Alfie Kohn Article

Jody sent this important link today:



10 thoughts on “Alfie Kohn Article”

    1. Hey Chris, I’m sure that Alfie would admit to not being a specialist in language education. I just read this article and I agree whole-heartedly with the essence of it. He is railing against stupid, compliance-based, text-book driven education that squelches curiosity, kills creativity and creates a robotic, sheep-herd of a society.
      He is on the same side.

    2. I am a big fan of Alfie Kohn but I must admit that you are certainly right, Chris, in that he makes a number of statements that none of us could agree with, at least on the surface level. But since he apparently has no familiarity with TPRS, I think we can appreciate where he is coming from and the main thrust of his ideas. I think that it is because I understand the fundamentals of language acquisition that I can easily grasp what Alfie Kohn is saying. Before I came into contact with TPRS I think I would have had a hard time wrapping my brain around what he is saying. I remember that I used to go to teacher in-service trainings and they would talk about implicit learning. It was very difficult for me to grasp that idea. For us, now, of course, it so easy to understand.

  1. I know I’ve been a broken record about this book lately here on the blog (and being new, I don’t want to wear out my welcome…), BUT: Chapter 16 of ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” is ALL about the idea of getting rid of grading. Very thought provoking! Check it out sometime. Maybe you’d have to read the whole book to understand the context…no worries: its not really about motorcycles πŸ™‚

  2. The argument seems fundamentally sound – I haven’t read the research for myself, but my personal teaching experience seems to hint at its truth. Case in point: I’m on high right now from the student that came up to me after class today thanking me for the way that we are approaching Spanish this year. She told me that she feels that she is really learning and she never thought she would be able to ‘get Spanish’. Her free write today was impressive! It truly was free…in HER words!…and it COMMUNICATED. No memorized phrases, etc. AND – here’s the point – besides some smpke end-of-class Slavic-style quick quizzes, grades have NOT been a focus whatsoever….
    But here’s my question: if we do believe in the no grading research, then what do we do? Is there a fine line we can walk between no grades and giving the grades that our state/district/administrator-controlled schools of course demand? I am submitting first quarter grades tomorrow morning and I am feeling great for the students and a little nervous about what my administrator may think about the super high (uh…all) number of A’s….

  3. Brian, I will be in a similar state next week when I turn in my grades. I will have a few Bs but yeah, pretty much all As. It’s funny because I had just figured out a “system” that should satisfy the admin. but then I read the article and it resonated so deeply and it makes so much sense, especially for what we’re doing, so it kind of made me feel completely justified in my “grading.” As in, I want to put as little energy and focus on it as possible. In fact nobody has even asked about grades, which is kind of unusual.
    Anyway, if I get questioned, I am just going to point to my system, which is actually pretty clear, and which (I think ?) can be emphasized or de-emphasized according to whom I am speaking. Yeah, I am the queen of chameleon!
    I’m kind of worried that when I transition into assessing output, the slow processors will be penalized and this makes no sense. How can I penalize someone for their natural brain function? I hate grading! Well, duh, it has never made sense. And then on the opposite end of the spectrum I want to pose the question to the 4%-ers: who are you without your GPA? I think I have a great opportunity to pose that (not so blatantly) because we just returned from 3 days at the Connecting for Change conference and a bunch of the 4% kids heard Satish Kumar’s session where he basically talked about BEING and SLOWING DOWN and (oh my) even STOPPING…and in a really accessible way for the kids! This was the first time I’ve heard some of them say “I have to stop!” So I am hopeful in the long run, but I guess we will have to wade through the muck for a spell.
    Thanks for the reminder about Zen / Motorcycles. It’s been on my list for awhile πŸ™‚

  4. Yes, grades suck, no doubt about that anymore thanks to Kohn. I haven’t read the article yet, but I’ve read his book Punished by Rewards and it resonated loud and clear.
    But even Kohn says (in the book at least) that it will be difficult, perhaps even futile and counter-productive, for a teacher to abolish grades in her own classroom while every other class/teacher in the school is instilling a reward-based mindset in their students. So, it seems that a great deal of focus should be on the admin, and perhaps the best way to change the admin opinion is to change the parent opinion. I’ve been thinking about how to approach parents with this information for awhile now, and haven’t quite had the time and/or clarity to present it. Maybe after reading the article, and having something shorter to recommend for reading (I’ve told staff that I have Punished by Rewards and am willing to loan it out and talk about it several times, no hits, except my superintendent who read a few pages and gave it back to me, apparently not convinced it is something she could take in her position. Hmmmmm…

  5. We got to see Alfie Kohn in person at the New Tech conference this past summer at Grand Rapids. We laughed, nodded our heads, and then went back to school and…put grades in the gradebook.

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