Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences

What teaching-learning strategies and activities are appropriate for different intelligences and learning styles/preferences?


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When teacher-educators enlist in this latest educational crusade, their intentions are noble, but they are blind to the complexity of the task. It lies not just in the difficulty of teasing out teacher effects on measured student achievement, or in connecting current teacher practice to past teacher education programs. The more serious problem concerns our definition of student achievement. At some level we and Secretary Duncan both know that the tests do not quite capture it.

In another place in his Teachers College speech, Duncan says: “A great teacher can literally change the course of a student’s life. They light a lifelong curiosity, a desire to participate in democracy, and instill a thirst for knowledge.” He ends his talk with Henry Adams’ encomium to teachers: “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” These are more than empty phrases designed to please an audience. They reveal Duncan’s understanding that the real work of teachers involves more than producing in their charges adequate scores on standardized tests.

To make real our good intentions, we leap at oversimplifications. We unwisely accept test scores as a facsimile of student learning. In doing so, we talk ourselves into believing we are holding our schools, and now our teacher education institutions, accountable. Accountability of institutions is necessary in a democratic society. We have good intentions—but we act with willful blindness. For we surely know, with John Dewey, and with Arne Duncan in his better moments, that student learning, achievement, and intelligence involve, among a host of other things, the growing capacity to make meaning out of new experiences, a capacity that the testers, to their credit, make no claim to measure. We know that test scores do not get at the curiosity, the thirst for knowledge, and the commitment to democracy of which Duncan speaks, but, recklessly, we act as if they do.

Tests quite often have significant value, and a rich variety of pedagogical uses. Finally, though, students’ test scores represent their performance on a single occasion, on a small sample of test items, most likely in a paper-and-pencil format, relating to an equally small sample of learning objectives in the content area tested. We go beyond all reasonable limits when we take the test scores as a proxy of student achievement or as a measure of the quality of the programs from which teachers graduated. We have been bewitched by the real promise of quantifying certain abilities, by our understandable desire to hold our institutions accountable, and by the significance we attach to our calling. We have taken promising ideas, oversimplified them, and proclaimed that we are on the road to better teacher education programs, better schools, more educational opportunity, making America competitive, and to pie in the sky by and by.

William A. Proefriedt is a professor emeritus in the school of education at Queens College, and continues to work as a mentor in the City University of New York’s Faculty Fellowship Publication Program. He is the author, most recently, of High Expectations: The Cultural Roots of Standards Reform in American Education (Teachers College Press, 2008), and can be reached at

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EE 5303: Quantitative research

Quantitative research design

US Research Standards

‘What Works’ Broadens Its Research Standards

Clearinghouse Moves Past ‘Gold Standard’

For the first time since its inception, the U.S. Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse is broadening its definition of “gold standard” research to include nonexperimental designs.

As part of the Institute of Education Sciences’ push to make research more relevant to educators, the clearinghouse has devised standards by which it can consider two new methods for rigorous research. In addition to the randomized, controlled trials now considered the gold standard, education researchers are now able to use regression-discontinuityRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader, a method that uses a cutoff point rather than random assignment to form comparison groups, and single-case studiesRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader in certain situations. In clearinghouse reviews, studies that adhere to the new standards are now considered, along with randomized, controlled trials, to result in the “strongest evidence” to guide educators and policymakers.  more

Language and the teaching and learning of mathematics and science

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