MI Expert Dr. Thomas R. Hoerr’s Interview with Brazilian Magazine, “Nós”

In June 2017, MI Expert Dr. Thomas R. Hoerr, Emeritus Head of School at New City School and Scholar In Residence, UMSL College of Education in St. Louis, MO, was interviewed by journalist for the Brazilian online magazine, ”Nós.”

Below, the interview is printed in full.

MI Theory continues to be studied and shared around the world.


Nós: In your opinion, what was the greatest contribution of research on Multiple Intelligences Theory to science and education?

Thomas Hoerr: I believe that Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences (MI) caused us to view intelligence more broadly, beyond a score that can be derived from a paper and pencil test. This can have powerful implications for how educators view student potential and how they differentiate instruction.

N: Around the web, it’s easy to find a lot of articles and tests based on your work that try to define people’s types of intelligences. How can a person find out, in a more scientific way, their most and least developed types of intelligences?

TH: There are many tests, as you point out, and I know that Branton Shearer’s MIDAS test has been widely used. My bias, though, is to determine intelligence strengths by observation. When given choices, how do people solve problems? How do people spend their spare time? We typically enjoy doing those things at which we excel, and we are likely to excel in those areas in which we have strengths.

N: How many intelligences can be found in a person?

TH: We all have some of each intelligence. That is, all eight intelligences are found within us. The relative strengths of the intelligences will vary greatly, of course.

N: What can governments take from your theory to improve public education around the world?

TH: We should focus less on standardized tests, both for assessing student potential and growth and also for determining our curricular focus. Children of all ages (and adults) benefit from experiences in the arts.

N: What do you think about elective matters in high school?

TH: There is a basic set of skills and understandings that all students need, i.e., the 3 R’s. Beyond that, I believe that giving students choices can increase motivation and performance.

Howard Gardner’s Interview with Tiching Blog Featured In Spanish Book, “Hablamos de Educación”

In 2013, Howard Gardner was interviewed by the Spanish website, tiching.com.

Recently, this blog appeared in the Spanish education book, ”Hablamos de Educación”, or “Let’s Talk About Education”. Pages from the book featuring the interview can be found below, along with an English translation.

All around the world, the MI Theory continues to have an impact on education.


2013 Interview with Tiching.com, English translation. This interview appeared in Spanish in its entirety in 2013 on blog.tiching.com. 

Tiching: Your Multiple Intelligences Theory is known around the world, but how can you define the term “intelligence”?

Howard Gardner: An intelligence is the biological and psychological potential to analyze information in specific ways, in order to solve problems or to create products that are valued in a culture.

T: Your Theory explains that exist eight different intelligences. Do we have all the intelligences in various grades or each person has only one type of intelligence?

HG: As implied by the definition, I reject the notion that human beings have a single intelligence, which can be drawn on for the full range of problem solving.  What is usually called ‘intelligence’ refers to the linguistic and logical capacities that are valued in certain kinds of school and for certain school-like tasks.  It leaves little if any room for spatial intelligence, personal intelligences, musical intelligence etc.

All human beings have all of the intelligences. But we differ, for both genetic and experiential reasons, in our profile of intelligences at any moment.  We can enhance our intelligences, but I am never going to become Yo-Yo Ma, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, or Pele, the soccer player.

T: We attended your Conference in Montserrat College and you talked about two new intelligences that you want to introduce (pedagogical and spiritual). How has this issue advanced?

HG: In order for me to ‘endorse’ an intelligence, I need to carry out lots of research.  I have had not had the time to research ‘teaching intelligence’ and that the survey I conducted years ago of ‘existential intelligence’ left me uncertain about whether it is a full-blown intelligence.  Yet I use these terms informally and anyone else is welcome to do so as well.

T: Which criteria do you use in order to include a new type of intelligence in your theory?

HG: My eight criteria for an intelligence are laid out in chapter 4 of my 1983 book FRAMES OF MIND.  These criteria are drawn from several disciplines and several kinds of populations.  There is not a single foolproof equation for determining whether a candidate intelligence does or does not qualify. I weigh the various considerations and make the best judgment I can. My guess is that ‘teaching intelligence’ and ‘existential intelligence’ would do pretty well on the 8 criteria: but as I’ve said, I have not been able to do the required research to be confident about my conclusion.

T: Do you think you will include more types of intelligence in the future?

HG: Only in a speculative manner.  My colleague Antonio Battro has written about a ‘digital intelligence’ and that is certainly worth thinking about.  However, at present, what he calls ‘digital intelligence’ seems adequately accounted for by logical-mathematical and bodily-kinesthetic intelligence—the skills of coding and of manipulating a mouse and/or a cursor.

T: You are working on Oasis Project, what are its objectives?

HG: This is a website, which will be launched in the summer of 2013  multipleintelligencesoasis.org  It represents my effort to describe MI theory, to highlight powerful applications, and to point out problematic assertions—hence the image of an oasis (water in the middle of a parched desert). At first it will only be an English but I’d be delighted if we could find a way to produce a high quality version in Spanish.

T: Most of the members of our community are teachers, how can they identify the intelligence of their pupils?

HG: When speaking to parents, I encourage them to take their child(ren) to a children’s museum and watch carefully what the child does, how she/she does it, what he/she returns to, where there is definite growth.  Teachers could do the same or could set up ‘play areas’ which provide ‘nutrition’ for different intelligences… and watch carefully what happens and what does not happen with each child.

When a child is thriving, there is no reason to spend time assessing intelligences. But when a child is NOT thriving—in school or at home—that is the time to apply the lens of multiple intelligences and see whether one can find ways to help the child thrive in different environments.

T: Once intelligences are identified, how can they be enhanced? Are empowerment mechanisms different for each type of intelligence?

