Saturday, April 2, 2011

My take-a-ways from Alfie Kohn

Last week I had the opportunity to hear Alfie Kohn give a presentation titled "Testing, Grading, and Homework: But Why?" at Cupertino High School. Although I have read countless articles of his and am in the process of reading one of his books, it was the first time I  heard him speak. Through my reading of Kohn and through the conversations I have had about his work, I have learned a lot about motivation. In particular, I have started to reexamine the notion of extrinsic motivation especially in regards to learning and school. His voice is often one that bucks the conventional wisdom, yet it makes inherent and empirical sense. Without belaboring my views on Kohn and his work, these are some quick points I took away from the presentation. Most of these were tweets I sent out during the presentation (talk about active participation but that is a different post) or quick notes I jotted down. Also, I do not necessarily agree or disagree with the points in the list below, they just struck me as the most interesting and thought-provoking snippets of the night. 

CC licensed picture by Capture Queen

"Learning comes from actively making sense of ideas not passively sitting back listening to a teacher"

"The best schools I visit don't give grades"

"Standardized testing is a great measure of how big the houses are next to the school"

"What makes kids excited to learn should be the essential question of education and ed policy"

"Kids driven by grades will pick the easiest path"

"As extrinsic motivation goes up, intrinsic motivation goes down"

'Rewards are a way to control behavior not help the child behind the behavior"

"Without grades teachers have to create a classroom that is authentically and actually engaging" (but they can)

"Responsibility comes from making can homework build responsibility if it is mandates"

"If you really are trying to educate the whole child but give homework you are a liar. You are saying the academic interests of school are held above all else"

Re: homework   "You can only reinforce a behavior not learning"


  1. Appreciate you sharing this ... Great points for all of us to ponder.

  2. Thanks for such as great blog...I hope you'll keep on blogging...
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