Alfie Kohn said:
Whether or not it’s stated explicitly, compliance remains the central goal of most classroom management programs, character education initiatives, and parenting resources. Sure, we stress the virtues of independent thinking and assertiveness, but mostly in the context of getting kids to resist peer pressure. If a child has the temerity to resist unreasonable rules and demands imposed by adults, well, then, bring on the “consequences” (read: punishments) to “hold them accountable for their behavior.”
What is so offensive about Skinnerian programs like PBIS or Class Dojo isn’t just their methods, which amount to extended exercises in manipulation, but their goal, which is to elicit mindless obedience.
Joe Bower said:
I would never ask students to complete anything that is worth doing in complete isolation from their peers, parents, books, or the Internet. I’ve worked hard to encourage my students to see collaboration as a critical characteristic of learning.
Alfie Kohn reminds us that, “I want to see what you can do not what your neighbour can do” is really just code for “I want to see what you can do artificially deprived of the skills and help of the people around you. Rather than seeing how much more you can accomplish in a well-functioning team that’s more authentic like real life.”
In the real world, there simply aren’t that many times you are expected to solve a problem or perform a task in complete isolation – and even if you were, it would be awfully archaic to refuse you the opportunity to reach out for the help you needed to get the task done.
Image credit: Sitting Alone, naraekim0801
Bharat Anand, Jan Hammond, and V. G. Narayanan said:
a typical approach to intervention in online [university] courses was to amass larger numbers of TAs [teaching assistants], so that some “expert” was ready to intervene quickly on any question as it arose. One unintended consequence? “Soon, everyone expected the TA’s to answer questions. No one took it upon themselves to do so.”
“Trust the students,” we preach in our classrooms. It’s one of the hardest axioms to follow. The temptation for an expert, or a teacher, is to help at the first sign of confusion. But letting it simmer can aid learner discovery. Indeed, the power of collaboration comes when you trust the group so that they are strongly encouraged – forced, even – to resolve problems on their own. Let an expert intervene, and you could undermine collaboration itself.
One of the things I love about the Discovery school in Christchurch, New Zealand is that the educators there do a wonderful job of handing everything over to the students. Teachers don’t leap in to solve learning or logistical problems. Instead they say, ‘What do you think?’ and ‘What might be some ways of solving that?’ and then honoring the kids’ ideas and solutions. Over and over and over again…
As Alfie Kohn noted over twenty years ago, “the way a child learns how to make decisions is by making decisions, not by following directions.”
Alfie Kohn said:
intrinsic motivation – has a huge empirical base of support in workplaces, schools, and elsewhere. We’ve long known that the pleasure one takes from an activity is a powerful predictor of success. For example, one group of researchers tried to sort out the factors that helped third and fourth graders remember what they had been reading. They found that how interested the students were in the passage was thirty times more important than how ‘readable’ the passage was.
Image credit: Reading, John Flinchbaugh
Alfie Kohn said:
Fury over the possibility that kids will get off too easy or feel too good about themselves seems to rest on three underlying values.
The first is deprivation: Kids shouldn’t be spared struggle and sacrifice, regardless of the effects. The second value is scarcity: the belief that excellence, by definition, is something that not everyone can attain. No matter how well a group of students performs, only a few should get A’s. Otherwise we’re sanctioning “grade inflation” and mediocrity. To have high standards, there must always be losers.
But it’s the third conviction that really ties everything together: an endorsement of conditionality. Children ought never to receive something desirable – a sum of money, a trophy, a commendation – unless they’ve done enough to merit it. They shouldn’t even be allowed to feel good about themselves without being able to point to tangible accomplishments. In this view, we have a moral obligation to reward the deserving and, equally important, make sure the undeserving go conspicuously unrewarded. Hence the anger over participation trophies. The losers mustn’t receive something that even looks like a reward.
A commitment to conditionality lives at the intersection of economics and theology. It’s where lectures about the law of the marketplace meet sermons about what we must do to earn our way into heaven. Here, almost every human interaction, even among family members, is regarded as a kind of transaction.
Interestingly, no research that I know of has ever shown that unconditionality is harmful in terms of future achievement, psychological health or anything else. In fact, studies generally show exactly the opposite. One of the most destructive ways to raise a child is with “conditional regard.”