HG: Intelligences are enhanced when a person engaged in activities that involve the exercise of that intelligence. It helps to have good teachers, ample resources, and personal motivation.  Anyone can improve any intelligence; but it is easier to improve the intelligence if those factors are available and if you have high potential in that intelligence.

T: Should school curriculums be rethinked in order to enhance all the intelligences? If yes, what should be transformed?

HG: I don’t think that it is necessary to rethink curricular goals. But it is certainly worth thinking about whether these goals can be reached in multiple ways. I think that any important educational goal can be realized via several routes.  In Chapter 7-9 of my 1999 book THE DISCIPLINED MIND, I show how to teach important lessons in science, history, and music, through alternative intelligences routes.

T: Which is the importance of new technologies, such as Tiching, in the learning process of each pupil?

HG: Any good teacher should become acquainted with relevant technologies. But the technologies should not dictate an education goal. Rather, the teacher (or parent or student or policy maker) should ask: can technology help to achieve this goal, and which technologies are most likely to be helpful?

T: Which is the intelligence that you have more developed?

HG: I think that I am strongest in linguistic and musical intelligence, and I continue to work on my interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence.

T: In which project/s are you working on now?

HG: For the last twenty years, I have been engaged in the GoodWork Project, a study of how professions survive in a time when markets are very powerful. The GWP now has many offshoots- which you can read about at thegoodproject.org. With Richard Light, a close colleague, I am starting a study of Liberal arts and sciences in the 21st century.  We want to understand how best to create and preserve a form of higher education that we value but that is in jeopardy for many reasons.

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Dr. Marty Nemko of Psychology Today Interviews Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner was recently interviewed by Psychology Today‘s Marty Nemko, Ph.D. Dr. Nemko and Dr. Gardner discussed MI, education,ethics, and what still lies in store for Dr. Gardner.

The text of this interview is below and can be found in it’s original form here.


Multiple Intelligence, Higher Education Reform, and Ethics
An interview with Howard Gardner. By Marty Nemko Ph.D.

It’s comforting to think that our intelligence isn’t reducible to a single number. Indeed, especially in education circles, the theory of multiple intelligences is widely embraced.

In today’s interview, part of a series called “The Eminents,” I spoke with that theory’s creator, Howard Gardner. We spoke not only about that but about his current work examining U.S. higher education and ethical issues in the professions, including psychology.

Howard Gardner is the Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at Harvard. He received a MacArthur “Genius Grant,”  and has received honorary degrees from 31 colleges. He’s twice been selected by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines as one of the world’s 100 most influential public intellectuals. He has written 30 books that have been translated into 32 languages.

MN: Say a little about the theory of multiple intelligences.

HG: Multiple-intelligence theory has never been embraced by the psychometric community but has had enormous influence in education in many parts of the world. Most of my thinking has focused on educational uses—individualizing education and multiple ways of presenting concepts–and criticizing proposals that seem wrong-headed, for example, describing groups in terms of their “dominant intelligences,” or creating short-answer tests that purport to reveal the test-taker’s intellectual profile.

MN: So it’s more of a philosophy than data-based?

HG: No, the theory is entirely empirical, based on a huge amount of data gleaned from several disciplines. But it’s not experimental—You can’t do a test to prove the theory right or wrong. Rather, like many theories in non-experimental fields like geology, archaeology, astronomy, or even evolution, it’s a synthesis of data.  Its survival is based on whether better syntheses come along.

MN:  Over the years, has the theory changed?

HG: For the most part, it has withstood the test of time. I have added one intelligence (naturalist) and contemplated the evidence for two additional ones (existential and pedagogical.) But I’ve now moved on to other topics, for example, examining higher education on several campuses around the nation and considering how it might best be transformed. Once again, the study is based on data—My team and I will carry out about 2,000 interviews. Our findings will be our synthesis of what we’ve learned.

MN: I believe that a core problem with undergraduate education, especially at research universities like Harvard, Stanford, NYU, etc, is that most teaching is done by PhDs, who by temperament, training, interests, and rewards are researchers first. So they spend most of their time and energy probing a snip of a field’s cutting edge.  In my view, the attributes needed to be a transformative undergraduate instructor are pretty orthogonal to that. It would seem that undergraduate education would be superior if there was a separate track for teaching faculty. Your thoughts?

HG: At institutions with which I am familiar, advancement and tenure is generally evaluated in terms of research productivity, with teaching evaluations and institutional service considered as well. In the future, I favor adding the components of “helping students to grow” and “strengthening the institution.”

American undergraduate education in the liberal arts has been justifiably admired around the world. Citizens with means seek to send their children to Stanford or Swarthmore or Skidmore and many countries crave connections to American universities—See Yale-Singapore,  NYU-Abu Dhabi.

We do need to ask more of teachers but also of students, parents, and policymakers.  The goal of our current study is to point the way toward quality higher education in the United States and in the rest of the world.

MN: Your current work also focuses on ethical issues in the field of education. Here’s one I’m particularly curious about. Is it fair to subject the nation’s students to the full range of instructor quality? Mightn’t more students, rich and poor, learn more from an online, highly-immersive interactive individually paced, differentially taught online course team-taught by a dream team of the nation’s most transformational teachers and supplemented by  an in-person discussion group?

HG: Initially, there was ecstasy about MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses)—They were going to solve all of our educational challenges. Then, there was the inevitable reaction: Most individuals don’t complete MOOCs, and those that do tend to be already well-educated. And so, hardly a solution.

MN: I’m talking about something different. I’m talking about making online courses available not just to the well-educated but as part of the curriculum for all college students. And because they were developed to serve the entire nation, they could be taught by a team of the nation’s or even world’s most transformational instructors, supported by, for example, gamification designers. And, as I said, it would be supplemented by an in-person discussion group.

