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Tuesday, September 28, 1999
Focus Session
A Conversation With
Dr. Howard Gardner
Harvard Graduate School of Education

Intelligence Reframed : Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century

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Tony Bott/T.Net - I do highly recommend Dr. Gardner's latest book, Intelligence Reframed, to all teachers. Many of the myths and realities of multiple intelligences, as well as appropriate MI environments for children are illustrated and discussed by Dr. Gardner. Undoubtedly, you will find this an essential tool in building your understanding of how intelligences vary and be fostered in individuals. Available in bookstores very soon, or you can check back with us at Teachers.Net...

Kathleen/CT - Teachers.Net is honored to present Dr. Howard Gardner. Dr. Gardner is a professor of education and co-director of Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and adjunct professor of neurology at the Boston University School of Medicine. Author of sixteen books, Dr. Gardner has been honored with the MacArthur "Genius" award and has been acclaimed as the most influential educational theorist since John Dewey. Dr. Gardner's book, Intelligence Reframed (November 1999) has been called a brilliant state-of-the-art report on how the landmark theory of multiple intelligences is radically changing our understanding of education and human development.

Kathleen - Moderator is Dr. Anthony Bott, founder and co-director of the Teachers.Net family of Internet resources for educators worldwide. After teaching for several years in elementary school classrooms, Tony then began work toward his doctoral degree at UCLA. He recently completed his dissertation, "Teacher support through virtual communities" and received his doctorate degree (June, 1999). Tony been a guest speaker at the White House Internet Summit (1998) and plans to continue working on teacher support and teacher "networking."

Tony Bott/T.Net - Greetings and welcome, Dr. Gardner. We are honored that you have joined us this evening on Teachers.Net. Briefly, Teachers.Net is a virtual community of teachers who utilize the Internet to develop themselves personally, operationally, and intellectually. We appreciate your willingness to nurture this discussion group and new technology.

Tony Bott/T.Net - I would like to open with a question, if I may. Your new book, Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century, discusses multiple intelligences in light of many of the myths and derivative educational programs that have evolved over the years since you introduced the concept years ago. I am interested in how Internet-based communities of teachers can create effective learning environments for the sharing of MI strategies and applications. Question: What role do you see the Internet playing in the 1) proliferation, and 2) deeper understanding among teachers of the appropriate application for the theory of multiple intelligences in schools?

howard gardner - Certainly the internet is a great way for teachers to find out about new ideas and to exchange specific plans. Ultimately, I think one needs to build real as well as virtual communities closer to home. However the internet can also help you to do that and to keep in touch as we are doing now.

Marisel - Dr. Gardner, I am a student at Barry University in Miami, Fl. majoring in elementary Education. What is the best piece of advice that you can give me? I would like to add that I am really looking forward to becoming a teacher and I feel that every child has the ability to learn.
howard gardner - Never forget the motivation that led you into teaching. If you find your motivation flagging, you need to revisit your original goals and passion. If you cant reactivate them, then you should not be in the classroom any more. Of course, there is much advice I could give about becoming a better teacher but that is a longer conversation. BY the way, all of you in this chat room should feel free to call me Howard.

connie - What are your feelings about the use of IQ test in education to identify and label students? I teach in Virginia and I am concerned about the testing and labeling of our students using this test.
howard gardner - I am surprised to learn that the IQ test is being routinely used in VA. In many states you cant use it because it is thought to be prejudicial. No child should be labeled on the basis of one test, and of course the intelligence test is the most charged label of all. VA is at present a test-crazy state, as are Texas and some others. This is unfortunate because testing itself does not bring about changes However I think it will take our country a long time to realize that the solution to our educational problems are inseparable from the values of our wider society.

Lisa/3/MO - I am working on my thesis paper for a masters in reading at Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri. How do you see Multiple Intelligence Theory improving reading instruction and learning in the classroom ... and how much research have you done in the area of Multiple Intelligence Theory and Reading Instruction?
howard gardner - MI theory has not been used extensively in the teaching of reading, so I cant comment in detail. Certainly, children differ in how they attack reading and the interventions from which they benefit. And in some cases, approaching reading through another symbol system can be advantageous. MI is now being used quite imaginatively in the teaching of reading to adults. At Harvard we have the Adult MI project., You can get further details by contacting julie viens (

