Category Archives: Leading MI in Schools

This thread discusses how leadership impacts the implementation of MI in schools.

Empathy is Academic

+From Branton Shearer, MIDAS Blog,  Feb. 19, 2019

Empathy is Academic: Lessons from Lotus Slippers by Naomi Priddy.

This recent article in ASCD’s Education Update spotlights the importance of interpersonal intelligence.  

How can teachers draw students out of their point of view and break through cultural stereotypes when becoming familiar with other cultures?

This is a challenge not easily overcome by the standard lecture or reading the chapter in the text. Facts alone do not engage one’s interpersonal intelligence.

Priddy summarizes her approach in her book China Educator’s Toolkit this way:  

“I divide academic empathy in the social sciences into three categories: historical empathy, pushing students outside presentism to understand people living in other times; cultural empathy, engaging with contemporary cultures outside of students’ experiences and challenging students’ cultural biases; and social empathy, building activities in which students learn to listen to one another’s perspectives and collaborate to form new learning.”




MIDAS High Ability Students

from Branton Shearer at

Gina Boyd, Teacher of Gifted Students, Tippecanoe Schools., Lafayette, Indiana wrote to me recently about her use of The MIDAS with her class of high ability students. It is always interesting to hear about the wide variety of uses for the MIDAS Profile. Gina agrees with other educators that MI helps gifted students to have more nuanced views of what it means to be smart. The MI framework allows students to appreciate themselves as well as different kinds of smartness in their peers.

“I teach 4th and 5th grade high ability students in a self-contained classroom.  During the first quarter of the 4th grade year, I teach a unit on giftedness in which the students learn about themselves as learners.

I use MIDAS with my class every other year because I have my students for 2 years, and I will be using it again in September of 2019.”



MIDAS and Career Development

from Branton Shearer at

I received the following update from Mayra Ruiz, MIDAS director in Puerto Rico. This initiative was instigated by a dynamic and inspirational group of instructors and has snowballed to all four campuses: Hato Rey, Mayaguez, Manati, Bayamon and Arecibo. It is gratifying for me to hear that the work continues despite the challenge they had recovering from devastating hurricanes.

Greetings Branton,

At the Career Institute of Puerto Rico (ICPR) Junior College, MIDAS is finally given the importance it deserves and for which I have fought for many years. It is in the plans of the President, Dr. Olga Rivera, to use MIDAS for 2019, as a tool to promote our Institution.

Over the years, ICPR has used MIDAS for:

  1. Teaching: Objective: Increase Retention and Graduation rates
  2. Training the Faculty: Objectives: 1. Influence how to offer classes. 2. Upgrade to the Faculty in Technology.
  3. Recruitment: Objectives: 1. Locate students in careers according to their intelligences. 2. Provide the Admissions Officers with the offers they should emphasize.
  4. Sales and marketing: Objectives: 1. Identify the best way to sell the programs, according to the prospect’s ability to solve their problems. 2. Advertising campaign regarding MIDAS.

For several years now, I have been working with MIDAS and to get the most out of it.

Sincerely, Mayra Ruiz, Career Institute of Puerto Rico (ICPR) Junior College



The Realities of Teaching

From:  Branton Shearer at www.

The sun is rising, and teachers are arriving…ordinary men and women,” as educational reformer John Dewey put it, “...of whom we expect the extraordinary”.

The sobering realities of life as a modern-day teacher and educator in America, USA Today.

USA Today coordinated with reporters from 15 cites to describe how teachers are feeling about their profession and public attitudes towards teachers.

This is a touching and rather disturbing description of the state of teachers and public perception in America today. It provides a stark contrast with the situation in Denmark where teachers are well-educated, highly paid and very respected. Their educational approach is nearly the polar opposite of the US (no testing) but still their students score very highly on the PISA tests.

The article concludes:

Respect and disrespect

“Teachers hold our hands and wipe our noses, tell us we can be more than we are, maybe more than we think we can be.

In return, we tell pollsters that they’re underpaid, without being sure what they actually make; that we endorse collective bargaining, yet often resist higher taxes; that we even support their right to strike, preferably in someone else’s district.

A day with American public school teachers ends with this irony: These people, whom opinion polls show to be among the nation’s most respected, feel disrespected.”

Read article here:


Emotional Rudder

The Intrapersonal intelligence is spotlighted in this article that describes the neuroscience research of Mary Helen Immordino-Yang.  I highly recommend this article because it does a fine job summarizing the excellent research of Dr. Immordino-Yang.

“As teachers, we can help students become aware of how emotions steer thinking, and help them develop well-tuned intuitions… If teachers are not attending to the inherent role of emotions in thinking, then the emotions that are being recruited in the classroom may not be facilitating the kind of deep thinking you want. The key is to set up the class so that the students have conductive emotions about the actual ideas that you are working on.”