HG: MOOCs are already available for all, though, as you note, they tend to be completed by individuals with sufficient expertise and motivation. I’m sure that they will steadily improve and will eventually be taken for granted.  However, accessibility is not the same as affordability. To create a quality MOOC is costly—and to include discussion facilitated by qualified instructors also requires resources. So far no one has found a way to educate on the cheap—Education is still more like a string quartet with little economy of scale than like the production of widgets.

MN: I do have to push back a little here.  If a course, say, calculus, were developed to serve the nation’s let alone the world’s students, the development cost per student would be amortized across millions of students and thus much lower than a nationful of traditional courses.

Let’s turn to psychotherapists. After all, this is Psychology Today. It is difficult to control enough variables to ascertain therapy’s effectiveness or even a modality’s effectiveness, let alone effectiveness for adolescent African-American girls with moderate depression, 40%ile verbal intelligence but 70%ile emotional intelligence from a 20%ile SES living in rural Alabama. So therapists and patients alike end up relying on squooshy gut feeling to decide, for example, whether and with whom a patient should spend money and time in an attempt to heal. What is the ethical obligation of the individual psychotherapist and of the profession as a whole in that regard?

HG:  I am a trained psychologist but not a clinician and don’t have special knowledge on which to draw. That said, our work on ethics TheGoodProject.organd my blog The Professional Ethicist does offer a way to think about such issues.

The way to deal with ethical dilemmas is to create a common space—often called a commons—in which trained personnel can describe a dilemma, consider courses of action, and look for the best solution.

The commons doesn’t end with the decision. It’s important to examine the decision’s consequences, to learn positive lessons and reflect on the difficulties and failures to see whether a better decision could be made in the future.

You rightly point out the difference between the individual professional and the profession as a whole. Any profession should have norms around the issue you raise. And, in the words of the great economic thinker Albert Hirschman, we all owe a measure of loyalty to professional norms. But when the norms seem unhelpful or unproductive, one needs to speak up—to activate voice. And in the extreme, if the profession and one’s colleagues seem estranged from a thoughtfully selected course of action, you need to consider the possibility of exit. Of course, if you knowingly violate norms or laws, you need to be prepared to face the consequences—or to lead a revolution!

MN:You will soon be 73. What’s in store for the future?

HG: Contradictory precepts that have guided me for as long as I can remember: 1: I will live forever.  2: I will die tomorrow.

I see no reason to alter this dual allegiance: Though I am now past the Biblical threshold of 70, I’m at what has been dubbed the “still” age: still teaching, still conducting research, still writing.  To that list I’ve added two welcome descriptors: grandparent and mentor. I try to fill both roles competently.

As for my work, this interview has touched on its three principal phases.

  • MI theory is now past adolescence and I am allowing it to fend for itself.
  • Colleagues and I have now worked for two decades on issues of ethics, good work, and good citizenship. Our efforts now are to share what we have found—our concepts, our overall framework, our toolkits–with educators, other professionals, parents, students, etc. We also are seeking productive collaborations with other individuals and institutions that share these missions. I owe a special debt to Lynn Barendsen, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Bill Damon, Wendy Fischman and Carrie James who have been true partners in this work.
  • Our current work is a large national study of “liberal arts and sciences in the 21st century.” We are studying ten deliberately disparate campuses. Our wonderful team is headed by Wendy Fischman. We are not ready yet to publicize our findings—indeed, we don’t yet know what they will be. Stay tuned!

This article originally appeared on www.psychologytoday.com.

Howard Gardner Discusses Standardized Testing in Interview with Big Think

Howard Gardner was recently interviewed by Big Think regarding his opinions on standardized testing. While he values assessment in school settings, Dr. Gardner states that we’ve come to overvalue one kind of test (multiple-choice, short-answer exam) that measures only one kind of intelligence. View the full video below:

This video originally appeared on the knowledge forum Big Think, here.

Howard Gardner Interviewed by Esther Cepeda Regarding Learning Styles

In November, Howard Gardner was interviewed by journalist Esther Cepeda regarding his views on ‘learning styles’. Below is the final result of that interview.

The original post can be read here.


Esther Cepeda: Teachers must let go of the ‘learning styles’ myth

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The education industry is nothing if not trend-driven, and sometimes fads manage to calcify into indisputable “facts” that spur backlash when challenged.

Take the mini-revolt over the recent boomlet of myth-busting news articles about “learning styles,” the theory that some people learn better through movement, others through reading or listening and so on.

Just post links to Quartz’s “The concept of different ‘learning styles’ is one of the greatest neuroscience myths” or New York Magazine’s “One Reason the ‘Learning Styles’ Myth Persists” on your Facebook timeline and watch otherwise gentle, openhearted educators descend into bitter disputes about the challenges of being an auditory learner in a text-rich society.

My first brush with the “learning styles” credo was in a graduate-level education program that promoted it as an article of faith for any new teacher.

A decade later, not teaching for different learning styles is considered akin to educational malpractice. Some educators believe that not presenting every concept to students in each of the many styles—kinesthetic, visual, auditory—is nothing short of bigotry because it discriminates against those who don’t learn in “traditional” ways.

Students have internalized this responsibility-absolving mantra through the years. I spent this past fall semester in a music theory course at my local community college with young adults who unfailingly challenged our professor’s classroom instruction, homework and tests with “learning style” complaints.

If we were doing aural training, someone would whine about being a visual learner. The written tests were “too hard” for the kinesthetic learners because they weren’t good at writing on paper, and so on. It was ridiculous—we were, after all, in a music class where reading, writing and listening to music were required, and had been clearly articulated in the course description.

I’m too jaded about how tenaciously educators cling to their dogmas to believe that the overemphasis on differentiated learning styles will soon recede from practice. The “everybody’s special” ethos of teacher education tends to treat the “learning styles” theory as though a student’s preferred method of processing new information automatically makes him or her incapable of learning through any other means. It is heartening to see attempts at dismantling the legend.

