements into learning. This education emphasizes imagination and creativity so that students can develop into free, morally responsible and integrated individuals. The first Waldorf School was opened in Germany in 1919 and now there are many schools starting to use methods of Waldorf education. (Why Waldorf Works) Lastly an idea credited to be developed by Jerome Bruner in the 1960’s is discovery learning which promoted hands on leaning where learners draw from his or her own experience and prior knowledge. (“Discovery Learning (Bruner)”) So there were many factors that influenced his thinking and that pushed him to develop his theory.

His theory deals with how humans have many different ways to learn and process information. (“Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory”) He believes that everyone has different levels of intelligence in each category which is why some children learn some things faster than others. Gardner believes that intelligence is commonly defined by psychometrics but it does not adequately describe people’s wide assortment of cognitive abilities. IQ tests can sometimes be taken too seriously but it can not determine future success (Gardner 3). Even college aptitude tests are “thinly disguised intelligence tests.” (Myer 432) For example a child that takes longer to learn multiplication does not mean the child is dumb but that the child is more intelligent in other areas. In the aspect of education, Gardner wants to prioritize because he believes the knowledge we learn is superficial, “a mile wide an inch deep”. (Guignon) He recognizes that “Students learn in ways that are identifiably distinctive” so he promotes more student centered as opposed to teacher centered learning which is a very practical idea.

According to Garner, there are 8 possibly 10 intelligences; spatial, linguistic, logical, bodily, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic. Spatial is the ability to visualize with the mind’s eye. (Chapman) Linguistic intelligence deals with words, spoken or written. These people learn best by reading, taking notes, listening to lectures, and discussion. (Chapman) Logical-mathematical is about logic, abstractions, reasoning, and numbers, reasoning capabilities scientific thinking and investigation traditional concepts of “intelligence” or IQ. (Chapman) Bodily-kinesthetic is the control of one’s bodily motions and the capacity to handle objects skillfully. Musical intelligence deals with sounds, rhythms, tones, and music sing, play musical instruments. (Lane) Interpersonal intelligence is about interaction with others. They are mostly extroverts, characterized by their sensitivity to others’ moods, feelings, temperaments and motivations and cooperate well with others. (Lane) Intrapersonal is the introspective and self-reflective capacities. Those people are introverted but good at deciphering their own feelings and motivations. (Lane) Lastly is naturalistic who deals a lot with nature relating information to one’s natural surroundings. The ninth intelligence is not fully confirmed yet but it is existential which is about contemplating phenomena or questions beyond sensory data. And finally, the tenth is moral intelligences dealing with ethics and the value of life. (Chapman)

His theory greatly changed the minds of many and started the development of more encompassing schools. Traditionally, schools have highlighted the development of logical and linguistic intelligence but many students do not learn well in that environment. (Lane) Gardner’s theory argues that students will be better served by a wider vision of education, wherein teachers use different methods to teach all students not just the few that are intelligent logically or linguistically. (Guignon) Although, many teachers see the theory as simple common sense and some even say they already know that student learn in different ways, Gardner’s system has not been accepted by most academics teachings. (Guignon) Some schools however, have developed to better fit Gardner’s ideas. For example, one of the most famous schools that implement Gardner’s theory is the New City School in St. Louis, Missouri. This school has been using the theory since 1988 (“Why New City School”)

There has been much criticism for his theory though. Some say he uses the word intelligence in place of ability. (Gilman) Others say that he has not settled on a single definition of intelligence though he admits himself that he has no fixed definition. (Gilman) Lastly and most importantly, he has no empirical evidence for this theory. (Smith) In fact, some neurological research disproves his theory and his previous works has major flaws. (Smith)

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Recently, the current No Child Left Behind act passed by the Bush administration does not encompass his theory at all because the Act is about having students all pass standardized tests while he wants to get rid of those tests in order to reach out to every child’s needs. (“No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) | ESEA”) His theory affects us so much today because it relates to education; Gardner goes into how schools only teach superficial knowledge meaning schools teach a lot of everything but not in depth into anything so some kids may excel in one area but not the other. (Gardner)There is too much shallow knowledge so he suggests that children should learn and actually understand concepts not just learn for taking a test. (Smith) If he obtains more support for his theory, the whole education system will have to be changed. But his idea of an education system should work well because this will help make the education system more fair and encompassing for all kids. Right now, some children that may seem like they are failing school but their failure is not because they are dumb but because the way subjects are taught in school is not how he or she can comprehend and utilize. (Gardner)

Even though Gardner’s theory is appealing, it will probably not work because there is no widespread support especially from government. (No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) | ESEA) Also, individual teachers especially in lower grades have unconsciously adapted parts of his theories but because in higher grades there is more lecture style teaching, his theory rarely applied to higher education. (Guignon) Furthermore there is so much controversy over this theory because it keeps on changing and there is no proof which makes it hard to completely believe this theory. (Smith) Additionally, since Gardner is still alive, he can keep on changing his theory and getting more evidence and support. (Gardner) Lastly, some schools have already adapted his theory such as the New city school. This school published many books about implementing this theory in more classrooms such as the school’s teachers have produced two books for teachers, Celebrating Multiple Intelligences and Succeeding With Multiple Intelligences and the principal, Thomas Hoerr, has written Becoming a Multiple Intelligences School in addition to many articles on the practical applications of the theory. (“Multiple Intelligences Resources)The school has also hosted four conferences, each drawing over educators from around the world. (“Why New City School”)The school remains a valuable resource for teachers interested in executing the theory in their own classrooms.

It is clear that Howard Gardner has had an important impact on today’s psychology world and education. His persistence to “challenge an educational system that assumes that everyone can learn the same materials in the same way” has definitely made an impact in the world as many schools have recognized the different ways children learn. (Lane) Should his theory become more prevalent, who knows what out education system will be like in the future.


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