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Multiple Intelligences

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Gabriel Mario Rodrigues – Chairman of the Board of Directors of ABMES

“The planet will not be saved by those who take high marks in tests, but by those who care for them.” (Howard Gardner)

A friend who has eleven children – three girls and eight boys -, though an engineer, makes excellent medical prognoses. He said, he learned over time to recognize illnesses because every month he had a sick son. One thing he did not understand was how his children, educated in the same way, performed so differently in school learning. The oldest was the most behaved, but she was a bad student and only liked sports. Meanwhile, the fourth son was a genius at school, the fifth a poor student, and the tenth a skilled draftsman who became a plastic artist. He could not understand how children of the same father and mother had such different behaviors.

That is why reading an article by Vinicius de Oliveira, published in The Future about Howard Gardner [1] – author of the theory of multiple intelligences -, I thought it interesting to reflect on the reason for this diversity that advocates the individualization and pluralization of learning. Gardner has a totally acceptable maxim: “I’ve never found anything important that can only be taught in one way.”

Gardner, an American psychologist, was in the Socio-emotional Congress LIV 2018, promoted in August by the Eleva Education group in Rio de Janeiro, when he detailed concepts contained in his book “Structures of the Mind” saying “We thought there was only one way to be intelligent, but now we know there are several. ”

The author also said that intelligence is something that goes far beyond what is measured in the IQ (intelligence quotient) tests.

Gardner is widely referenced in different areas of psychology and education, whether in the formulation of public policies, curricula focused on social-emotional development or in vocational testing.
The audience, surprised and perplexed, still heard that their studies show that by insisting on focusing on linguistic and logical-mathematical skills, schools fail to pay attention to individuals who demonstrate abilities in other intelligences, such as space, body- kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic. After all, says Gardner, artists, architects, musicians, naturalists, designers, dancers, therapists and business people all contribute to enrich the world we live in. But this has not received the attention of the education sector.

It is important to note that Gardner’s theory can not be read as the only possible approach for families and educators. “If you’re a parent, the first thing I say is that if your child is doing well in school, it’s best to leave him alone, and thank God,” he said. However, if there is learning difficulty or lack of motivation to study, he suggests that a specialist be sought, because parents generally have no reference on which intelligences can be better worked. “Many of them do not have many children (to get a basis for comparison) and tend to project experiences from their intelligence profile.”

Gardner in his trajectory has been dedicated to studying the way in which the thought is organized and it is exactly with such theory that it shook the bases of the Education, pinning many writers and theorists.

Today, he has a new focus of thought, organized in what he calls five minds for the future, in which ethics stands out. “It is not enough for a man to be intelligent. More than anything, one must have character, “he says, quoting the American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882).

Gardner is soft-spoken and even humble. For him, for hundreds of years, psychologists followed a theory: if you are intelligent, you are so for everything. If you are medium, you are this way all the time. And, if you’re stupid, you’re stupid always. It was said that intelligence was determined by genetics and that it was possible to indicate how intelligent a person is by subjecting him to tests. “My theory goes against that. If I’m asked if my ideas have had a significant impact, I say no. There are no “Gardner” schools or courses, but people who hear about these ideas try to use them. ”

The psychologist “recognizes that educators can not be forced to work according to multiple intelligences, but advocates the benefits when resources are used to promote individualization and pluralization of learning. The first concept has to do with what is called personalization, that is, know what is best for each student and teach according to their interests, in a way that makes sense to him. By pluralization, Gardner explains that the educator decides what is really important for students to know, learn, and understand. This information needs to be in a variety of formats and media, thus addressing multiple intelligences. ”

Asked how to individuate teaching in a room with 40 students, Gardner makes clear to which audience the theory is intended, justifying that it is actually easier to individualize teaching in a room with ten children and in rich institutions. But even without these ideal conditions, it is possible: simply organize groups formed by those who have complementary skills and teach in different ways. If the teacher understands the theory, he can use other ways of working – such as exploring what is around the school. If he believes that only expensive equipment will achieve good results in the classroom, he did not understand the essence of thinking.

So far it is clear that the proposal is for basic education, difficult to be applied in higher education, and more: concretely and realistically, unthinkable for public education, apart from the requirement to have super-differentiated teachers, exclusive, with high pedagogical performance.

With feet firmly on the floor, it is of an unusual authenticity. When asked if he has an evaluation about Brazilian education, he answered that if Brazil wants to be an important force in the 21st century, it must seek a way of educating that has more to do with its people, and not just imitate outside experiences, as the United States, Asia and Europe. The country needs to look in the mirror instead of looking at the compass. You got it.

In 1995, when creating The Good Project, Good Work, together with two other colleagues, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and William Damon, also psychologists at Harvard University, they were clear about the need for a platform that sought to understand how people who yearn to do “good work” succeeded or failed at a time when everything changes very fast; the sense of time and space is being radically altered because of technology; market forces are very powerful and it is not yet known whether there are opposing forces with equivalent power.

All this has to do with the conclusion: “When I saw that people were using my ideas in a way that I did not want, I understood that I needed to connect the multiple intelligences to a value system containing what it means to be a good person, a good professional and a good citizen, “Gardner said. “It is not the same thing to be each of them. You may be a very successful professional in Marketing, but not a good parent. An excellent consultant, but I would not hire you to be president of the company. ”

So the challenge for all of us now, when we can have the support of technologies, is how to offer individualization and pluralization of learning in our institutions?
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Howard Gardner wrote “Structures of the Mind – The Theory of the Multiple Intelligences”, released in 1983, that later gave rise to the project “Work for the Good” (“The Good Project”), developed in the University of Harvard, in the States United. For the American researcher, in the 21st century ethics will be worth more than knowledge. In addition to teaching at Harvard University and the Boston School of Medicine, he is a member of the Good Work Project research group, which advocates ethical behavior.