“Over and over, researchers have failed to find any substantive evidence for the notion of learning styles, to the point where it’s been designated a ‘neuromyth’ by some education and psychology experts,” writes Jesse Singal in a recent issue of New York Magazine.

The reason the myth lives on, according to Christian Jarrett in Wired magazine, is the educational-industrial complex.

“It is propagated not only in hundreds of popular books,” Jarrett wrote, “but also through international conferences and associations, by commercial companies who sell ways of measuring learning styles, and in teacher-training programs.”

Howard Gardner, who over 30 years ago did groundbreaking research on the notion of multiple intelligences—which include logical-mathematical, musical, interpersonal and intrapersonal, spatial and others, which all work in concert—has gone out of his way to differentiate his work from the shorthand of “learning styles.”

On The Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog, Gardner wrote, “If people want to talk about ‘an impulsive style’ or ‘a visual learner,’ that’s their prerogative. But they should recognize that these labels may be unhelpful, at best, and ill-conceived at worst.”

When I spoke to Gardner about the danger of using his research and the now-ubiquitous “learning styles” as a crutch for students or an excuse for teachers to not push students to perform up to their potential, he said: “I’m against uniform schools. And everybody’s got his or her own way of learning, but we’re not going to expect all schools to accommodate them all.

“There has to be a middle ground. We don’t want to make every student learn in the same way, but we also don’t want to encourage students to not have to stretch out of their comfort zone and show some grit. The way I would put it is that kids should get as much help as they need to learn, but not one whit more.”

Teachers are well meaning, but buying into the “learning styles” myth has not been definitively shown to improve educational outcomes. So let it die already. Rather than waste valuable time trying to cater to every possible learning preference, teachers would do better to help all students develop a full range of skills and competencies.


Esther J. Cepeda is a columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group. Her email address is estherjcepeda@washpost.com. Follow her on Twitter, @estherjcepeda.

This article originally appeared on http://www.gazettextra.com/.

Howard Gardner Interviewed by Korean Newspaper “Joongang Daily”

Howard Gardner was recently interviewed by Korean Newspaper Joongang Daily in conjunction with the publication of the Korean translation of his book The Disciplined Mind. In the interview transcript below, Gardner offers his thoughts about intelligence, creativity, and education on various fronts.

Click here for a PDF of the published Korean article.


Joongang Daily: As you probably know, you are well-known as the father of Multiple Intelligences theory. Your main works, including The Disciplined Mind, Frames of Mind, Extraordinary Minds, etc., deal with how the human mind operates. What does multiple intelligences theory mean in your overall academic career?

HG: Even today, over thirty years after I developed the theory, most of my mail, from all over the world, concerns MI theory. I have a website where I post occasional columns and answers to questions. (I would be happy if someone were to translate the website into Korean!)

My work on “MI theory” has taken me to interesting places and expanded my horizon, and I am glad that I developed the ideas and that they have had numerous applications in education. I have four children, and we are expecting our fourth grandchild—so as long as that paternity is recognized first, I am happy to be the father of MI theory.

That said, in my own scholarship, I have gone on to other issues. For the last twenty years, I have been studying ‘the good’—what it means to be a good worker, a good citizen, and a good person. One reason for this research is that I have seen MI ideas misapplied—and, I have to say, sometimes it has been in Korea. I came to realize that I had a responsibility to speak out when the ideas were not being used in a good way.

One of the rewards of being a scholar is that you can investigate whatever interests you. And so, after 20 years on the Good Project (see thegoodproject.org), I am now studying higher education in the United States as part of a project called “Liberal Arts and Sciences in the 21st Century.”


Joongang Daily: How do you define the human mind in the context of your research/studies? Among the many aspects of the operation of the human mind, which draws your interest the most?

HG: I construe the human mind very broadly—of course all mental activity comes from the human brain, but the human mind extends far beyond the brain to the technologies that we use, to the other people with whom we work and solve problems, and to history, culture and the arts. In my long career, I have had the chance to study many aspects of human cognition—intelligence, creativity, leadership, and ethics. I am more interested in ‘high end’ cognition—how we draw meaning from experiences, rather than how we see a line or hear a sound. And I’ve been more interested in cognition than in emotional or social aspects of the mind, though they are very important as well.


Joongang Daily: In many of your works, you deal with creative minds in human history. Nowadays, many governments and corporations are developing various programs to foster people with creative talents; they are pouring in their resources for this purpose. In your opinion, what does it mean to be creative in modern society? I also wonder if you think developments in science and technology are affecting human creativity.

HG: I think that creativity today is not fundamentally different than it was 100 or 1,000 or even 10,000 years ago. Creative people use their minds to solve problems, to raise questions, and to create objects that arouse the interest and the excitement of others. If I had to specify differences today, I would mention two: 1) we have much more help from technology, particularly digital technology; and 2) we are more likely to work with others, both near and far, than alone. The image of the solitary creative individual, working in a garret or cave or study, is much less relevant today.

Developments in science and technology have always affected creativity. Until now, however, creativity has come chiefly from human beings, not from robots or computers. If that should change, then maybe the computers will be studying creativity, rather than the psychologists or policy makers who study it today!


Joongang Daily: Recently The Disciplined Mind was published in Korea. In this book, you have emphasized the importance of academic discipline. However, many people think that creativity is hindered by becoming familiar with the existing knowledge system. How do you respond?

HG: If you spend too much time mastering existing knowledge, that can be counterproductive. On the other hand, unless you know what has been learned before, and how it was learned, the chance is that you will re-invent the wheel rather than coming up with something new, useful, and interesting. As I express it in a book called Five Minds for the Future, being creative means thinking outside of the box. But you can’t think outside of the box unless you have a box! And that box contains the disciplined knowledge that you have acquired, often over a significant period of time.


Joongang Daily: You’ve visited Korea several times, as far as I know. Is there anything you want to say about Korean education? What do you think is the most distinct feature of Korean education?

