In 1979, Harvard professor Howard Gardner was commissioned by a Dutch philanthropic group, Bernard Van Leer Foundation, to investigate human potential. This opportunity served as the genesis for Professor Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences, beautifully presented in his 1983 publication of Frames of Mind, ringing in the birth of multiple intelligence theory, and he added the last two in Intelligence Reframed in 1999. Professor Gardner's multiple intelligences theory challenged traditional beliefs in the fields of education and cognitive science. Adhering to a traditional definition, intelligence is a uniform cognitive capacity people are born with. This capacity can be easily measured by short-answer tests.
Howard Gardner believes that our concept of intelligences is far too limiting, he defines intelligence as the ability to find and solve problems and create products of value in one's own culture. He continually expands what it means to be smart. And he believes that humans possess not one, but nine distinct forms of intelligence, and he further believes that there may be many more forms of intelligence yet to be identified.
Professor Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences differs from most other human potential approaches in that it is supported by current research in neuropsychology, psychological testing, and child development, as well as, cross-cultural studies and biographical accounts of exceptional scientists, musicians, and other skilled individuals Gardner's model of nine intelligences provides each individual with a grounded and dynamic structure needed to design a unique full-spectrum learning environment.
Professor Gardner believed that each individual possesses all nine intelligences, and that she or he strongly identifies with one or two of the intelligences. Each person has a unique way of emphasizing certain intelligences over others, and they need to appreciate their individual distinctions and differences as they tailor these unique approaches to each constellation of their learning abilities and learning needs.
Multiple intelligences can be nurtured and strengthened, or ignored and weakened. Intelligences are located in different parts of the brain, and they can either work independently or in harmony. Intelligences always interact with one another, and they can be taught, grow, and change. Intelligences can be learned anytime throughout your lifetime, and there are very few people who develop only one intelligence, while their other intelligences trail behind. These individuals are the savants of the world. The majority of us live as individuals somewhere between being a self-actualized human being and an aspiring savant. We excel in a few intelligences, some intelligences that seem average, and other intelligences that we have difficulty with. Multiple intelligence theory celebrates and brings together a wide spectrum of human abilities into a ninefold system designed to bring the best out of each one of us.
The Nine Intelligences:
- Visual/Spatial - individuals learn best visually and organize things spatially.
- Verbal/Linguistic - individuals that demonstrate strength in the language arts, speaking, writing, reading and listening.
- Mathematical/Logical - individuals who display an aptitude for numbers, reasoning, and problem-solving.
- Bodily/Kinesthetic - individuals who experience learning best through activity, games, movement, hands-on tasks, and building.
- Musical/Rhythmic - individuals who learn through songs, patterns, rhythms, instruments and musical expression.
- Intrapersonal - individuals who are especially in touch with their feelings, values, and ideas.
- Interpersonal - individuals who are people oriented and outgoing, and are effective learning in groups or with a partner.
- Naturalist - individuals who love the outdoors, animals, and field trips. More than this though, these individuals love to pick-up on subtle differences in meanings.
- Existential - individuals who learn in the context of where humanity stands in the 'big picture' of existence. They ask 'Why are we here?' and 'What is our role in the world?'
In 2006, Professor Gardner shifts his conversation from a descriptive dialogue to a prescriptive conversation in his Five Minds For The Future. He engages his audience with a prescription for the future that details the kind of minds that you will need if you are to thrive in the world of work of the future. Professor Gardner reminds us that it is not ossicle for parts of the world to thrive while others remain desperately poor.
Humans differ from other species in that we possess a history that has generated hundreds of of cultures and subcultures, consequently, Gardner draws equally on history, anthropology, and humanistic disciplines. With these Mindsets of the future people will be equipped to deal with what is expected and what is unexpected. Without these Mindsets individuals will be at the mercy of forces that can't be understood or controlled.
The five minds are a disciplined mind, a synthesizing mind, a creating mind, a respectful mind, and an ethical mind:
- Disciplined Mind - Employing the ways of thinking associated with major scholarly disciplines [history, math, science, etc.] and major professions [law, medicine, management, finance, etc., as well as crafts and trades]; capable of applying oneself diligently, improving steadily, and continuing beyond formal education as a lifetime learner.
- Synthesizing Mind - Selecting crucial information from the copious amounts available; arraying that information in ways that make sense to self and others. Recognizing new information/skills that are important and then incorporating them into one's knowledge base and professional repertoire.
- Creating Mind - Going beyond existing knowledge and syntheses to pose new questions, offer new solutions, fashion works that stretch existing genres or configure new ones; creation built on one or more established disciplines required to make judgments of quality and acceptability. Thinking outside the box, putting forth recommendations for new practices and products, explicating them, seeking endorsement and enactment, formulating and pursuing new visions.
- Respectful Mind - Responding sympathetically and constructively to differences among individuals and among groups; seeking to understand and work with those who are different; extending beyond tolerance and political correctness. Working effectively with peers, supervisors, employees, irrespective of their backgrounds and status; developing the capacity for forgiveness.
- Ethical Mind - Abstracting crucial features of one's role at work and one's role as a citizen and acting consistently with those conceptualizations; striving toward good work and good citizenship. Knowing the core values of one's profession and seeking to maintain them and pass them on, even at times of rapid and unpredictable change; with maturity, adopting the role of the trustee, who assumes stewardship of a domain and is willing to speak out even at personal cost; recognizing one's responsibilities as a citizen of one's community, region, nation, and world, and acting on those responsibilities.