A full set of criteria

. In looking to the future, Howard Gardner posed the following question

"...What kind of mind do we need if we are to create a world in which we would like to live?..."

Howard Gardner, 2006a

His answer is 5 kinds of minds; the first 3 (disciplinary, synthesizing and creative) deal primarily with cognitive forms and the last 2 (respectful and ethical) comprise our relations with other people, with ethical being more abstract.

NB All education efforts (family, school, community, etc) are

"...dedicated toward the acquisition of the appropriate disciplinary knowledge, habits of mind, and patterns of behaviour.....the goal is......to eradicate erroneous or unproductive ways of thinking..."

Howard Gardner, 2006a

i) a disciplinary mind exhibits these qualities:

- studying ways of thinking and mastering a major school of thought or scholarly discipline, such as science, mathematics, history, etc .

- the mastery of basic skills of disciplinary thinking is necessary but not a sufficient prerequisite, ie

"...knowledge of facts is a useful ornament but a fundamentally different undertaking and thinking is a discipline..."

Howard Gardner, 2006a

This is more than accumulating a mass of facts and figures, even though facts and figures are needed. It involves a way of thinking. This highlights the difference between subject matter and discipline: in the area of subject matter, large number of facts, formulas and figures have been committed to memory; discipline represents a distinctive way of thinking about the world, eg one does not confuse correlation (A occurs before B) with causation (A caused B); is aware that current consensus is subject to challenge based on evidence, etc). Factual statements only gain meaning by being placed in context.

- understanding at least one major professional craft/trade or code of practice, such as law, medicine, management, finance, architecture, etc so that one has mastered the body of knowledge and key procedures relevant to that profession

- capable of applying oneself diligently and passionately so that improvement occurs steadily as part of lifelong learning (including action learning); this starts before adolescence so that continuing mastery of one's profession or employment role(s) occurs, including acquisition of additional disciplinary or interdisciplinary acumen. Remember: achievement should encourage a 'thirst" for more knowledge

- training in the disciplinary thinking will take place through identification of mutual interest and talents; modelling of ways of thinking; successful completion of certain signature assignments; the provision of timely, useful feedback

How to achieve a discipline mind:

- identify the important topics or concepts within a discipline including methodology, such as being unable to prepare and understand a balance sheet

- spend a significant amount of time studying the topic

- investigate the topic from many directions or approaches to re-enforce learning and understanding

- provide opportunities to perform the understanding under different conditions, situations, etc (including feedback on performance)

"...the only reliable way to determine whether understanding has truly been achieved is to pose a new question or puzzle - one on which individuals could not have been coached - and see how they fare..."

Howard Gardner, 2006a


"...scholarly disciplines allow you to participate knowledgeably in the world; professional disciplines allow you to thrive at the workplace..."

Howard Gardner, 2006a

NB Without mastering at least one discipline, an individual is less likely to be in control of his/her destiny.

Some mastery of science and technology is required to understand controversial issues, such as nuclear power plants, genetically modified foods, global warming, etc. On the other hand, science and technology do not have a built-in value system

Need to be careful of

"...asserting of mastery without a decade or so of practice; following rigidly the letter of procedures without a sense of the purpose and boundaries of the discipline and the areas where thinking needs to be flexible as the conventional wisdom is inappropriate; faking one's preparation or performance..."

Howard Gardner, 2006a

Furthermore, need to be careful of a discipline going awry, such as undue excessive domination or pursued obsessively and compulsively for its own sake. Need to be aware of the limitations of a discipline, ie when to draw on them, when to temper or shelve them.

ii) a synthesizing mind readily performs these functions:

- selecting crucial information from the copious amounts available

"...The amount of accumulated knowledge is reportedly doubling every two to three years..."

Howard Gardner, 2006a

- the ability to integrate ideas from different disciplines or spheres into a coherent whole and to communicate that integration to others

- recognizing new information/skills that are important and then incorporating them into one's knowledge base and into one's professional repertoire

- ideally this starts in childhood, becomes more deliberate over the time and continues as new knowledge accumulates and needs to be digested and organised


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