HG: What I have to say is conventional wisdom about Korea. Students are very good at mastering material and performing well on standardized tests. For students with academic intelligences, this is fine, but it creates enormous stress on young people who may be stronger in areas that are NOT tested by standard tests. Korea stands out in terms of achievement but also stress. Parents are often too tough on their children, probably because the parents themselves were stressed when they were young.

My own experience is that Korean students are often very tough on themselves, very demanding. Up to a point that may be good; but when it becomes self-destructive, that is bad. It used to be said that East Asians were not as creative as Westerners due to cultural differences. But I think that is no longer true. The secrets of creativity are open to everyone, and there are many creative artists, musicians, and scientists of Korean background both in Korea and abroad.


Joongang Daily: Recently, the problem of school bullying is becoming more and more serious worldwide. As an antidote to this problem, our government passed an act called the Character Education Law. What do you think is the core idea of character education?

HG: Often Character Education focuses on identifying and drilling what one should do and what one should not do. That’s fine as far as it goes—no one should lie, steal, or injure others. But the more challenging aspects involve how one should behave in a difficult situation, where there is no easy answer: for example, when one is tempted to cheat on an examination which seems unfair, or when a friend of yours cheats. Those difficult situations cannot be solved simply by being told what to do. One needs to discuss alternatives, understand the positive and negative aspects of each, and work together to make a better community. To do this well is challenging; and that is what we focus on in the Good Project, mentioned above. In fact we have created a toolkit which helps students, teachers, and parents tackle difficult issues like bullying or cheating or competing for scarce rewards. One needs to understand WHY people bully and what are the harms for the victim, the victimizer, and the larger community.


Joongang Daily: As the youth unemployment rate soars, many universities are now faced with the problem called “the collapse of universities,” as they are closing down humanities and basic science departments. Do you think there might be solution to this problem?

HG: As I said before, all of my work now is focused on “Liberal Arts and Sciences in the 21st Century.” I focus on that highly current topic because I am aware of the situation that you describe and want to do something about it. It’s very important that our leaders understand why broad education is essential, not only for work but also for citizenship; alas, too many of them contribute to the problem, rather than to the solution.

When we are interviewing students and parents in our study, and they say that the purpose of education is to get a job, we follow up with the question “And what happens when the job disappears?”.  Often they are shocked; they never thought of that possibility before. Of course, the whole reason for a broad education in history, philosophy, and the arts, as well as basic science, is to prepare you, as best we can in 2015, for the world, no matter what the jobs happen to be in 2020 or 2050 and no matter what is the state of the world.


Joongang Daily: As Internet technology is improving, the kind of information people need is changing. With this background, many people are saying that schools are collapsing and education itself is at stake. What roles can schools, or education itself, play in this era? What meanings do they bear?

HG: For as long as I can look ahead, we will have schools, because we need places for young people to become socialized, to learn to deal with peers, to master citizenship, and—without wanting to be frivolous—to have a place to go while parents are working! But more and more of traditional education—acquiring the literacies and the disciplines—will occur online, before the age of school, and throughout life—no more will we think of education as ending at age 20 or 25. Teachers will become more like coaches or curators, less like dispensers of information that is readily available on any search engine.

A few years ago a ‘wise guy’ student said to me, “Dr Gardner, why do we even need school when the answers to all questions are on my smart phone?”

I looked at him for a moment and said, “Yes, the answer to all questions, except the important ones!” And that’s another reason why schools and the liberal arts and sciences will continue to the indefinite future.


Joongang Daily: What do you think is the biggest problem we are facing these days? How do you think education should change in the 21st century to solve that problem? What can an educator do?

HG: I assume that you mean the biggest problem in education—because problems of climate change, the water supply, regional warfare, and nuclear weapons are far greater than the educational challenges, significant though they are (I hardly need remind an audience of South Koreans, given the weapons available in North Korea).

I don’t think that there is a single biggest problem in education. As I have suggested in my answer to other questions, we have a lot of misconceptions about the reasons for education (not just to get a job) and where it should take place (not just online). In the United States, the biggest challenge is to make the teaching profession attractive enough so that talented students will devote a significant proportion of their lives to teaching and that they will help to bring a diverse society closer together. But in other countries, like Singapore, Finland, or Korea, there are other strengths and other challenges.


Joongang Daily: It’s been thirty years since you announced Multiple Intelligence theory. It has been very influential around the globe. How do you think this theory will be evaluated thirty years from now?

HG: When I put forth the theory, I thought that the most important part was the identification of the specific intelligences and their relation to specific regions of the brain. And indeed, I think that is why the theory attracted a lot of attention. But today, I think it was more important simply to pluralize the word ‘intelligence’ and to help parents, teachers, and children themselves realize that you can be smart in more than one way, and that it’s important to identify your strengths, and make use of them—for work, for play, for what you are passionate about, for how best to work with others. I don’t know and I don’t care whether my name and the phrase ‘multiple intelligences’ will still be on the radar screen, but I do hope that the ideas of ‘several ways of being smart’ will become part of common sense, common knowledge, and common wisdom.

I’ve often said that one of the big problems with IQ is that you can’t do anything about your IQ—it is just a way of labelling you and oftentimes dismissing you. The good think about an “MI” way of thinking is that it gives hope to all people about their own potential and gives parents and teachers different ways of addressing their students. Indeed, that is one of the key ideas in The Disciplined Mind, where I show how important knowledge can be conveyed in ‘’multiple intelligences ways’.


Joongang Daily: With advances in brain science and cognitive science, new findings regarding human learning and decision making are now coming into light. How do you think this progress will affect education in the future? Nowadays, it seems that many people are especially interested in Artificial Intelligence. What do you think of the future of AI?

