Howard Gardner

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Renowned Developmental and Cognitive Psychologist; Father of Multiple Intelligences Theory; Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education;
Co-director, The Good Project; Author, “A Synthesizing Mind”

Biography

It is one thing to have data help us understand the world, but quite another to have it run the world. According to renowned developmental and cognitive psychologist Howard Gardner, esteemed father of multiple intelligences theory and Research Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, data exist to serve humans, not vice versa. The true value is determined by how these data are interpreted and used by humans.

Gardner’s widely respected, decades-old teachings are even more relevant today as decision makers in every area of society – from business and government leaders to educators and parents – try to figure out the best ways to teach, learn and solve problems in a world that tempts us to surrender human thinking to machines.

“If you feed deep learning algorithms lots of information, they’ll make sense of it,” says Gardner. “But from an analytic standpoint, this begs two questions. What are you asking of these algorithms and, from an ethical point of view, do you want to embrace the answer that comes out?”

Weaving its way through Gardner’s storied and eclectic career as a tireless researcher, speaker and educator is a sense of how we understand and value the vast capabilities of the human mind. When Gardner first introduced his groundbreaking theory of multiple intelligences more than 30 years ago, he revolutionized the fields of education and psychology. After decades of studying the minds of others, Gardner turned the lens inward in his 2020 book “A Synthesizing Mind: A Memoir from the Creator of the Multiple Intelligences Theory” (MIT Press), examining his own intellectual path from childhood to the present with characteristic curiosity, humility and detached observation.

Gardner says his mind has always “wandered widely.” To date he has studied arts, intelligence, creativity, leadership, morality, ethics and K-12 and higher education with a research style he describes as somewhere between journalism on one hand, and experimental social science on the other. His method involves exhaustively gathering and distilling information of all sorts, looking at it from a human perspective, and identifying what it means for people and society. In doing so, he calls on each of us to consult our own intelligences when it comes to interpreting machine thinking.

That same kind of rigor went into preparations for Gardner’s next book, which will be informed by a long-running study he and his colleagues conducted as part of The Good Project, a research collaborative he co-founded in 1996. Attempting to make sense of the pros and cons of today’s higher education system, the book will reveal the results of individual one-hour interviews with over 2,000 people at ten different institutions. Tentatively entitled “The Once and Future College,” the book is scheduled for publication in 2021.

In addition to teaching, writing and juggling multiple research projects, Gardner shares his expertise with organizations across the world through keynotes and consulting. In an era when humans and machines are increasingly becoming “co-workers” and organizations are looking for more ethical ways of doing business, Gardner’s work will continue to shine a light on a better way – one that values the real driver of success: the human mind.

Doing things a new way is easy. We call this novelty,” Gardner explains. “More challenging is a new way that gets accepted by others. We call this creativity. Even more challenging is a new way that is ethical and advances the human condition. We call this ‘good work.’”

# # #

Dr. Howard Gardner has authored several hundred articles and over 30 books, including “Leading Minds” (2011), “Five Minds for the Future” (2009), “Changing Minds” (2006), “The Disciplined Mind” (2000) and, more recently, “The App Generation: How Today’s Youth Navigate Identity, Intimacy, and Imagination in a Digital World” (2013). His intellectual memoir, “A Synthesizing Mind” was published in 2020.

Repeatedly recognized as one of the 100 most influential public intellectuals in the world by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines, Professor Gardner has earned numerous honors, including a MacArthur Prize Fellowship and John S. Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, the Prince of Asturias Award for Social Sciences, and he was the first American to receive the University of Louisville’s Grawemeyer Award in Education. He was also named to the American Management Association’s Top 30 Leaders in Business of 2014 list. Most recently, Professor Gardner was the recipient of the 2020 Distinguished Contributions to Research in Education Award from the American Educational Research Association. He has received honorary degrees from 31 colleges and universities, including institutions in Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, South Korea and Spain. Professor Gardner has also been elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the National Academy of Education and the London-based Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. He has served on a number of boards, including that of New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

For more than two decades, Professor Gardner has co-directed the GoodWork Project, now a component of the larger Good Project, a large-scale, non-profit effort to identify and study individuals and institutions whose high social and ethical standards of excellence serve as a model for good work. More recently, he has conducted reflection sessions designed to enhance the understanding and incidence of good work among young people and he is also investigating the ethical dimensions of new digital media.

