Howard Gardner Explores Higher Education in New Study

AAPSS Fellow Howard Gardner, a professor in Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, is widely known for his theory of multiple intelligences. Since 2012, however, Gardner has been conducting a study at ten institutions of higher learning, looking at how various campus constituencies—incoming and graduating students, faculty, administrators, parents, alumni, trustees, and job recruiters—think about the goals of college and the value of liberal arts study.

Liberal Arts Building

Gardner, along with colleagues Richard J. Light and Wendy Fischman, chose the schools in the study to give a mix of institutional types: the Borough of Manhattan Community College, Cal State University Northridge, DePaul, Duke, Kenyon, The Ohio State University, Olin College of Engineering (a vocational school that also values the liberal arts), Queens College (part of City University of New York), Tufts, and the University of New Hampshire. Data were gathered over 2,000 hours of interviews, 4,000 hours of transcription and coding, and days of observing at the schools.

Though the research is not yet published, Gardner has begun to share some data and talk about first impressions. For example, mental health is a clear concern on all campuses, with doubts running deep among many undergraduates about whether they truly belong in college. Further, most students express that they are in college for the degree, rather than the education, and that their ultimate goal is to accrue the credentials that will lead to a good job.

To read more about Gardner’s research-in-progress, see his blog posts, “On Quality Higher Education,” parts 1–3.