HG: Brain science and AI (cognitive science) are different from one another. Any educator—indeed, any educated person—should monitor what is happening in both areas of science. I think that brain science will be most important in helping us to identify potential learning problems, very early in life, and in suggesting ways in which to address those problems effectively. It is already happening with respect to spoken and written language.

As for AI, I am less interested in creating machines that will replace human beings than I am in creating machines, programs, and apps that will allow human beings to achieve what we want to achieve more skillfully and more ethically—working together with us, just as we should all learn to work with other persons, even if they don’t look or sound the way that we do.

To put it differently, if brain science or cognitive science can help human beings to survive and thrive together, that should make all of us very happy.

Italian Magazine Interviews Howard Gardner

The Italian periodical Teatri delle diversità has published a comprehensive interview with Howard Gardner as the cover story of its May 2015 issue!

Discussing multiple intelligences theory, HGSE’s Project Zero, his wide-ranging research, the state of education in the world today, the content of several of his books, and more, this interview with Gardner includes variety of subjects and is a must-read for Italian speakers interested in Gardner’s ideas and work.

Click here for a PDF of the article in Italian. The piece is also available via the magazine’s website. (Thanks to Marcel Higuera Brunner for translating the interview into Spanish, available by clicking here.)

The English text of the interview has been reprinted below.

1. The international scientific community has recognized the importance of your theory of multiple intelligences and the idea that intelligence is not a single factor quantifiable by an I.Q. test. In the 30 years since your work on The Mind’s New Science, do you believe educators have sufficiently embraced the concept of the centrality of the mind and the role that context and culture play in the formation of an individual?

A: In the United States alone, there are close to five million K-12 educators, and there are certainly ten times as many in the rest of the world. I think it is amazing that many of these educators have heard of MI theory, in one form or another, though most would not have read my works or know my name. I feel that I’ve been successful in challenging the notion of a single intelligence that is adequately assessed by an IQ test or its equivalent.

But once one gets to more specific questions, like an understanding of the role of context and culture, I don’t feel that I can give a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response. So much depends on how the questions are phrased and the answers are interpreted.

Let me give an example. In the United States, if you ask teachers, “Are there children whom we should call ‘gifted?’”, many if not most will say ‘No.’ That’s the politically correct answer. But if you then ask the teacher to rank order students in terms of how well they paint or write or dance, they’ll have little difficulty in doing so.

By the way that I phrase the question, I can make teachers (or for that matter parents) seem either sensitive or insensitive to culture or context. But I will say this: Individuals who have taught for several years, and who are reflective about their practice, are quite likely to be sensitive to culture and context.

2. Considering your experience, how—and to what degree—can an educational scholar or practitioner positively influence the promotion of innovative and research based learning theories within the educational system?

A: Recently, an American scholar, Jack Schneider, has published a book called From the Ivory to the Schoolhouse. In that book, he analyzes pairs of ideas—which superficially seem quite similar, but which differ widely in the degree to which they have been picked up by educators. He compared my well known theory of intelligence, with the theory of intelligence developed by my colleague Robert Sternberg, and proposes reasons why my ideas have caught on and influenced both educational theory and practice, and why Sternberg’s triarchic theory of intelligence has not had discernible impact.

Schneider emphasizes that the theories and research that have impacted practice are simple to state and also vivid to conceptualize; have immediate educational implications; do not cost a great deal to implement; and have found ‘translators’ and ‘advocates,’ who help teachers to understand and make use of the theory.

Of course, sometimes theories like mine are misunderstood and misapplied. Often the misuses are insignificant, but sometimes the misuses are damaging and need to be stopped. On a few occasions, I have had to be the ‘traffic cop’—explicitly denouncing practices that I feel are destructive or deceptive. I now have a website called multipleintelligencesoasis.org, where I identify good practices and malpractices.

3. You have visited and observed early education centers around the world and were one of the first to recognize the significant contribution of Loris Malaguzzi and his Reggio Emilia team. Did your expereince in Italy help further your research on the learning potential of the young mind as you observed children in this classroom setting?

A: Of all my educational experiences over a fifty year period, my encounters with the schools in Reggio have had the greatest impact. That’s because the efforts of Loris Malaguzzi and his numerous colleagues have expanded our understanding of the potentials of young children to make use of ‘the one hundred languages of childhood’; and they have amplified our knowledge of how best to work with children from six months until they begin to school. The Reggio team has built on the fundamental understandings of Piaget and Montessori. They have fashioned educational interventions that are appropriate for our time and for cultures around the world.

At Harvard Project Zero, a research group of which I was a founding member in 1967, we have carried on research inspired by our collaborations with the Reggio Schools. In the book Making Learning Visible we described the importance of collaborative learning and documentation; and in the book Visible Learning we expand the Reggio approach for use with children at different ages. (Principal researchers: Mara Krechevsky, Ben Mardell, Melissa Rivard, Daniel Wilson)

4. You are the senior director of Project Zero, founded in 1967 by the philosopher and language scholar Nelson Goodman at Harvard University. This program has examined the learning process, from early childhood to adulthood, within institutions. Can you briefly summarize the latest findings of this research and the way it examines ideas around intelligence, creativity, understanding and ethics?

A: The easiest answer and most honest answer to this question is ‘No.’ Currently we have ten principal investigators at Project Zero, and each of them has instituted a separate and important line of investigation. These are best surveyed at our website pz.harvard.edu.

But to respond to the spirit of your question, I’ll briefly mention three lines of work of which I have direct knowledge. Others are described below in response to other questions.

