The Teaching Intelligence

Notes by Howard Gardner

As some of you know, I have been speculating in recent years that there may be a ‘pedagogical’ or ‘teaching intelligence.’ I’ve been influenced in this direction by conversations with my friends and colleagues Antonio Battro and Sidney Strauss. This article, by Strauss and Ziv, lays out the basic argument for a separate ‘cognitive ability.’ The teaching faculty seems to be universal among human beings, while not detectable in non-human animals. Though, there are likely to be aspects of that faculty which can be observed in other primates and perhaps even in certain species of birds. What’s especially intriguing is that children as young as three already show some ability to adjust their ‘lessons’ in terms of the perceived knowledge, skills, and understanding of their ‘students.’

In our book The App Generation, Katie Davis and I argue that the nature of early teaching is very important. We cite the work of developmental psychologist Elizabeth Bonawitz, who has demonstrated an important phenomenon: children are likely to play with and explore a toy for a longer period of time if they have just had a short and obviously partial introduction to the toy, than if the ‘teacher’ purports to demonstrate the complete working of the toy. This line of research suggests that the model of teaching that we put forth in early life may have significant influence on how growing children conceive of the ‘teaching encounter.’

To read the article in its entirety click here.