Karin - Hi Howard. I am honored to "meet" you. Our school has studied and worked to implement ideas based upon MI theory since the early 90's. We were honored to have Mindy K visit us 2 years ago! Thanks for giving us the research to support our belief that all children are smart! Can you describe the existentialist intelligence? Do you feel there are classroom ramifications/applications for this latest intelligence?
howard gardner - The existential intelligence is in limbo-- we are trying to find good biological evidence for it. I have a chapter on this question in INTELLIGENCE REFRAMED which should be in your book store any day now. Briefly, existential intelligence draws on the human capacity to ask and try to answer Very Big Questions. As far as I am concerned, all education should begin with such Existential questions like Who are we, where do we come from, why are we here, what is going to happen to us? When you get mired in testing and long-distance standards, such existential issues necessarily go by the boards.

Genie/GA/k - I am working on my masters also. What is your definition of curriculum and how does the MI theory impact instruction? In a k classroom, how do you identify Multiple Intelligences in young children?
howard gardner - The last part of your question is the easiest. We have developed methods for tracing MI in children. You can read about them in the three Project Spectrum books published by Teachers College Press. Curriculum is simply the materials and methods that we want our children to master in school. Curricula reflect our priorities and values (facts vs understanding, for example). You can never get curriculum from MI. BUT once you know WHAT you want to teach, then there are many methods of teaching that draw on MI ideas. The best place to read further is in THE DISCIPLINED MIND where I describe a curriculum based on the true, the beautiful, and the good, and then show how it can be taught by energizing the ensemble of human intelligences.

Karin - As a parent, how has Mi theory affected how you regard your own child's education?
howard gardner - good question. Parents are susceptible to positive and negative narcissism-- I want my child to be just like me, or I want my child to do the one thing I could not do. Over time I have learned to spend more time trying to understand what each child wants and is good at and how best to help him/her achieve those goals.

Mim - I teach G/T 2-6 in PA. I thank you for your research and theory. I feel it has particular importance to the fact that gifted children often feel they need to be "perfect" in all areas. Have you done any research pertaining particularly to MI and G/T stud
howard gardner - my wife Ellen Winner is my informant about giftedness, See her book GIFTED CHILDREN. While there are some kids who are omnibus gifted, most are much stronger in one area than in others. When kids try to be perfect in everything, that is a sign that someone has given them the idea that they cant have an "uneven profile". And so parents and teachers need to help them get some distance from their strengths AND weaknesses, or, unless they are Leonardo da Vinci, they are destined to be unhappy for life.

CAZgirl - Greetings from California.. I am concerned With the current concerns over test scores and achievement test do you feel that we are becoming to fixated on numbers? How does this focus affect using the MI theories in the classroom? We are being pushed to teach children how to take test, bubble in the answer ect. what are your feelings on this?
howard gardner - I am very unsympathetic to a test-crazed society. You don't help a patient recover by taking her temperature all the time. The best thing teachers and administrators can do is to give lots of different kinds of feedback to parents and politicians, so that the Single Number mentality does not dominate. I recommend focussing on STUDENT WORK because that is the unambiguous sign of student learning (or , alas, non learning in some cases)

Kim/NC - Good evening Dr. Gardner. You have said that the theory of multiple intelligences may be best understood when we know what it critiques. Will you explain this further please?
howard gardner - Sure. MI theory critiques the notion that there is a single intelligence, that we are born with, that cant be changed, and that can be measured by a single instrument. I disagree with each of these statements and think that they are wrong scientifically and practically. And so I have developed a theory of different intelligences, each of which can be molded and improved by practice, and most of which cant be measured by a simple paper and pencil test. All the rest is commentary!

kms - I am interested in implementing MI in learning centers. What are you ideas on this and will it work?
howard gardner - I think that you mean using learning centers, which highlight different intelligences. As you may know Bruce Campbell from Seattle has written some books on this topic and he is the best authority. With reference to any method, I always say "What are you using it for" and "How do you know that it is working?" If you can answer those questions about l.c. then you are in business!

jane - what role does a sense of humor play in the MI. I have noticed that some of the giftedness rating scales look at a child's understanding of humor
howard gardner - I love humor and if you want to call it an intelligence informally, that does not bother me. However, I have eight criteria for an intelligence and humor does not qualify ... at least not yet. I think of humor as applying logical intelligence to various spheres. In humor you negate or reverse the usual state of affairs, which is a logical operation. To amuse others, you have to be able to put yourself into their places, and that involves interpersonal intelligence as well.

