Friday, November 16, 2007
Five Minds for the Future
Howard Gardner, renowned worldwide for for his theory of multiple intelligences, shares his latest ideas in his new new book 'Five Minds for the Future'.
Based on the premise that students are entering an accelerating world of change in every area of life Gardner believes that such changes call for new ways of learning and thinking in schools if students are to thrive in the world during the eras to come. The directions our society is taking and the future of our planet demands such 'new minds' able to explore creative alternatives for problems that cannot be anticipated.
Gardner's 'five minds' have much in common with the 'key competencies' that underpin the recently published 'new' New Zealand Curriculum.
1 The first of Gardner's 'five' is acquiring a disciplined mind. This involves the mastery of at least one way of thinking and the utilisation of a scientific inquiry approach to solving problems in any area. All disciplines (Learning Areas) have their own ways of investigating ideas. Gardner says it takes many year to achieve a disciplined mind in any area. Discipline also means the need to practice to improve performance.
2 The second is the synthesising mind, a mind able to gather information from disparate sources and put ideas together in ways that makes sense to the learner. This mind is crucial as information continues to mount at dizzying rates. The ability to synthesize ideas is a vital future skill - a skill basic to innovative leadership. Such a mind requires interdisciplinary understanding beyond individual disciplines. A synthesizing mind, one that searches for connections, is required to take advantage of teams made up of different specialists.
3 The third is the creative mind, a mind capable of breaking new ground, developing new ideas and asking new questions. Innovative individuals have not always been treated well in the history of humankind and, even today, are often seen as a mixed blessing. As such creative individuals are seen as very different from disciplined experts. Not for nothing do many creative students find schooling problematic! Encouraging a creative bent of mind is a most important future trait of teachers. It is a sad comment that student creativity lapses as they progress through current schooling. Recognising, nurturing and amplifying students diverse talents will underpin successful future schools
4 The Fourth is the respectful mind, a mind that recognizes differences between individuals, groups and cultures; one that learns to appreciate a sense of 'others'. This mind requires an imaginative leap to enable us to understand others on their own terms. Unfortunately humans exhibit a tendency to value their own groups above others and schools must do its best to mute, or overcome, such proclivities. Differences need to be respected and the earlier this is achieved the better.Respecting students requires that teachers need to reflect on the imposed (undemocratic) power relationship that form the basis of much traditional education. Working together on joint projects is one way to develop respectful relationships.
5 The final mind is the ethical mind which considers how students can serve purposes beyond self interest. This mind takes into account the 'common good' of the wider community particularly under challenging situations or dilemmas. The development of shared beliefs are important to achieve this mind and projects that involve providing a service to others.The ethical mind should be infused into all aspects of the curriculum.
Gardner sees these five minds as different from his eight, or nine, intelligences seeing them as broad uses of the mind that could make use of any combination of intelligences.
Gardner believes it is important to cultivate such minds.The first three minds deal primarily with cognitive thinking and the last two with our relationships with other people. The last two are vital if we are to work together to ensure the survival of our planet. 'Life long learning', almost a cliche these days, demands such minds.
The beginning of the third millennium poses a challenge for schools to cultivate such minds and will call for new educational forms and processes. One cannot, says Gardner, even begin to develop an educational system unless one has in mind the knowledge, skills that one values.
Gardner makes the point that these minds can only be seen by authentic performances that represent understanding. Gardner is also aware that there are often conflicts between these aspects of the mind for example the tensions between respect and creativity. The five minds work in tension and synergistically.
With such minds developed Gardner believes that positive human potentials can be cultivated but only if teachers can articulate what it is they are trying to achieve. Our future survival depends on their success.
I think I prefer Gardner's 'five minds' to the 'key competencies' of the new New Zealand Curriculum but, essentially, they are one and the same thing.