A. Collaboration with Paul Salopek, a prize winning journalist who is taking a walk around the globe, simulating what homo sapiens did tens of thousands of years ago. Colleagues are developing materials that schoolchildren all over the world can employ to follow Salopek’s remarkable trek and to interact with peers who are trying to encompass their own neighborhood. (Principal researcher: Liz Duraisingh)

B. The ethics of the new digital media. Many assumptions about ethical behavior, having to do with truthfulness, privacy, intellectual property, and participation in a community, have been disrupted by the internet, the web, social media, search engines and the like. How do we re-negotiate moral and ethical behavior on this rapidly changing landscape? We’ve been studying both young people and adults as they attempt to choreograph and orchestrate their behaviors in ways that take advantage of the power of the media, but not at the expense of other persons. (Principal researcher: Carrie James)

C. Liberal arts and sciences in the 21st century. Four year residential education in the liberal arts and sciences is a genuine American invention. It is admired and imitated all over the world. But it is also in jeopardy in the United States due both to external factors (high costs, widespread demands for vocational education) and internal fractures (cheating, excessive drinking of alcohol, sexual misconduct, high-profile athletics). With researcher Wendy Fischman, I am carrying out a national study of how different ‘stakeholders’ think about this admired but increasingly fragile form of education. From our research on 5-10 campuses, we will make specific recommendations about how best to preserve and strengthen education in the liberal arts for our time.

5. In the volume Truth, Beauty, and Goodness Reframed: Educating for the virtues in the 21th century, you claim that researching truth, beauty, and and goodness are profound human needs and, therefore, a fundamental basis for individual learning and growth. Could you briefly outline how public schools could incorporate this awareness into educational systems?

A: I think that every educator, indeed every human being, is concerned with what is true and what is not; what experiences to cherish and which ones to avoid; and how best to relate to other human beings. We differ in how conscious we are of these questions; how reflective we are about our own stances; whether we are aware of how these human virtues are threatened by critiques (philosophical, cultural) and by technologies (chiefly the digital media). A good educator should help us all to navigate our way in this tangled web of virtues.

In work that I’m currently undertaking, I speak about the naive or ‘unschooled’ view of the three virtues; how we should be schooled with respect to the virtues in formal schooling; and how we should continue to wrestle with what is true, beautiful, and good (and what is not) once we have left formal schooling. This is by no means an easy task. And yet, a continuing conversation with other persons, with cultural products, and with oneself, is a large part of what it means to be a human being, in our time and perhaps in all time.

6. The title of your current course at Harvard, which is taught to a very motivated and qualified group of international students, is called Good Work in Education: When Excellence, Engagement, and Ethics Meet. It picks up on the research of the Good Work Project founded by you in 1995 together with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and William Damon, later folded into the broader Good Project. Today, what does it mean, at all levels and all roles, to do “good work” in the field of education? Additionally, given your more than 20 years of  research and collaboration, can you articulate a sort of  “Code of Responsibility” for those working in the field of education in various contexts (teaching, administration, academia)?

A: Our general scheme of good work entails three characteristics, which, in English, all begin with the letter E. A good educator is technically EXCELLENT—he or she knows his subject matter, good pedagogy, and his or her students; a good educator is ENGAGED—he or she finds it meaningful to teach, and looks forward to the classroom encounters; a good educator is ETHICAL—he or she tries to figure out what is the proper course of action to follow in difficult situations; reflects on the choices made; and, in the future, tries to adjust his language and actions accordingly.

Note that the three Es are separate; one can be technically excellent but not engaged; one can be ethical but not excellent;, etc. It is a constant challenge to maintain all three Es. We have created a Good Work Toolkit to help educators attain and retain the capacity to carry out good work under challenging circumstances (see thegoodproject.org).

We devoted a whole book to the question of what does it mean to be “responsible at work” (see Responsibility at Work). A good educator has a variety of responsibilities: to her students; to the subject matter or discipline; to the institution in which she teaches; to parents and colleagues; and to the broader society in which she lives. Of course, even to monitor these responsibilities can be overwhelming; and no one can possibly be equally responsible to all constituents at all times.  That said, if one develops good habits and routines, it is possible to be a responsible educator most of the time; and to marshal the special energies and reflection for those times, when the correct course of action is not clear, or when one is weighing one wrong against another wrong.

7. We live in a society dominated by the idea of science and technology and increasing globalization. In your text Five Minds for the Future, you outline five mind capabilities: discipline, synthesis, creativity, respect and ethics. How is it possible to “educate for the future,” integrating these principles?

A: In writing about “five minds,” I was certainly keeping in mind the reality of globalization. Only individuals who have cultivated these kinds of minds are likely to thrive in a complex, interconnected and rapidly changing global world.

In directing the book toward educators, and also toward leaders in corporate and political institutions, I was trying to call attention to capacities that we take for granted (e.g. respect) as well as ones that we may not think much about (synthesizing, ethical choices). As with the Three Es of Good Work, it’s difficult to address all five minds; and yet the best educators and the best leaders never lose track of this quintet. And all of us, as workers and citizens, should attempt to keep these five minds in mind.

How does one synthesize or integrate these minds? In the book, I come to the conclusion that such synthesis is an individual project: no one can synthesize your five minds for you. Also there is inevitable tension across the minds:  respect can be in contention with ethics; discipline can pull in a different direction from creativity. And so, while synthesizing is usually thought of with respect to knowledge, this form of synthesis is an individual one, turned inward, and constantly being re-calibrated in light of our goals, values, and rapidly changing  national and international conditions.

8. In your recent book The App Generation, co-written with Katie Davis, you examine ideas of identity, intimacy and imagination in the adolescent population. To what degree do you feel today’s adolescent is dependent on digital life? What are the potentials and limits of digital technology as it regards adolescent development?

A: In every part of the world with which I am familiar, young people are completely immersed in the digital world—so much so, that it is inconceivable to them that they can, for long, be separated from their devices. Indeed, many of us who are not young, who are ‘digital immigrants’ rather than ‘digital natives,’ are also wedded to, if not dependent on, our digital devices.