Grace - VAKT theory has been around the reading field for over 50 years. Others have added music to reading instruction. How does all of this fit into your MI theories?
howard gardner - You are going beyond my expertise. I think that often the material of one intelligence (like music) can aid you in learning something else, but only in a very generic way. To be able to read you have to be able to match sounds with graphemes, and the process does not work the same with musical scores as with alphabetical texts. So music can help you get started but in the end it cannot substitute for phomene-graphic matches

Just/RI - Good Evening Dr. Gardner, I am curious about the types of system support classroom teachers can avail themselves of if they are interested in beginning to use the MI approach in their classrooms. Is there support available to local school systems.
howard gardner - I suggest that you read Tom Hoerr's books from the New City School in ST Louis. It shows how to start MI schools.

Maggie in Canada - Is either gender more or less likely to possess any particular intelligence/s?
howard gardner - Maggie, probably women are stronger on the average in language, and men in spatial, but these strengths can be shifted by tutelage

Maria? - How does MI work in the work place?
howard gardner - Maria, I have a whole chapter on MI in the workplace in my new book Intelligence Reframed

Katydid - What is your opinion of the work of Marie Clay, what implications does this have for us as teachers, especially in response to single modality programs such as an Open Court program?
howard gardner - I know of Marie Clay from Reading Recovery. Everything I know about this approach is that it is an excellent one, though it requires considerable resources. Single Modality programs sound self limiting but I am not sure I know what they are !

Halima - How can we implement the theory of multiple intelligence in the classroom. Please give examples (in Physics high school level) as mentioned in your book's review
howard gardner - You should look, Halima, at THE DISCIPLINED MIND and THE UNSCHOOLED MIND. In the latter book I talk about problems that kids have in mastering the discipline of physics. In the DISCIPLINED MIND I show how you can use MI as entry points, powerful analogies, and different model languages, all of which can help with subjects like physics

Maria? - Hello from Argentina, people do not understand how the spiritual and naturalistic intelligences can be recognized
howard gardner - Naturalist intelligence shows itself when children (or anyone) is good in recognizing members of a class of natural objects (like plants, animals, clouds etc.)., Since I don't think that there is such a thing as spiritual intelligence, I cant tell you how to identify it! See my two chapters in INTELLIGENCE REFRAMED, where I discuss the problems with spiritual intelligence.

Addie k/mo - There is also an emphasis on healthy self esteem and good self concept. How does the implementation of MI theory contribute to a healthy self esteem?
howard gardner - I think that MI theory is quite relevant to self esteem. S-E in itself is meaningless- it can be delusional as well as efficacious. But if you feel good about yourself because you are able to accomplish something that you thought you could not, that is very important. Many kids feel ineffective because they cant handle school as well as others. For these kids it is especially important to identify realms where they are competent. And sometimes that can spill over into school work, though I don't believe in miracles in this regard,,, or others!

HarrietH - Our school of 750 students of 4th, 5th, and 6th graders is considering organizing enrichment activities based on your theory of multiple intelligence. Do you see this as being successful and beneficial l? If so, what instrument would be most practical to use to identify the intelligence of each student?
howard gardner - I think that it is a great idea to organize enrichment around MI. I don't think that you need a fancy instrument to measure intelligences. Ask kids what they are good in, and what they like to do, pose the same questions to parents and teachers, and so long as they agree, then you have a good rough and ready measure of intelligences. For younger kids, the Spectrum methods that I mentioned earlier are a good way to identify intelligences.

Kathleen/CT - Dr. Gardner, we deeply appreciate your time here.
Tony Bott/T.Net - Look forward to further discussions of Multiple Intelligences as we develop resources for those interested in continued discussion of MI applications and strategies for students.
Bob Reap - A warm thanks to you Howard, and to all a good night!
Tony Bott/T.Net - Remember, get a copy of Intelligence Reframed as soon as it is available! This is an excellent read, an intelligent discussion of the development of multiple intelligences. New intelligences are discussed, and a revised description of MI's applying to assessment and school design will inform educators of all ages.
Tony Bott/T.Net - G'nite everybody!!! Thanks again.

To view a listing of other books by Dr. Gardner, visit Teachers.Net's Bookshelf