Professor Gardner’s other research efforts include a major study of liberal arts and sciences in the 21st century.

Howard Gardner (and select colleagues) are available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Videos

Media

the good project logo

Howard's Blog on The Good Project

Howard's Life-Long Learning Blog

Howard Gardner's New Book Takes Us Inside His Expansive Mind

September 29, 2020

It's Good to Expose Myths About Neuroscience — But the Debunking is Getting Out of Hand, a World-Famous Psychologist Says

February 6, 2020

Campuses’ Cultures

May-June 2019

The Future of College

February 4, 2019

Positive Transformations: A Key Goal of Education

September 18, 2017

tes.com logo

Students need 'safe spaces' to discuss Trump victory

December 1, 2016

Huffington Post logo

The Global Search for Education: Just Imagine Secretary Gardner

September 8, 2016

Huffington Post logo

The Global Search for Education: In Search of Professional Ethicists - Is Education a Profession? - Part 2

April 11, 2016

Liberal Arts and Sciences in the 21st Century

March 9, 2016

An Intelligence Expert Defines the Real Problem with Standardized Testing in Schools

February 15, 2016

the good project logo

Is There a Future for the Professions? An Interim Verdict

December 2, 2015

Washington Post logo

A Primer for Mark Zuckerberg on Personalized Learning — by Harvard’s Howard Gardner

December 2, 2015

Is the 'App Mentality' Killing Students' Creativity?

June 16, 2015

Huffington Post logo

The Global Search for Education: United States and Finland - Why Are They So Great?

April 2, 2015

Huffington Post logo

How Apps Can Cause Us to Take Fewer Risks in the Game of Life

April 28, 2014

cognoscenti

The App Generation: How Technology Is Changing Us

February 12, 2014

Huffington Post logo

The Global Search for Education: It's an App App App App World!

January 9, 2014

Are Apps Becoming a Human Crutch?

January 7, 2014

Washington Post logo

Howard Gardner: ‘Multiple Intelligences’ Are Not ‘Learning Styles’

October 16, 2013

Huffington Post logo

The Global Search for Education: A Question of Privacy

March 18, 2013

Huffington Post logo

The Global Search for Education: What Is Good?

July 30, 2012

Biography

It is one thing to have data help us understand the world, but quite another to have it run the world. According to renowned developmental and cognitive psychologist Howard Gardner, esteemed father of multiple intelligences theory and Research Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, data exist to serve humans, not vice versa. The true value is determined by how these data are interpreted and used by humans.

Gardner’s widely respected, decades-old teachings are even more relevant today as decision makers in every area of society – from business and government leaders to educators and parents – try to figure out the best ways to teach, learn and solve problems in a world that tempts us to surrender human thinking to machines.

“If you feed deep learning algorithms lots of information, they’ll make sense of it,” says Gardner. “But from an analytic standpoint, this begs two questions. What are you asking of these algorithms and, from an ethical point of view, do you want to embrace the answer that comes out?”

Weaving its way through Gardner’s storied and eclectic career as a tireless researcher, speaker and educator is a sense of how we understand and value the vast capabilities of the human mind. When Gardner first introduced his groundbreaking theory of multiple intelligences more than 30 years ago, he revolutionized the fields of education and psychology. After decades of studying the minds of others, Gardner turned the lens inward in his 2020 book “A Synthesizing Mind: A Memoir from the Creator of the Multiple Intelligences Theory” (MIT Press), examining his own intellectual path from childhood to the present with characteristic curiosity, humility and detached observation.

Gardner says his mind has always “wandered widely.” To date he has studied arts, intelligence, creativity, leadership, morality, ethics and K-12 and higher education with a research style he describes as somewhere between journalism on one hand, and experimental social science on the other. His method involves exhaustively gathering and distilling information of all sorts, looking at it from a human perspective, and identifying what it means for people and society. In doing so, he calls on each of us to consult our own intelligences when it comes to interpreting machine thinking.

