Gardner’s International Work in Education

A recent inquiry to Howard Gardner prompted him to take a look at the international dimensions and impact of his work.

Gardner has worked on many different international issues—some alone, some with colleagues, and many of them with colleagues at Harvard Project Zero (of which he was a founding member fifty years ago).

Below, these issues are divided into three categories. Where appropriate, countries or regions have been noted; and, where possible, contact information has been provided.

Writings

As a scholar and researcher for five decades, a lot of Gardner’s influence abroad has occurred through books and translations. His published books, many of which are primarily focused on education, have received wide circulation and been translated into thirty languages. Gardner has also written almost 500 scholarly articles, many of them translated. (All of his publications and translations can be seen on his CV.)

In recent years, Gardner has written several dozen blogs. These are available via The Good Project under the heading The Professional Ethicist); on this site under the heading Life-Long Learning; and at his official MI theory website Multiple Intelligences Oasis.

Notable among Gardner’s books are several originally published in Danish, Turkish, French, and Chinese. His book To Open Minds was subtitled “Chinese Clues to the Dilemma of American Education.” While the book has not been translated officially into Chinese, Gardner spent much time in China in the 1980s—studying Chinese arts education—and became a very well-known educator there. He also co-edited a journal on Arts Education in China (1989). There are several dozen books about Gardner’s work available in Chinese. A knowledgeable contact is Shen Zhilong, who has written the 2018 Chinese-language volume, which is titled in English as Howard Gardner & His Educational Ideas.

Collaborations

Multiple Intelligences

The ideas and practices of Gardner’s that have had the most influence on a global scale are those that have grown out of his work on multiple intelligences. Indeed, in 2009, Gardner and colleagues published Multiple Intelligences Around the World. In that collection, 42 scholars, from 15 countries, on 5 continents, wrote about the “MI” practices and policies that they had implemented. There are also dozens of “Howard Gardner” and “Multiple Intelligences” schools around the world. While he not endorse the schools individually, Gardner does respond to queries and, when feasible, visits and provides feedback.

There are scores of multiple intelligences tests and programs available, but Gardner has no official connection to any of them. He made the decision not to monetize his work in any way, and he remains content to have made that decision.

Also worth mentioning are a number of other initiatives and contacts:

  • The Multiple Intelligences Society of Japan, which Gardner has been in touch with for many years. The principal contacts are Tomoe Fujimoto and Keiko Ishiwata.
  • Project Spectrum, a major effort to assess intelligences in young children, resulted in three volumes that have been translated and adapted in several countries. Professor Ji-Mei Li from East China Normal University translated all three volumes into Chinese and promoted this work in China.
  • An online course in Multiple Intelligences, offered via Project Zero and the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Programs in Professional Education. This course was open to enrollees from around the world.
  • In Denmark, a major theme park, Danfoss Universe, has a section that is based on MI theory. The games and exhibitions are used educationally but also for enjoyment by adults and children.
  • The Ivy Schools in Hong Kong feature MI perspectives.
  • Probably the biggest network of connections is with XSeed Schools, originally only in India but now in various countries in Asia and the Pacific. Founder Ashish Rajpal was Gardner’s student.

While most of the uses of MI theory were positive or benign, there were also misuses. Gardner has devoted quite a bit of time to denouncing efforts in Asia (particularly India and China) to measure intelligences via fingerprint analysis (so-called “dermatoglyphics”). As early as 1995, he published an article called “Reflections on Multiple Intelligences: Myths and Messages”—which is now his most cited and translated article.

As a result of these experiences, Gardner and his colleagues launched The GoodWork Project, now subsumed by the larger initiative known as The Good Project. Gardner and colleagues asked the question of how human intelligences can be used for positive ends. That project has continued for two decades, with many educational applications used broadly.

Within a few years, the Multiple Intelligence International School of Quezon City, Philippines, combined these interests, establishing a national award for individuals who used intelligences in a pro-social way. Gardner attended the first awards ceremony. For more information, contact Mary Joy Abaquin, the founder.

The Good Project

Gardner’s efforts to spread his team’s frameworks and tools on the topic of “good work,” as well as other strands of The Good Project are international. The Good Project is the result of the work of Gardner and colleagues Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, William Damon, Lynn Barendsen, Wendy Fischman, Carrie James, Kirsten McHugh, and Danny Mucinskas.

Here are brief descriptions and contact persons from various countries.

  • In India and other countries, tGELF (The Global Education and Leadership Foundation) worked with The Good Project for several years to develop a “good work” professional development program and certification for their educators and leadership education for students, partnering with educationalist Gowri Iswaran.
  • In England, Gardner has spoken at the opening of the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, directed by James Arthur, and his team has remained in contact with them and contributed to their publications.
  • In the Netherlands, The Professional Honor Foundation has used Gardner’s theories and frameworks of good work extensively in sessions with a number of professionals on a national level, including social service professionals, educators, judges, and accountants, under the direction of Thijs Jansen.

Networks of Schools and Other Educational Institutions

Over the years, Gardner has been privileged to work closely with networks of schools. These include:

  • The remarkable municipal schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy, with which Gardner has worked for 35 years and about which he has written many articles and contributed to many books. Project Zero and Reggio continually exchange ideas and practices in partnership with Carlina Rinaldi and Tiziana Filippini. Gardner is also a founding member of the schools’ international scientific advisory board.
  • Col.legi Montserrat, headquartered in Barcelona, but with schools in Africa and Latin America. The schools feature many ideas and practices that Gardner and team have developed, and a wing of the school is dedicated to his contributions.
  • The International Baccalaureate, with which Gardner has had informal ties for over 25 years. Much of Gardner’s work on disciplinary understanding, interdisciplinary understanding, and global citizenship is now embedded in primary school, middle school, and Diploma curricula. This work began in collaboration with his former student, Veronica Boix-Mansilla.
  • In Australia, Gardner and colleagues created an online course on “good work” using material from Gardner’s GoodWork Toolkit curriculum, for Independent Schools Victoria (ISV).
  • Recently, Gardner’s research group has begun a study of the United World Colleges network of schools. Thus far, they are conducting impact evaluation research on these 17 schools and a set of control schools, but it is Gardner’s expectation that they will remain in close contact going forward and work with the schools to make use of the team’s findings.
  • The Riverside School in Ahmedabad, India, is a key school that has influenced many schools throughout the world. Gardner has close connections with its director, Kiran Sethi, and various of his ideas and practices have been implemented there for some time.
  • The Global Citizens Initiative, launched within the past five years by founder Yumi Kuwana and holding an annual summit at Harvard, enrolls students from all over the world to discuss global citizenship, design thinking, and service projects; GCI will have its 2019 session in Tokyo. Its curriculum is partly based on the “three Es” (excellence, engagement, and ethics) of “good work.”
  • Gardner is also an adviser and contributor to the PLATO project in higher education in Europe, headquartered in Germany.

Daily, Gardner receive inquiries from all over the world. He answers each one, with special attention to those from challenging sites in the developed world.

If you are interested in any of the initiatives or connections above, please feel free to write to Dr. Gardner’s office at hgasst@gse.harvard.edu.

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