Is Howard Gardner Misunderstood?

In May 2018, Dr. Gary Stager (journalist, teacher educator, consultant, professor, software developer, and school STEM Director) posted an article titled “Thinking about Thinking about Howard Gardner” on his blog Stager-to-Go. In the article, Stager poses the question, “Is Howard Gardner the most misunderstood and misappropriated educationalist…in the world today or [is] he just the only theorist most educators have heard of?”

Dr. Gardner comments briefly below.


I appreciate Stager’s ‘shout-out’ to my work. It’s true that I write a lot and also that I am misunderstood a lot. (I am writing a memoir which addresses both issues). For now, I would say that I write because I become interested in topics and find that’s the best way to set down my thoughts. I’ve probably written 50 blogs in the past few years; I am happy if someone else reads them, but they are important chiefly because they give me a chance to see (as well as say) what I think. As for misunderstandings, I try whenever possible to set the record straight—for example, the difference between intelligences and learning styles—but if there is no one paying attention, there’s little that I can do.

- Howard Gardner


Click here to read Stager’s article:

Study of Spatial Intelligence

In a new study, published in Cognitive Science in June 2017, researchers at University College London and Bangor University have found that artists, architects, and sculptors process spaces differently. When asked to describe the spaces in three different images (a Google Street View image, a painting of St. Peter’s Basilica, and a computer-generated surreal scene), the variation in participants’ responses correlated to their professions.

Howard Gardner comments on the study below:

“I’m glad to see that researchers are trying to understand the different manifestations of spatial intelligence. The decision to look at painters, architects, and sculptors is a shrewd one—and the comparisons make sense. We would expect that sculptors—working in three dimensions—would share aspects of the painters’ and of the architects’ approaches.

Whether these findings have specific brain and developmental implications is a more vexed issue. Everything that we do involves the brain and so it’s to be expected that different kinds of activities involve different brain areas—how could it not be the case? And assuming it is the case, why is this so? There could be genetic reasons (best demonstrated by studying identical twins reared apart), training reasons (how teachers introduce skills), work experiences (what one does every day for many years), or a combination of these things. After all, individuals may be attracted to the visual-spatial professions because of innate proclivities; but even if individuals were randomly assigned to a spatial treatment, we would expect their brains ultimately to change. Whether those who become proficient do so primarily because of nature or primarily through the amount and type of training remains to be seen.”

Thomas Hoerr, MI Expert, Emeritus Head of School, New City School, and Scholar In Residence, UMSL College of Education, comments:

“When I present on MI, I like to spend a bit of time talking about how all of our intelligences might be put to use. I note that, as Howard has written, any complex act draws from more than one intelligence. (In fact, that would be the case for most simple acts, as well.) Intelligences are not used in isolation.

Beyond that, it’s helpful for people to consider the various manifestations of intelligences. Thinking about how the work of an architect differs from an artist makes sense to folks; the dimensions resonate. Likewise, the differences between poetry and prose are quite salient.

For teachers, in particular, I hope that this realization will encourage them – give themselves permission, if you will – to offer different experiences and pathways for kids to learn. It’s great, for example, to incorporate the spatial intelligence in teaching social studies concepts. Alone, I like that idea! Better, though, is if those spatial intelligences can be nuanced, so that there are opportunities for kids to use a range of materials, e.g., paint, clay, paper, and photography (though not on the same day!). The more teachers can envision the various aspects of intelligences, the more they can work to give students these kinds of opportunities.

What all of this does, as Howard theorized, is illustrate the multiplicity of multiple intelligences. That’s an exciting idea!”


For more information on the study, visit the following webpage:

MI Theory Featured in Zimbabwean News

In an article featured on, an African online news source, on September 13, 2016, Zimbabwean author David Mungoshi writes about MI theory in relation to several esteemed Zimbabwean figures. This feature marks an exciting expansion in the reach of MI theory, as it is the first time MI has been featured in press in an African nation.

In the article, Mungoshi urges parents and teachers to consider MI theory as a resource to help guide their students and children to their dominant intelligences. He cites Kirsty Coventry, Olympic gold-medalist swimmer, and Charles Manyuchi, Silver Class World Boxing Champion, as examples of Zimbabweans who have honed their dominant intelligences to bring success and fame not only to themselves, but also to their country.

To read the article in full, visit the following website:

MI Press: First Quarter of 2017

The theory of multiple intelligences continues to receive attention from disparate communities and corners of the globe as MI is seemingly discovered and applied anew. Thus far in 2017, we have become aware of several MI-themed articles that we wanted to share with our readers.

Many writers appear to be inspired by MI’s broad conception of human intellect, which takes into account abilities which are often not a component of formal education (such as interpersonal, interpersonal, and bodily-kinesthetic intelligences).

