Becoming a Multiple Intelligences School

Becoming a Multiple Intelligences School

Becoming a Multiple Intelligences School

Becoming a Multiple Intelligences School


The theory of multiple intelligences -- The New City School journey -- Collegiality : learning and growing together -- Assessing and reporting student growth -- Creative routes to MI -- The importance of the personals -- The phases of MI implementation -- Supporting teacher growth with leadership -- What's next? The future of MI.


We would all love to remake ourselves, or our worlds, over a long weekend. Perhaps that is why there is a perennial market for self-improvement books about weight and appearance and a continuous demand for three-day seminars that promise greater creativity, a richer spiritual life, or the transformation of schools.

In life, however, miracles are few. If one seeks fundamental changes, one is better off heeding Winston Churchill who, during the battle of Britain, promised his countrymen nothing but [blood, toil, tears, and sweat.] Educational systems that are truly impressive, such as the preschools of Reggio Emilia, Italy, or the selective liberal arts colleges of New England, achieve their status over decades; moreover, they devote enormous energy and resources simply to maintaining their distinctive edge.

Flavor-of-the-month slogans or manipulations have little to do with genuine educational change. I include in this characterization the set of educational ideas with which I am most closely associated—the theory of multiple intelligences (MI theory). While appealing on the surface to many educators, the application of MI theory to schools is a process that does not permit quick fixes. The effort to take the differences among individuals seriously, and to recast curriculum, instruction, and assessment in light of those differences, requires significant teamwork over several years. One learns the most from schools that have explored the educational implications of MI theory for more than a decade, such as the Key Learning Community in Indianapolis.

In this invaluable book, Tom Hoerr relates a decade's worth of MI experiences at St. Louis's New City School. We learn about the staff's initial exposure to MI theory; the many activities (some more successful than others) that were undertaken by faculty and staff in teaching, curriculum, adult development, and assessment; and the challenges that the leader faces in attempting to bring about significant and lasting change. Especially compelling are the continuing efforts to develop the personal intelligences during a period when issues of diversity, multiculturalism, and standards loom so large.

I learned much from this book. Hoerr underscores the centrality of collegiality, the problems posed by transient students and faculty, the complementary role played by public exhibitions and standardized test scores, the role of friends in determining the activities (and intelligences) favored by children, the delicate line between support and challenge that the leader must walk, the tension between excellence and perfection. I value the concrete examples, as well as the ties to important conceptual work, such as that undertaken by Roland Barth on collegiality . . .

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