The principal distinction in the book, written in collaboration with my wonderful former student Katie Davis, is between app-dependence and app-enablement. A person who is app-dependent is always searching for the best app; and as soon as its routine has been executed, the person searches for the next app. A person who is app-enabled also uses apps frequently. But he or she is never limited by the current array of apps; apps will free the person to do what he or she wants to do, or needs to do, irrespective of the next application of the app. An app-enabled person can also put devices away, without feeling bereft.

And best of all, persons can sometimes be app-transcendent: making dramatic progress or discoveries, without any dependence on any app. In this context, I like to mention Steve Jobs. While he had as much to do as anyone with the invention and development of apps, he NEVER was limited by the current technology—indeed, he typically transcended it and relied on his own considerable wits.

9. To celebrate your 70th birthday in 2013, Mindy Kornhaber and Ellen Winner invited 117 scholars and students to write something in your honor and you replied to each, resulting in the volume Mind, Work, and Life: A Festschrift on the Occasion of Howard Gardner’s 70th Birthday. Reflecting on your own career, what recommendations and warnings do you have for young researchers just entering the field?

A: The Festschrift is among the highlights of my life—what a privilege to have such wonderful colleagues and friends, to eavesdrop on what they are thinking about my work and me, and to have the opportunity to respond to them. And, for extra credit, to be able to post the entire 1500 page document on my website.

I have been an incredibly fortunate person in every respect. From an early age, I wanted to search and to do research, and I’ve had the privilege of doing so. And so my primary piece of advice is this: “Go for it, but with your eyes wide open.”

To unpack this slogan: If you enjoy reading, writing, learning, and sharing what you have learned, don’t hesitate to look for a life where you can continue to do those things. It could be as a scientist, an educator, an editor, a journalist, the founder of an organization. You only live once, and it is a tragedy if you deny yourself these options without trying to pursue them.

But don’t assume that the way that one searches and researches is the same from one era to another—it isn’t. In the 19th century, most research was done by amateurs: either individuals who were rich or individuals who had a day job. In the 20th century, most researchers worked at universities or think tanks and received money from the government or from foundations to pursue their work. In our time, the sources of support and the locations for research may be quite different.

Also, distinguish between the work and the job title. When I was leaving school in the early 1970s, many people wanted to be journalists, carrying out investigative reporting for print newspapers. Print newspapers may not exist in twenty years. But good thinking and good writing about issues that need to be reported and investigated will always be needed; but where this happens, what it is called, and who pays for it may be quite different than could have been envisioned by the great journalists of the past.

10. This interview cannot end without a question about that regards our periodical, Teatri delle diversità (Theatre of diversities). From your unique vantage point, how has the concept or definition of “diversity” changed over the last 50 years? What types of diversity has the research traditionally focused on and what are the new horizions for educational research today? What role could theatre play in regard?

A: In the United States these days, ‘diversity’ is a big word and a buzzword. Sometimes, it refers primarily to racial diversity (primarily, black and white); often it refers to any kind of ethical or cultural diversity; but it can also refer to political diversity (left/right) or to sexual diversity (gay/straight).

There is no question that diversity is much more on the radar screen than it was when I went to school over fifty years ago. When I went to Harvard College, nearly everyone looked alike (white male); there were few individuals who were openly gay; and most of us had middle-of-the-road politics. Today, our campus could not be different in every respect.

Being aware of diversity is important, and we as a society (both national and global) have made important progressive strides in the last half century. The civil rights movement, the women’s movement, and the gay rights movement have been amazingly successful in many places, though there is still much more that needs to be done.

At the risk of sounding a bit off-key, I think that we need to pay as much attention to ways in which, despite these differences, we share our humanity. This is not only because our genes are virtually identical; but because, as a planet, we are at risk of destruction (for example, gradually by the warming of the planet; or rapidly, by nuclear war or a pathogen that gets out of control). And these threats require us to work together, and not just to announce our diversity.

The wonderful thing about the theater is that it can emphasize BOTH our diversity AND our common humanity. In many ways, the world of Shakespeare (or Aeschylus or Racine) is totally different from our world; and yet any human being can look through the differences in dress and mores and discover our common problems, passions, and potentials.

Gardner Speaks with “Bridging the Gaps”

BTG-7_BG_Trans_Try_2_W160The Irish podcast program “Bridging the Gaps” has released its interview with Howard Gardner!

Speaking about the development of multiple intelligences theory, the concepts behind the book Five Minds for the Future, and his most recently published text The App Generation, Gardner gives an overview of some of the key research that has compelled him over the past three decades.

Click here to listen to the podcast via the “Bridging the Gaps” website.

Coverage from the Brock Prize Symposium

On March 24, 2015, Howard Gardner was awarded the Brock International Prize in Education for his worldwide contributions to practice in the field of education. An annual award presented to an influential or innovative educator, Gardner is the first scholar from Harvard University to be so honored.

Speaking at the Brock Prize Symposium at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma in a conversation moderated by President Richard K. Miller of Olin College, Gardner answered questions about his groundbreaking work on multiple intelligences (MI) theory, including the power of individuation and pluralization in educating for student understanding. Gardner also described his more recent work on the Good Project, including research investigating ethics in young people, whether a moral intelligence exists, how to discover the meaning of the “good,” and the distinction between the conceptions of neighborly morality and ethics of roles in a modern society.

A full video of the symposium event featuring discussion with Howard Gardner is available via YouTube below:

Additionally, an interview with Howard Gardner on Public Radio Tulsa program StudioTulsa in which he discusses his work and the award is accessible by clicking here.

Turkish Magazine Speaks with Gardner on Multiple Intelligences

In the summer of 2014, BUMED, the monthly alumni magazine of the Turkish school Boğaziçi University, interviewed Howard Gardner about his theory of multiple intelligences.

Drawing from a previous interview with the Israeli periodical Educational Echoes, Gardner discusses MI theory, its implications, and his ideas about educational policies.

Read the interview in it’s entirety here.