That same kind of rigor went into preparations for Gardner’s next book, which will be informed by a long-running study he and his colleagues conducted as part of The Good Project, a research collaborative he co-founded in 1996. Attempting to make sense of the pros and cons of today’s higher education system, the book will reveal the results of individual one-hour interviews with over 2,000 people at ten different institutions. Tentatively entitled “The Once and Future College,” the book is scheduled for publication in 2021.

In addition to teaching, writing and juggling multiple research projects, Gardner shares his expertise with organizations across the world through keynotes and consulting. In an era when humans and machines are increasingly becoming “co-workers” and organizations are looking for more ethical ways of doing business, Gardner’s work will continue to shine a light on a better way – one that values the real driver of success: the human mind.

Doing things a new way is easy. We call this novelty,” Gardner explains. “More challenging is a new way that gets accepted by others. We call this creativity. Even more challenging is a new way that is ethical and advances the human condition. We call this ‘good work.’”

# # #

Dr. Howard Gardner has authored several hundred articles and over 30 books, including “Leading Minds” (2011), “Five Minds for the Future” (2009), “Changing Minds” (2006), “The Disciplined Mind” (2000) and, more recently, “The App Generation: How Today’s Youth Navigate Identity, Intimacy, and Imagination in a Digital World” (2013). His intellectual memoir, “A Synthesizing Mind” was published in 2020.

Repeatedly recognized as one of the 100 most influential public intellectuals in the world by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines, Professor Gardner has earned numerous honors, including a MacArthur Prize Fellowship and John S. Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, the Prince of Asturias Award for Social Sciences, and he was the first American to receive the University of Louisville’s Grawemeyer Award in Education. He was also named to the American Management Association’s Top 30 Leaders in Business of 2014 list. Most recently, Professor Gardner was the recipient of the 2020 Distinguished Contributions to Research in Education Award from the American Educational Research Association. He has received honorary degrees from 31 colleges and universities, including institutions in Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, South Korea and Spain. Professor Gardner has also been elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the National Academy of Education and the London-based Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. He has served on a number of boards, including that of New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

For more than two decades, Professor Gardner has co-directed the GoodWork Project, now a component of the larger Good Project, a large-scale, non-profit effort to identify and study individuals and institutions whose high social and ethical standards of excellence serve as a model for good work. More recently, he has conducted reflection sessions designed to enhance the understanding and incidence of good work among young people and he is also investigating the ethical dimensions of new digital media.

Professor Gardner’s other research efforts include a major study of liberal arts and sciences in the 21st century.

Howard Gardner (and select colleagues) are available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Speech Topics

Innovation and Creativity: Leveraging the Best of the Human Mind

Increasingly, our world is being driven by digitally synthesized information (data) that dictates how we think, learn, consume, work and live. While algorithms, AI and robots help improve efficiency, Howard Gardner’s research confirms the human mind is the key driver of innovation, creativity and progress. Drawing on discoveries shared in his mesmerizing new book “A Synthesizing Mind: A Memoir from the Creator of the Multiple Intelligences Theory” (2020) and decades of related research, this presentation offers people at all levels of an organization a rare opportunity to learn lessons about how to value, retain and expand on the capabilities of their own mind to enhance how they work, learn, teach, create and innovate. Gardner’s message is clear: the power of machine thinking comes in second to that of the human mind, and he shows participants why this is so and how to leverage their own brilliance.

Instructional Leadership: Teaching the Human Mind to Synthesize

We are all inundated with information every day, which makes it easier, but not wiser, to relegate decisions to other entities – including powerful algorithms and deep learning. But the human capacity to synthesize is valuable, says Professor Howard Gardner, and it should not be assigned to a non-human intelligence. Rather, we should try to understand what synthesizing is and how to cultivate that ability in the workplace and at school. Psychology has thus far dropped the ball on understanding synthesis, probably because it can’t be easily simulated in an experiment or probed in short answer tests. Gardner encourages leaders and educators to explicitly recognize the synthesizing mind and consider the steps needed to cultivate it. During this presentation, he helps participants examine what they are doing when it comes to processing information and making decisions and shows them how they can do it differently, and perhaps better.

