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Howard Gardner Biography

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"We have this myth that the only way to learn something is to read it in a textbook or hear a lecture on it. And the only way to show that we've understood something is to take a short-answer test or maybe occasionally with an essay question thrown in. But that's nonsense. Everything can be taught in more than one way." – Howard Gardner, 1997

Best Known For:

  • Theory of multiple intelligences

Brief Biography:

Howard Gardner was born on July 11, 1943 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He described himself as "a studious child who gained much pleasure from playing the piano." He completed his post-secondary education at Harvard, earning his undergraduate degree in 1965 and his Ph.D. in 1971.

While he had originally planned to study law, he was inspired by the works of Jean Piaget to study developmental psychology. He also cited the mentoring he received from the famous psychoanalyst Erik Erikson as part of the reason why he set his sights on psychology. "My mind was really opened when I went to Harvard College and had the opportunity to study under individuals—such as psychoanalyst Erik Erikson, sociologist David Riesman, and cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner—who were creating knowledge about human beings. That helped set me on the course of investigating human nature, particularly how human beings think," he later explained.

Career:

After spending time working with two very different groups, normal and gifted children and brain-damaged adults, Gardner began developing a theory designed to synthesize his research and observations. In 1983, he published Frames of Mind which outlined his theory of multiple intelligences.

According to this theory, people have many different ways of learning. Unlike traditional theories of intelligence that focus on one, single general intelligence, Gardner believed that people instead have multiple different ways of thinking and learning. He has since identified and described eight different kinds of intelligence:

  1. Visual-spatial intelligence
  2. Linguistic-verbal intelligence
  3. Mathematical intelligence
  4. Kinesthetic intelligence
  5. Musical intelligence
  6. Interpersonal intelligence
  7. Intrapersonal intelligence
  8. Naturalistic intelligence

He has also proposed the possible addition of a ninth type which he refers to as "existential intelligence."

Gardner's theory has perhaps had the greatest impact within the field of education, where it has received considerable attention and use. His conceptualization of intelligence as more than a single, solitary quality has opened the doors for further research and different ways of thinking about human intelligence.

Researcher Mindy L. Kornhaber has suggested that the theory of multiple intelligences is so popular within the field of education because it "validates educators' everyday experience: students think and learn in many different ways. It also provides educators with a conceptual framework for organizing and reflecting on curriculum assessment and pedagogical practices. In turn, this reflection has led many educators to develop new approaches that might better meet the needs of the range of learners in their classrooms."

Gardner currently serves as the Chairman of Steering Committee for Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and as an Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Harvard University.

Awards:

  • 1981, MacArthur Prize Fellowship
  • 1987, William James Award, American Psychological Association
  • 1990, University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Education
  • 2000, John S. Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship
  • 2011, Prince of Asturias Award in Social Sciences

Selected Publications:

Gardner, H. (1983;2003). Frames of mind. The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: BasicBooks.

Gardner, H. (1999). Intelligence reframed. New York: Basic Books.

Gardner, H. (2000). The Disciplined Mind: Beyond Facts And Standardized Tests, The K-12 Education That Every Child Deserves. New York: Penguin Putnam.

References:

Edutopia. (1997). Big Thinkers: Howard Gardner on Multiple Intelligences. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/multiple-intelligences-howard-gardner-video

Howard Gardner. (2010). Retrieved from http://pzweb.harvard.edu/PIs/HG.htm

Howard Gardner: Positions and Awards. (2010). Retrieved from http://www.pz.harvard.edu/pis/HGposi.htm

Kornhaber, M. L. (2001) 'Howard Gardner' in J. A. Palmer (ed.) Fifty Modern Thinkers on Education. From Piaget to the present, London: Routledge.

Smith, Mark K. (2002, 2008) 'Howard Gardner and multiple intelligences', the encyclopedia of informal education, http://www.infed.org/thinkers/gardner.htm.

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