Click the links below to see what people are saying about MI in recent news!


Want to share more articles about MI or your own piece? Contact us or Tweet Howard Gardner @DrHowardGardner, and we can share your link.

The Neuroscience of Intelligences

When the theory of multiple intelligences was proposed thirty five years ago, I drew on evidence from a number of different disciplines and fields.  By far the most dramatic source of evidence emanated from studies of brain functioning.  I had worked for years in a neurological clinic. In that setting, I had the opportunity both to observe individuals who had an ability destroyed, or spared, in isolation; and through the instrumentation of CT scans, to determine which areas of the brain had been destroyed or spared in cases of specific deficits or preserved strengths. If anything set apart my theory from that of other theories of intelligence, it was the culling of information about the brain basis and loci of specific intellectual capacities.

In the intervening years, far more sophisticated measures of brain activity are available, several ‘in vivo’.  Through PET scans, MRI, and other measures, we have far more detailed and specific information about brain involvement in various cognitive activities.

Taking advantage of these new measures, Branton Shearer and Jessica Karnian have carried out a very intriguing study. They have examined the cognitive neuroscience literature to find references to activities associated with each of the several intelligences; and then they have gathered the information in a paper “The Neuroscience of Intelligences: Empirical Support for the Theory of Multiple Intelligences”. The paper was presented recently at the annual meeting of the International Mind Brain and Education Society in Toronto.








As the authors interpret the data, the large body of literature provides support for the validity of MI theory.  Obviously this conclusion pleases me.  But more important than a confirmation of specific claims is the re-opening of the question of neural bases for different cognitive activities, and how that evidence relates to claims about “general” intelligence.  All scientists understand that their particular claims are likely to be modified;  we hope to have contributed a significant element to our emerging understandings. Below, please find a set of slides describing their study. Click on the images to enlarge them.

Branton2Branton3Branton 4Branton5Branton7Branton8Branton6Branton9Branton10                                                                                                               Branton11Branton12Branton13                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Branton14



Amy Mintz: Using Multiple Intelligences Theory to Understand Your “Superpowers”

Multiple Intelligences: Understanding Your “Superpowers”

Amy Mintz

In today’s educational landscape, it is common for many students to experience anxiety. Young people today are busy, with many competing demands and expectations. Yet a large part of the pressure they feel comes from a source that is supposed to reward them for content mastery: standardized testing. Measures like the SAT and state-mandated assessments have resulted in increasingly high levels of stress as young people await numeric scores deemed to be reflections of their aptitude, even though these types of tests are very limited measures of overall intelligence.

How can re-calibrating the conversation empower students to have better self-esteem and an enhanced understanding of their abilities and those of others?

As a nonprofit founder and an educator, I have worked to help students reconsider the narrow meaning of intelligence we see espoused in many schools, and I have used the theory of multiple intelligences to do so. The mission of my 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, Student Body of America Association, is to support young people through education, and in doing so, our programs have implemented the theory of multiple intelligences in workshops, educational materials, curricula, and more. The impact it has had on our students has been striking.

As shared by one of our young program participants, “Learning about multiple intelligences has taught me there are many layers to everyone. I was able to learn more about the different qualities that make me who I am. I feel much more confident and sure of myself knowing my strengths.

Our research further shows that youth participants who attended a two-day workshop to learn about multiple intelligences, and then completed a survey provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, showed an average 10 percent improvement in their self-esteem. The most significant gains were evident when youth were asked if they “take a positive attitude towards [themselves].” Survey data showed a 20 percent increase.

Based on these results, I recognized the power that MI had to transform young people’s perceptions. As a result, Dr. Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences provides the framework for the MI9 Team, a book I wrote to empower youth to recognize their unique skills and special talents and to apply their strengths to reach their full potential.

This book is about a group of nine fictional superheroes, each of whom is an expert in a particular intelligence. For example, Hoku, the superhero who symbolizes bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, is a superb athlete and highly trained in martial arts. And while Hoku’s expertise came quite naturally, some of the other heroes had to work hard at the intelligence they now represent. Yin, once socially isolated and lonely, worked very hard to overcome her inhibiting shyness and now represents interpersonal intelligence.

While the MI9 Team members have superpowers, as all superheroes do, what is most significant is the fact that these characters possess qualities that each and every one of us can exhibit as well. In addition to a particular component of MI theory (e.g. musical intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, naturalist intelligence), the MI9 Team superheroes each embody two other unique qualities—a specific positive character trait (such as leadership, tenacity, determination, etc.) and a social cause they are passionate about. For instance, Sphinx, the leader of the team, fittingly epitomizes leadership. Her social cause is gender equality, and she opened a school for girls in Concordia, the impoverished land where she grew up and where gender discrimination prevents most girls from getting an education. In contrast, her fellow superhero Pierre grew up surrounded by prosperity and high expectations, but he had an apathetic family who turned a blind eye to his struggles with depression. After running away and a bout of homelessness, he ultimately comes into his own as a member of the MI9 Team and champions empathy, which he lacked as a youth. His social issue, also influenced by his personal experiences, is mental disorders.