Beyond Wit and Grit: Rethinking the Keys to Success

What makes people successful? The common-sense answer is “wit” (how smart you are) and “grit” (how hard you work). But the story is not so simple, says Dr. Howard Gardner. First, research on human cognition makes it clear that we have not one but many intelligences and ways of being “smart,” and so our concept of wit needs to be pluralized – “wits.” Second, while successful people do work hard in order to persevere, hard work can also be put to evil purposes; for example, Hitler’s army had plenty of grit. Therefore, we need to qualify grit as “good grit” that is marshaled toward positive ends for others and for society. In this presentation, Gardner describes an education framework that makes positive use of our wits and our good grit, and provides concrete suggestions about how to move toward a society that is both wise and caring.

The Good Project: Investigating and Implementing Excellence, Ethics, and Engagement

For over twenty years, Dr. Howard Gardner and his colleagues have studied the qualities that make good people, good workers and good citizens. Their research on The Good Project explores the triple helix of “the good”: Excellence, Engagement and Ethics — the components of good work and good citizenship. The Good Project team has used these lenses to explore a variety of related themes including digital citizenship and the effects of new technologies such as artificial intelligence and social media on human interactions, effective collaboration, and civic participation. Based on this extensive conceptualization and research, Gardner’s team has developed practical frameworks and curricular toolkits to help people teach, learn and do good, both in school and in the workplace. In this talk, Gardner provides a history and overview of this line of his work, and then focuses on practical implications and tools that help in the pursuit of “the good.”

The Future of Skilled Work: Professions Under Fire

For centuries, the world has depended on professions and professionals—ranging from doctors, lawyers and accountants, to teachers, social workers and architects. High-level professional work is more important than ever. Yet the traditional professions, says Dr. Howard Gardner, are under enormous pressures. Among the disrupting factors are the tendency to label everything a profession; the likelihood that many, if not most, tasks traditionally carried out by professionals can now be carried out by intelligent machines; and the copious examples of unprofessional behavior by licensed professionals.

Based on two decades of research, Gardner discusses each of these threats to professionalism and the future of work, how they should be responded to by leaders at all levels of an organization, and what it means to behave professionally and trustworthily in a post-professional world.

 

Media

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Books & Research

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Recommendations

Advance Praise for “A Synthesizing Mind”

“An insightful memoir from an eminent psychologist.”

– Kirkus Review

“In a world where brains and neurons have too readily been exploited as explanations for human behavior, Howard Gardner’s much awaited memoir takes us in a different direction: into the life of the mind. More impressively still, this deeply reflective text opens up to every reader’s inspection the extraordinary mind in the life of one of the greatest and most frequently cited intellectuals of modern times.”

– Andy Hargreaves, Research Professor, Boston College; author of “Moving”

“This is a personal yet objective account of the evolution of a peerless scholar. Howard’s reflective storytelling and his insightful narration of the events that shaped him are a joy to read, giving us an intimate insight into how multiple, often seemingly disparate threads intertwine to shape an exceptional mind.”

– Kiran Bir Sethi, Founder, The Riverside School and Design for Change

“It’s been quipped that theories in psychology are true of those who propose them, and that’s certainly the case with Howard Gardner: creative, openminded, artful, disciplined, and in command of multiple intelligences. It’s a cause for celebration that one of our most influential living psychologists has trained his insight onto his own life and work.”

– Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University; author of “How the Mind Works” and “Enlightenment Now”

“Read this book for Gardner’s self-reflection — a mind that synthesizes ideas writing about how it came to be a mind that synthesizes ideas — and for what he has to say about the changing academic and intellectual world around him. Are we narrowing our focus when we most need open minds?”

– Sherry Turkle, Professor, MIT; author of “Reclaiming Conversation” and “Alone Together”

“Howard Gardner has done what scholars dream of doing but rarely accomplish: he had a powerfully original idea which he developed in a way that changed an entire field, reaching well beyond the academy and affecting our nation’s social policy and collective understanding. ‘A Synthesizing Mind’ is an illuminating account of how such a breakthrough came about, a thick description of the life trajectory and the intellectual formation that led to this enduring achievement.”

– Stephen Greenblatt, author of “Tyrant”

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