A pair of…trainers (and how far they can get you) – Howard Gardner


 Trainers: Howard Gardner (11/7/1943 -), Developmental Psychologist, Researcher and Social Worker, born in Scranton, USA, professor at Harvard University, Boston, prolific writer and human intelligence advocate, writer of the seminal “Frames of Mind” (1983).

He said: “…at the end of the day, we do not need more people of high intelligence or of multiple intelligences, however measured or labelled; we need individuals who will use their intelligences for positive ends. I anticipate that this goal will guide me for the rest of my days” (2011)

Lewis Terman (15/1/1877- 21/12/1956), psychologist, researcher and author, he created and inaugurated (since 1921 until today!) one of the most longitudinal studies ever in educational psychology titled: “Genetic Studies of Genius” at Stanford University, he was also one of the signed researchers behind the IQ Test, known as Stanford-Binet Test, he supported the Human Betterment Movement.

He said: “It is evident, therefore, that one of the most fundamental problems of psychology is that of investigating the laws of mental growth. When these laws are known, the door of the future will in a measure be opened; determination of the child's present status will enable us to forecast what manner of adult he will become.”

Text by: Dimitris Maroulis

The Run

In 2015, an educational organisation in the USA, TheBestSchools.Org, attempted to make a list of the most intelligent people alive. In that list you can find the expected people such as Stephen Hawking, the scientist, the Greek doctor Evangelos Katsioulis, (IQ=205), Barack Obama, the USA President, Terrence Tao, the Mathematician, but also other people, not so expected to be found in such a list: Bob Dylan, Jackie Chan, Tony Hawk the skater, and, Michael Jordan, the basketball player.

The latter would have never been even in Lewis Terman’s list with the “Termites”, the nickname given to Terman’s study subjects. All “Termites” with IQ 151 plus were considered geniuses and Terman followed them since to find out if IQ can be a predictive factor of success. Terman, as many other researchers in the history of science, chose the WEIRD ones as the perfect subjects and this means that he chose the: Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich and Democratic subjects who make up the 80% (plus) of all social science research but who belong to the 12% of global population (a very serious limitation indeed!). Legend has it though that he missed William Shockley, who did not have the predefined score and he was excluded from the “Termites” group. Shockley invented, in 1948, the junction transistor, a huge achievement, and was awarded Nobel Prize in Physics, 1970, for this! Terman missed the chance to predict a Nobel Laureate! (which goes to show?)

Howard Gardner, instead, dissatisfied with the then definition of intelligence he dared give his own: an intelligence is a biopsychological potential to process information in certain kinds of ways, in order to solve problems or create products that are valued in one or more cultural settings (1983). He then identified the well-known multiple intelligences concept, comprised of the eight plus one, well-known intelligences: the spatial, the logico-mathematical, the bodily-kinaesthetic, the linguistic, the musical, the interpersonal, the intrapersonal and the naturalistic, plus the latest addition, the existential.

The concept has been highly influential since then and many more studies and research has been conducted verifying, in most of the cases, the, almost common-sensical, view, that intelligence is not (only) in genes and not static. It is something dynamic and experience-based.

Gardner himself points out that there are two educational benefits from this concept: individuation and pluralization. Understanding the intellectual profile of individual learners and accepting their eccentricities seem to be at the core of multiple intelligences. Leo Messi may know nothing about brain biology, but his spatial and bodily-kinaesthetic intelligences reach the level of Terman’s genius. In the same vein, pluralization simply means that important ideas, topics, theories and skills ought to be taught in more than one way, indeed in several ways – and these several ways should activate multiple intelligences. When one pluralizes an educational approach, two wonderful things happen. First of all, one reaches more individuals—since some individuals learn better through stories, others through work of art, or hands on activities or group work—and by argument, each of these approaches activates a distinctive set of intelligences. Second of all, pluralized education exemplifies what it means to understand something well. Because if you understand an entity well—be it a school subject, an avocation, your own home, your own family—you can think of it in many ways. Conversely, if you can only represent this entity in a single way, using a single intelligence, then your own mastery is probably tenuous.

Post-Run Recover Routine

How can all these be made relevant to your classroom? you may ask. Your learners do not come as a tabula rasa (blank slate). They carry specific abilities, some genetic some epigenetic but in any case, in many forms, in all shapes and sizes. Your task is:

  • To identify their strengths and weaknesses, work with the former and heal the latter.
  • Be patient and thoughtful, work well with their learning profile, what kind of learners are they? What do they like doing? What kind of people are they? What are their beliefs about learning and language learning?
  • What makes them tick? What excites them? What motivates them? What encourages them?
  • If you look back in Terman’s research and longitudinal study, what we can get out of it is that academia is not the holly grail of learning. Grit, mindset, positive psychology, motivation, emotional intelligence play a significant role as well. They shape one’s personality, they offer them the necessary background to move on, try harder and enjoy the learning process. Cultivate these processes, give them a prominent position in your teaching. Always take your learners non-cognitive skills temperature.
  • Finally, follow Gardner’s idea: teach the individuals with as many ways as possible.
ELT News

ELT News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *