Alfie Kohn

Yesterday, at Teacher’s Convention in Calgary, I heard Alfie Kohn speak. Although I’ve read articles he has written I had never seen him in person. If you ever get the chance to attend one of his lectures don’t walk, run, to see him!

He is passionate about children and teachers. He wants to keep classroom tasks authentic and connected to students’ lives. He is anti-grades and anti-testing but he doesn’t just leave it at that. He supports teachers as knowledgeable professionals who know their students best. He asserts that the research says, and I’ve been at several assessment sessions that support this position, that before high school there is no need to give grades or tests. A case can be made for high school simply because that is how colleges still admit students: partially on the basis of their grades. However, before grade 9 it is more beneficial to students’ learning if they aren’t given grades but are provided with timely and specific feedback. Although we need to assess and evaluate children we don’t need to do it at the expense of learning; there are other tools we can use to determine what students know, have learned, and where they might need to go next.

Kohn claims that the purpose of standardized testing, in the U.S. and Canada, is to control teachers and students. I couldn’t agree with him more. The threat of standardized tests looms over teachers and students like a heavy cloud. Since we know we have to administer these tests and that the scores are publicized we often end up teaching to the test. As a result, we end up compromising what is important and appropriate for children to learn based on their needs and interests at any given time.

I felt validated in what I do in my classroom and was one in an audience of over 1,000 people who stood up and gave him a standing ovation.

4 thoughts on “Alfie Kohn

  1. Anonymous says:

    Dear Elisa,Thank you so much for introducing Mr. Kohn to me.I also want to give YOU a standing ovation!!!Keep writing and sharing your passion with others!Barbara

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  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi,
    Thanks for sharing your blog link on the DWS site. I have bought a lot of AK's books , read his articles and follow him on twitter. I came to DWS to learn more about it and later to engage in discussion. I get the feeling Kerry is blocking my posts , too much of AK and CPS-http://thinkkids.org
    shows up serious short comings with DWS
    AK has 2 links from his schools book on reading and math.
    I am looking for forums that discuss ' constructivist education.
    A blog I like to read – technology and eduction – Sylvia Martinez shared Constance kammii on math , I saw you had a blog on maths
    http://blog.genyes.com/index.php/2008/08/20/questioning-assumptions-with-constance-kamii/

    I really identify with AK on reading – whole language with phonetics introduced within the context of a story. I taught my kid to read english as a 2nd language – could read hebrew which was very phonetic. I dis not teach him the names of the letters , except the names of the vowels , need for the fairy e rule , and a few combinations. He caught on pretty fast , 3 lessons – but it became a game to read without mistakes , he was not interested in undertanding what he was reading.

    Enjoy your summer break

    Allan

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  3. Hi Allan,
    I do remember your comments on the DWS site. I always appreciated your point of view. I'm not sure I ever posted anything during these conversations; at the time I was really busy and your responses were so well thought out that I wanted to respond in kind and I just didn't have the time. It would be too bad if your posts are being blocked on the DWS listserv. I enjoy the discussions there though I know my philosophy of teaching doesn't always match some of the posts I read. I think that the DWS model has a lot going for it and I also like what I know of Responsive Classroom. I really admire Alfie Kohn.

    Thanks for posting. Come back again, soon.

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