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.

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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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Guest Blog Series: Multiple Intelligences in Music

This past month we received two guest blog entries regarding the use of Multiple Intelligences Theory in music. As such, we’ve decided to publish them back to back, in a sort of series. The first of these blogs is written by Dr. Clive Harrison of the University of Newcastle in Australia.

It’s a pleasure to read this contribution. I’ve not thought much about song writing and have been intrigued that some individuals start to write song and lyrics while still children—they seem ‘called’ to this pursuit.  Clive Harrison shows vividly that good song writers draw on  range of intelligences and that naturalistic intelligence looms surprisingly large in their song-writing quiver.  Of course, listening to songs is a quite separate endeavor—and I wonder whether listeners draw on different intelligences as they choose and then listen repeatedly to their favorite songs. As I consider how we relate to sung music—listening to the lyrics, dancing, doddling, day dreaming—I realize that this activity is also one that can activate multiple intelligences.

In this week’s blog, Dr. Harrison discusses how multiple intelligences can be applied to understanding songwriting practice.

Click here to read Part II of the series about MI increasing the engagement and success of music students, and click here for Part III about Edgar Willems’ teaching system in combination with MI.

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The Songwriting Coalface: Where Multiple Intelligences Collide

Dr. Clive Harrison

How do great songwriters keep coming up with those wonderful songs?

While designing tertiary songwriting courses some years ago, I realized that songwriters need a different range of capacities to other (instrumental) composition students – the most obvious being good linguistic skills (to create the necessary lyrics). At my college of 65 music lecturers, I was the only one delivering course materials covering linguistic/verbal skills, and I suspected that there was more to the craft than many of them realized (I heard comments like “anyone can write songs”, “you either have it or you haven’t”, and “I’ve never written songs, but teaching it would be a piece of cake”.

As someone who has ridden the songwriting roller-coaster from utter rejection to worldwide success (and fortunately some enormous royalty cheques), I know the challenge that successful songwriting presents. And for the purposes of designing an effective songwriting course, Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences (1983) provides a ‘useful fiction’ (his term); an excellent ‘fit’ that can be usefully mapped into songwriting practice and education.

Mapping MI theory into songwriting practice

It would appear self-evident that songwriters would need adequate musical/aural skills, verbal/linguistic skills for penning lyrics, and the bodily/kinesthetic skills necessary to perform on an instrument and/or sing the song (while the last may not be mandatory, it is a great asset). Furthermore, excellent logic/mathematical skills make possible a computer/technological methodology for creating songs and recording them ‘in the box’ (typically a laptop), and even those who lack an appealing melodic singing voice can speak their lyrics and artificially create melody using Autotune © or Melodyne © software. While it could be argued that visual/spatial capacity is not so obviously required (songs being auditory in nature), it is worth noting that they songwriters do employ visualization extensively in their lyric-writing and spatial skills when mixing tracks as they create an aural ‘space’ for the song to reside in.

Less obvious perhaps than the first five stated, are the two capacities Gardner categorizes as inter- and intra-personal intelligences. Songwriters often fulfill a cultural role as contemporary ‘bards’, relating tales of broken, mended, desirable, undesirable relationships, life experiences and situations and conflict resolution. It is not surprising then that inter-personal skills inform insightful and valued lyric writing. Once accepted into the cultural domain, faithful followers grant the songwriters a licence to speak on their behalf through song – as a genre-specific authority, advocate or representative. Intra-personal intelligence facilitating perception, self-reflection, self-analysis, reasoning and rumination, rounds out the seven capacities and provides a lens through which useful observations can be presented through song.

An unexpected conclusion.

Having covered the initial seven intelligences described in Frames of Mind (1983), I then considered the eighth – naturalistic intelligence (introduced by Gardner in Creating Minds, 1993) – to see if it was a good ‘fit’ for the songwriting process as I have experienced it over the years. My first impressions were that a Darwinian ability to identify species in nature was too remote to be relevant and useful for teaching songwriting to university students. However, as I delved deeper into songwriting research and andragogy (teaching adults), I noticed that the ‘Big-C’ creators in the songwriting realm (those who created significant works) seemed to know what to write, and when to write it.

As a session musician, I have been lucky to have worked with a wide range of songwriters (98 record albums at last count), and I can say that the very best seem to have a special ‘knack’ for making outstanding songwriting choices – ones that seemed to resonate with their specific audience, at a specific time. The exemplars in the field always seemed to have a kind of ‘musical radar’ as to what would work and what wouldn’t. On reflection, it hit me that what they had in abundance (that mortal ‘Pro-c’ creative professional songwriters had only in moderation) was an ability to recognize subtly different song ‘species’. They possessed, somehow, a musical version of naturalistic intelligence that allowed them to notice what others didn’t; a vocal nuance here, a subtle internal rhyme there, a softening of the arrangement density, an unusual but evocative choice of bass-note, or a microscopic tempo shift.

But I observed there were even more Darwinian aspects to the Big-C creative songwriter’s toolkit.

Beyond just noticing the finest of detail in the songs they listened to, wrote, recorded and performed, these exemplars of the songwriting realm were also observing at once the cultural and sub-cultural rise and fall of genres, sub-genres, trends and patterns in songs and songwriting craft. Not only were they aware of what was likely to be embraced by the listening audience right now, they were conscious of the waxing and waning of style as songs ‘survived or became extinct’, as it were.

Naturalistic intelligence in the songwriting domain

Their naturalistic capacity then (applied to the domain of songwriting), gave them an advantage; that of discriminant pattern recognition. Rather than recognize natural phenomena like cloud formations, bird beaks, and survival of the fittest life forms, these masterful songwriters recognized the social phenomena in the evolution of song formations, lyric trends, and survival of the most resonant song forms. They could discriminately make ‘intuitive’ selections from innumerable song choices, based on patterns recognized, observed and absorbed, and they would apply that expert algorithm to their songwriting craft.

It should be stated, however, that such ability does not ever guarantee success – it merely increases their chances of audience acceptance, and promotes industry confidence. The probability of audience acceptance combined with industry confidence considerably influences the field of intermediaries described in the Systems Model of Creativity (Csikszentmihalyi 1988) and predisposes them to select the song for inclusion as a worthy addition to the cultural domain.

So songwriters engage in all eight multiple intelligences, and the very best songwriters have the naturalistic intelligence to stand above the rest. This mapping of MI theory into songwriting practice may explain why Neil Finn chose a Csus2 chord to open Don’t Dream It’s Over, why Paul McCartney wrote Yesterday with a seven bar structure, and why Gotye had Kimbra sing the third verse and bridge of Somebody I Used to Know – they simply observed important nuances, trends and patterns that the rest of us missed.

 Dr. Clive Harrison is a renowned session musician, composer, songwriter and music author based in Sydney, Australia. A former President of the Australian Guild of Screen Composers, his career spans 46 years, and he currently lectures in contemporary music performance, songwriting, composition and recording. 

Specialization in the SAT: The Math Portion Should Only Test Math Skills

Standard tests of scholarship (including IQ tests) typically tap linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences. In fact, students who are strong in these intelligences are likely to do well on tests, and in school. As long as they stay in school, they will think they are smart!

We now know that at the extremes of abilities, linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligence are quite distinct.

In other words, having high linguistic intelligence does not predict high logical mathematical intelligence or vice versa.

As this article points out, it is very important not to confound these two forms of intelligence.  Accordingly, tests of mathematical intelligence are not reliable if they require linguistic sophistication.

If we feel the need to test for individual intelligences, we should make sure that we do so in as ‘pure’ a form as possible.