Saturday, May 15, 2010

Alfie Kohn

Alfie Kohn

Alfie Kohn is a author of 11 books on education, progressive schools and parenting. He is a former high school teacher who currently lectures at many universities in the United States. I was lucky enough to hear him speak and meet him on Monday, May 10th.

I have never read a book by Alfie Kohn and so his ideas about education would be new to me. I briefly leafed though two of his books before he started speaking. Kohn had a large impact on me on Monday.

First: I felt validated as a person and a teacher. Always a sign of a good speaker. Seriously he talked about how homework, tests and grades are detrimental to the learning process. So much of the homework out there is meaningless. Students of all ages should explore and create what they what to learn. Not what is teacher directed or expected.

Second: Classrooms should be student centered. The teacher is merely a vessel to guide students, not the all-knowing goddess of the classroom. Why do we need homework and tests? They do not prove that anyone has learned anything, only that students have jumped through designated hoops.

Third: AP classrooms are not conducive to learning. It takes the choices right out of learning. Students must listen, read and take a test. For some students, this is how they like to learn, for other students the AP model is way off base. Demanding a whole grade to step up to the challenge of an AP class is down-right nonsense. It is setting kids up to fail.

Thanks you Alfie Kohn for validating me as a teacher. I am going to see if I can move my teaching and my classroom into a more progressive model. I am getting off my soapbox now.


  1. I have read many of Kohn's books and they have affected me deeply. They have also left me sad, knowing that so many people will dismiss them as undoable at best and consider them crazy talk at worst.
    I am not a teacher, but a parent and I wish you the best of luck moving toward this model. Please spread the word to you colleagues.

  2. Sounds like an interesting book - thanks for the review!

    I agree with most of what was mentioned in the post but I don't think an open, self-directed classroom would work for every child (just like the current model doesn't work for every child).

    Laura, you have two books shown in the image. Which would you recommend reading first?

  3. I would recommend The Schools Our Children Deserve First