You might want to do some introspection. For each of the eight intelligences in the Howard Gardner list, think about your own level of talents and performance. For each intelligence, decide if you have an area of expertise that makes substantial use of the intelligence. For example, perhaps you are good at music. If so, is music the basis of your vocation? Students can also do this type of introspection, and it can become a routine component of PBL lessons.
Students can come to understand that they are more naturally gifted in some areas than in others, but that they have some talent in all of the eight areas identified by Howard Gardner. Curriculum and instruction can be developed to help all students make progress in enhancing their talents in each of these eight areas of intelligence. Robert Sternberg Many teachers have provided testimonial evidence that PBL encourages participation on the part of their students who do not have a high level of “school smarts. They report that some of their students who were not doing well in school have become actively engaged and experienced a high level of success in working on projects. These observations are consistent with and supportive of the research of Robert Sternberg. As noted earlier in this chapter, different researchers have identified different components of intelligence. Sternberg (1988, 1997) focuses on just three main components: Practical intelligence–the ability to do well in informal and formal educational settings; adapting to and shaping one’s environment; street smarts.
Experiential intelligence–the ability to deal with novel situations; the ability to effectively automate ways of dealing with novel situations so they are easily handled in the future; the ability to think in novel ways. Componential intelligence–the ability to process information effectively. This includes metacognitive, executive, performance, and knowledge-acquisition components that help to steer cognitive processes. Sternberg provides examples of people who are quite talented in one of these areas but not so talented in the other two.
In that sense, his approach to the field of intelligence is somewhat like Howard Gardner’s. However, you can see that Sternberg does not focus on specific components of intelligence that are aligned with various academic disciplines. He is far more concerned with helping people develop components of intelligence that will help them to perform well in whatever they chose to do. Sternberg strongly believes that intelligence can be increased by study and practice. Quite a bit of his research focuses on such endeavors. Some of Sternberg’s work focuses specifically on “street smarts” versus “school smarts. He notes that some people are particularly talented in one of these two areas, and not in the other. This observation is consistent with the work of Lev Vygotsky (Fosnot, 1996) who argues that the type of learning that goes on outside of school is distinctly different than the type of learning that goes on in school. While some students are talented in both informal and formal education, others are much more successful in one rather than the other. A teacher who is skillful in developing PBL can help students to design projects that are consistent with their learning abilities and interests.
David Perkins In his 1992 book, Smart Schools, David Perkins analyzes a number of different educational theories and approaches to education. His analysis is strongly supportive of Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. Perkins’ book contains extensive research-based evidence that education can be considerably improved by more explicit and appropriate teaching for transfer, focusing on higher-order cognitive skills, and the use of project-based learning. Perkins (1995) examines a large number of research studies both on the measurement of IQ and of programs of study designed to increase IQ.
He presents detailed arguments that IQ has three major components or dimensions. Neural intelligence. This refers to the efficiency and precision of one’s neurological system. Experiential intelligence. This refers to one’s accumulated knowledge and experience in different areas. It can be thought of as the accumulation of all of one’s expertises. Reflective intelligence. This refers to one’s broad-based strategies for attacking problems, for learning, and for approaching intellectually challenging tasks. It includes attitudes that support persistence, systemization, and imagination.
It includes self-monitoring and self-management. There is substantial evidence to support the belief that a child’s neural intelligence can be adversely affected by the mother’s use of drugs such as alcohol and cocaine during pregnancy. Lead (such as from lead-based paint) can do severe neural damage to a person. Vitamins, or the lack thereof, can affect neural intelligence. Moreover, there is general agreement that neural intelligence has a “use it or lose it” characteristic. It is clear that neural intelligence can be maintained and, indeed, increased, by use.