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Interview on MI Theory Reprinted

In 2013, Howard Gardner was interviewed by the Spanish website tiching.com about his theory of multiple intelligences.

This blog reappeared in the 2016 Spanish-language education-themed book Hablamos de Educación (Let’s Talk About Education).

Click here to read the republished version of the interview (Spanish). The original English version has been reprinted below.


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 do 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 eight different intelligences exist. Do we have all the intelligences in various degrees, or does each person have 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.

T: We attended your conference at Montserrat College, and you talked about two new intelligences that you want to introduce (pedagogical and existential). How has this issue advanced?

HG: In order for me to ‘endorse’ an intelligence, I need to carry out lots of research. I have not had the time to research ‘teaching intelligence,’ and 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 have launched the Multiple Intelligences Oasis site; what are its objectives?

HG: This is a website, launched in the summer of 2013. 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). 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 intelligences 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 is 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 curricula be redesigned 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 Chapters 7-9 of my 1999 book The Disciplined Mind, I show how to teach important lessons in science, history, and music, through alternative intelligence 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 most developed yourself?

HG: I think that I am strongest in linguistic and musical intelligence, and I continue to work on my interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence.

T: What project(s) are you working on now?

HG: For the last twenty years, I have been engaged in The Good Project, a study of how professions survive in a time when markets are very powerful, which now has many offshoots. I am now working on 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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