Intrapersonal intelligence is spotlighted in this article that describes the neuroscience research of Mary Helen Immordino-Yang





Read article here:



Generation Z Learners Prefer YouTube







Education Week,  September 12, 2018

By Lauraine Genota

“The preference for Youtube and videos signals a shift in learning styles, Pearson’s director of global research and insights said. The role of video and visual learning is “essential in rising learners and the generation to come, “ Broad said. Pearson has also found that there is growing interest in other video-based learning platforms like Khan Academy. Some teens are turning to YouTube because they find it’s easier to understand something when they watch someone explain it visually. It also helps that they can pause and rewind a video if they don’t understand it right away.”

So… the visual-spatial intelligence is important for learners of all ages.

Read article here:



Movement and Play in Upper Grades

Making Room for Movement and Play in Upper Grades

by Barbara Michelman

Reading this article reminded me again how educators have been talking about the need to infuse movement into our instruction. Of course, MI theory highlights the equal importance of kinesthetic intelligence in human thinking and learning along with the academic related linguistic and logical mathematical intelligences. I appreciated Michelman’s article because it focused on the upper grades (and not just elementary children, which is the usual approach). She also highlights the important role of “playfulness” in learning and this counters the usual attitude that high school learning must be serious to be effective.

“It’s a strange way we’ve set up the education – that play is ‘extra,’ something that just little kids do,? Says Wendy Ostroff, an associate professor … “to bring play to a screeching halt just as students hit adolescence reflects a misunderstanding of the research literature on the importance of play for learning.”

This brief article also mentions how neuroscience evidence describes how physical movement can enhance attention and engagement.

“She also wants teachers to understand the “neuroscience rule of thumb?: Children can only handle sustained, focused attention in a sedentary state for about as many minutes as they are old, plus or minus two minutes (e.g., 10 – 14 minutes for a 12 year old), she said, “After sustaining focus for about 15 – 18 minutes, even the average adult brain then needs to something, such as move, talk, and so on.”

Read article here:




The Tug of War is Over!

The war of words between psychologists over the nature of human intelligence is over

Branton Shearer < excerpted 12/12/17 >

A scientific puzzle is solved. The debate is over. For 35 years teachers, students and parents have been stuck in the middle of the war of words between psychologists regarding the nature of human intelligence. Neuroscience evidence now builds a coherent bridge between IQ and multiple intelligences. This battle among theorists has resulted in confusion and unhappy compromises as teachers struggle to serve two masters. On the one side are IQ-ists who argue that intelligence is unitary and only associated with academic skills (reading, math and such). These folks advocate for a standardized curriculum emphasizing basic skills development. On the other side are advocates for personalized instruction based on the idea of multiple intelligences. They argue that human intelligence cannot be summed up with a single number and that student learning will increase with differentiated instruction that emphasizes strength-based activities.

Multiple Intelligences theory describes eight forms of intelligence possessed by all people but with varying levels of skill and ability. The eight intelligences are Linguistic, Logical-Mathematical (associated with general intelligence and academic success), Visual-Spatial, Kinesthetic, Musical, Naturalist, Interpersonal and Intrapersonal [3]. Since 1983, schools and teachers around the world have been striving to find the best ways of using MI theory to enhance education.

Of particular concern are the large numbers of students who are marginalized as a result of being stigmatized by simplistic labels such as “merely average,” or “below average,” or “not very bright.” On the flip side are students with highly developed skills that go unrecognized, unappreciated, or denigrated because they don’t fit into the academic hierarchy. No room for creativity on tests of intelligence or math skills.

This debate is not merely an arid academic question among ivory towered grey beards. Millions of dollars are paid out to the winners. Careers are wrecked or made; egos bruised or acclaimed. This conflict is most keenly felt in the schools and classrooms as teachers plan lessons and curriculum designers organize their priorities. Students and parents are casualties of the conflict, too. Parents preside over the “homework wars” as students wrestle with worksheets and perplexing projects.

There is something appealing about the simplicity of the IQ score (as a measure of general intelligence, also called g by psychologists). Unfortunately, like most simplistic labels it is simply not true that a person’s intellectual potential can be neatly fit into the box like someone’s shirt size. The human brain resists being carved up into neat categories because it is a massively interconnected and always changing and growing organ.

Five investigations involving more than 500 neuroscience studies lead to the conclusion that each intelligence possesses its own unique neural architecture. What is the relationship between IQ and MI? In 1983, Howard Gardner explained that general intelligence is comprised of the Logical-mathematical and Linguistic intelligences. This theory is supported by the neuroscience evidence because IQ is associated with nearly the exact same neural structures as those two intelligences.

