Howard Gardner Essay

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In his groundbreaking 1983 book, Frames of Mind, Gardner challenged educators to change how they define and value intelligence. His theory of multiple intelligences continues to shape curriculum and instruction.

Gardner was born July 11, 1943, in Scranton, PA. He earned a bachelor’s degree at Harvard University, completed his Ph.D. in social psychology there in 1971, and continues to teach and conduct research at that institution.

Frames of Mind begins with Gardner’s discussion of the two intelligences that have classically been thought of as comprising all of intelligence: linguistic intelligence and logical/mathematical intelligence. These first two intelligences involve the ability to communicate through language and the ability to solve problems and understand and use mathematical functions. He goes on to argue for five additional intelligences.

Spatial intelligence, which involves understanding objects in relation to one another, might typically be associated with artistic ability. Bodily/kinesthetic intelligence can be understood as relating to athletic ability. Musical intelligence relates to the ability to understand, distinguish, and recall types of musical sound and notes. Interpersonal intelligence is concerned with knowledge of how others might feel, be motivated, or act. Intrapersonal intelligence is defined as the individual’s ability to understand his or her own thoughts and emotions. In the mid-1990s, Gardner posited an eighth intelligence, naturalistic intelligence. This intelligence is concerned with the ability to understand and distinguish between living things and objects in nature. Discussion of this intelligence appears in his 1999 book, Intelligences Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century.

In recent years, Gardner has responded to many criticisms of his theories. Additionally, he continues to try to clarify his theories, which some educators and laypeople alike either confound or misunderstand. Gardner has won numerous prestigious grants and honors and continues to be among the forefront of American educational theorists.


  1. Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: Basic Books.
  2. Schaler, J. A. (Ed.). (2006). Howard Gardner under fire: The rebel psychologist faces his critics. Chicago: Open Court Press.

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