I have shared the MI9 team with many of the young people with whom I work. When asked about whether they connect to anyone in the story, students typically identify the superheroes who represent the intelligences they feel are their strongest. These young people also express their aspirations to be more like a superhero who is skilled in an intelligence that they want to improve. One girl, who wants to be an engineer but has a hard time at school with math and science, finds that her favorite character is Athena, who represents logical-mathematical intelligence. This student has recently joined the STEM club at her school in hopes of improving her skills. With the MI9 superheroes as strong role models, we can help students remember that they each possess unique talents and that they should always do the right thing.

As young people enter adolescence, they look increasingly beyond their parents, at their peers and the media, for role models who may influence their choices, goals and behavior. In helping youth to avoid negative role models, Common Sense Media suggests helping young people “choose positive role models who embody the values you want to pass down.” The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry agrees that youth should choose positive role models by identifying qualities they admire; and the MI9 Team provides an array of qualities so there’s something that everyone can relate to, whether by intelligence, character trait, or social cause.

In summary, I have found that the multiple intelligences are a tool useful to improving youth self-esteem, whether taught academically or in the context of a fantasy world. MI is a framework with wide applicability; not only does it help young people understand themselves better, but it can also be instrumental in considering potential college majors, career paths, or volunteer opportunities. MI ultimately inspires mutual respect as students learn to appreciate the diverse abilities that they and their peers possess.

Amy Mintz is President of Student Body of America Association, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization she founded in 2011 to support the youth and education. She began working on the MI9 Team series in 2013, inspired by her experiences growing up in different countries around the world and years of experience educating the youth. The MI9 Team projects include a series of books, graphic novels, and animated film.

Two Surprising MI Fans

Howard Gardner’s most well-known contribution to psychology, the theory of multiple intelligences (MI), has been extensive employed in educational contexts since its proposal in the 1983 book Frames of Mind. Today, thousands of educators across the world use MI theory as an integral part of their classrooms or as a foundational philosophy of their schools.

As the United States presidential election of 2016 approaches, many politically-relevant articles have been published profiling the major players. In two of these pieces, both Hillary Clinton and Charles Koch have been revealed as MI fans!

First, via The Huffington Post, journalist Susan Ochshom discusses Clinton’s 1996 book It Takes A Village about the future of America’s children, in which she reveals an interest in multiple intelligences theory. This issue has been brought back to the fore due to Clinton’s nomination as the Democratic candidate for the presidency.

Second, in an interview with The Washington Post, conservative businessman and donor Charles Koch describes an early realization that he was gifted in mathematics and his broadened understanding of human intelligence through MI theory.

While coming from two sides of the political spectrum, Koch and Clinton’s appreciation of MI is an interesting demonstration of the theory’s wide applicability. Click the two links above to read the articles in full.

Stay Up to Date with the ASCD Multiple Intelligences Network Newsletter

The ASCD releases a publication through the Multiple Intelligences Network  on a periodic basis that serves as an excellent resource for MI enthusiasts. Readers are kept up to date on new developments in MI, MI research, uses of MI in the classroom, and even the occasional guest post from Howard Gardner. If interested, contact editor Tom Hoerr at or

To view this month’s newsletter, click here.




Multiple Intelligences Featured by French Education Site

French junior high school teacher Lucas Gruez reached out to my offices in November of 2015. He is an educator and MI trainer for the French Ministry of Education. In this capacity, he helps colleagues to develop projects using the principles of MI. In his words, MI is very useful for ‘model thinking’ to design pedagogical projects and to teach students that they can be smart in different ways.

To better share this information with his students and colleagues, he curates a site dedicated to education topics including MI. On this site, you can find a plethora of articles relating to MI and even some MI Oasis blog posts, too. I recommend following his posts, especially to stay up to date on MI work being done in France.


Multiple Intelligences Featured in Japanese Textbook

Tokyo Shoseki recently published an English textbook for 10th graders, Prominence: Communication English. Lesson three is entitled, “You are Smarter than You Think”, and covers Howard Gardner and the theory of Multiple Intelligences. With MI theory featured in a prominent English text book, MI will be able to reach a wider audience and a new generation of students in Japan.

The pages featuring Howard Gardner and MI can be found below.

IMG_1591-e1468520853640IMG_1584IMG_1585-e1468520903353IMG_1586-e1468520927709IMG_1587-e1468520767581 IMG_1588-e1468520795897IMG_1589-e1468520812433 IMG_1590-e1468520830428