The debate is not MI vs. IQ but rather how can we use a multiple intelligences understanding of each student to build the academic skills associated with IQ? MI does not minimize the importance of skills such as reading, attention to detail, logical thinking, and mathematics. Of course, those are important skills. But for artists they are no more important than imagination, spatial awareness, and intuition. Only when we understand each person’s unique profile of strengths can we devise strategies to maximize their development and build or manage weaknesses. IQ-based limitations are not to be avoided but instead creatively addressed by leveraging strengths in the service of whole brain development. This is not a dry theoretical argument but instead a practical approach to developing human potential.

To read the full article email:


Lessons from Neuroscience for Teachers and Schools

How the Multiple Intelligences Can Enhance Education

Guided by Big Ideas from Neuroscience

< excerpted 12-12-17 >

Branton Shearer

Every classroom is its own culture. Students walk in with their brains murmuring unspoken questions: Will I belong here? Will I be successful? Will the teacher like me? As their leader you are charged with creating the class culture so that it is welcoming to all and conducive to high performance. Culture can be defined as shared ideas, values, beliefs, and practices [1]. A sense of belonging is fundamental for individuals to perform at their best. Consider the discomfort of the art student in the calculus class or the engineering student in drama class. Or the star quarterback in speech class who turns bright red when it’s his time to speak. The challenge is to create the culture where all students can engage and make progress towards the learning objectives. The key question is, How will each student strive towards those goals in the best way possible?

Researchers in neuroscience labs around the world are daily generating a wealth of data with varying degrees of applicability to the educator’s job. This article highlights how the multiple intelligences can be deployed in classrooms guided by neuroscience to bring out the best in all students. We will review several Big Ideas and practices.

Multiple Intelligences theory describes eight forms of intelligence possessed by all people but with varying levels of skill and ability. The eight intelligences are Linguistic, Logical-Mathematical (associated with general intelligence and academic success), Visual-Spatial, Kinesthetic, Musical, Naturalist, Interpersonal and Intrapersonal [3]. Since 1983, schools and teachers around the world have been striving to find the best ways of using MI theory to enhance education.

The first Big Idea is that Culture Matters. This means that the school / classroom culture influences the quality of the student’s thinking and performance. The main take-away is that the teacher cannot take for granted that students are completely autonomous learners. They depend upon you to create the highest quality culture to enhance thinking, motivation, and effective performance.

The second Big Idea is that Every Brain is Unique—Activate Strengths! in the service of learning and maximum performance. As teachers we often fall into the narcissistic fallacy believing that everyone thinks like we do and this is the best (only) way to work. As we look out onto the sea of faces we need to remember that each brain is as different as their faces. We can be overwhelmed by these vast differences or we can keep in mind the simple dictum, Look for the Strengths. Ask yourself, How can strengths be activated to maximize success?

The third key idea is that all learning begins with the self. The ancient Greeks knew the fundamental value of self-knowledge and carved the words γνῶθι σεαυτόν (Know Thyself) over the entrance to the temple of Delphi where kings and generals came seeking wisdom.

Embodied Cognition and the Emotional Rudder sums up the findings that it is a mistake to undervalue the role of the body and feelings to enhance learning. We have come a long way from the day where we believed that feelings were separate from thinking. Or that the mind is somehow detached from the body.

Make it Mean Something! No learning that will last takes place without meaning. A simple example is that you will remember many more words when they are presented in a meaningful way rather than at random. When you are presenting a new or difficult concept to students you often hear the question, Will this be on the test?  Rather than being exasperated by this question (for the millionth time) keep in mind that just beneath this query may lurk a number of deeper concerns: Does this make sense to me? Is this of value to adults in my world?

Neuroscience principles can guide the use of the multiple intelligences at all levels of the school experience for students. Of course, teachers can design instruction around the eight MI. Guidance counselors use MI to focus students’ attention on their strengths that are matched with career paths. School psychologists look at learning disabilities in a new light. And tutors can help students activate their strengths to memorize, understand, and use new ideas and skills. The goal is to use strengths to enhance motivation and cognitive engagement in order to leverage achievement and improve limitations.

To read the full paper send a request to:














Teachers’ Cues, Subtle or Not, Shape Students’ Experiences

Three children holding hands with a teacher

This interview in Education Week, June, 2017 with Dena Simmons highlights the impact of the classroom culture on students.

Her comments highlight social acceptance and echo the work of Mary Helen Immordino-Yang on social-emotional brain development. Simmons comments on the importance of social acceptance for students with different socio-economic backgrounds but I think they also apply to students with MI profiles that differ from what the teacher values in the classroom.



“If students don’t’ feel like they belong to their school environment, they can feel like impostors….That feeling can create fear and anxiety that hijack students’ learning experiences or lead them to believe they are not capable of success….”


Education Week, online, June 21, 2017