Note: After a long absence, it's clear that nothing does the job as well as Diigo Highlighter! Having tried a variety of tools, I keep coming back to the convenience of Diigo's highlighting tool. Fascinating quotes from Alfie Kohn.
While I found the entire article enchanting, I'm definitely noticing that I'm less interested in education reform rhetoric, what's wrong with practice, and a profound desire to focus simply on what works and engages learners. Anything else seems a waste of time. This was driven home last night as I read Tim over at Assorted Stuff, when he put it this way:
A few, including Alan November, Daniel Pink and Tony Wagner, have even spoken to my colleagues, the assembled mass of school-based and district administrators at our annual Leadership Conference, about transforming education.
They were inspiring, thoughtful, forward-thinking, and presented a challenging, but realistic vision of where we should be taking public education.
And nothing changed as a result.
The superintendent and other top administrators booked the speakers, heard their message, and did nothing to lead the system in the direction they pointed.
What are you changing in your own practice to make a difference in your direction? Finding the answer to that question involves some introspection and reflection, but also, makes it articles like Alfie Kohn's all the more important.
How to Create Nonreaders
- How to Create Nonreaders Reflections on Motivation, Learning, and Sharing Power By Alfie Kohn
- favorite Spanish proverb, attributed to the poet Juan Ramón Jiménez, can be translated as follows: "If they give you lined paper, write the other way."
- "You can command writing, but you can't command good writing," as Donald Murray
- The more you rely on coercion and extrinsic inducements
- the less interest students are likely to have in whatever they were induced to do.
- What a teacher can do – all a teacher can do – is work with students to create a classroom culture, a climate, a curriculum that will nourish and sustain the fundamental inclinations that everyone starts out with: to make sense of oneself and the world, to become increasingly competent at tasks that are regarded as consequential, to connect with (and express oneself to) other people.
- The sad irony is that as children grow older and become more capable of making decisions, they're given less opportunity to do so in schools.
- When parents ask, "What did you do in school today?", kids often respond, "Nothing." Howard Gardner pointed out that they're probably right, because "typically school is done to students." This sort of enforced passivity is particularly characteristic of classrooms where students are excluded from any role in shaping the curriculum, where they're on the receiving end of lectures and questions, assignments and assessments. One result is a conspicuous absence of critical, creative thinking – something that (irony alert!) the most controlling teachers are likely to blame on the students themselves, who are said to be irresponsible, unmotivated, apathetic, immature, and so on. But the fact is that kids learn to make good decisions by making decisions, not by following directions.
- "The experience of self-determination is not something that can be given to the student through the presentation of an array of teacher-determined options
- But that doesn't mean we should be prepared to share power with students only about relatively minor issues. It may make sense to start with that and then challenge ourselves to involve them in thinking about bigger questions as you (and they) become more comfortable with a democratic classroom.
- specific suggestions for bringing students in on making decisions
- Let students sample a work of literature, then generate their own questions and discussion topics – for themselves and one another.
- Before having students help each other to revise their writing, invite them to brainstorm possible questions they might ask about its construction and its impact on the reader (rather than having them simply apply your editing guidelines or, worse, evaluating the writing against a prefabricated rubric
- Have students think together about ideas for the papers they'll write, then follow up once the writing is underway by inviting each student to ask the group for suggestions.
- When you're planning to respond to their journals or other writings, begin by asking students – individually and as a class – what kinds of responses would be most helpful to them.
- Let students choose the audience for whom they're writing, as well as the genre in which they respond to something they've read (e.g., play, op-ed, speech).
- Check in periodically with students during class meetings about how the course is going for them
- Bring students in on the process of assessment by asking them to join you in thinking about alternatives to conventional tests.
- Let the students decide except when there's a good reason why we have to decide for them.
- Copyright © 2010 by Alfie Kohn. This article may be downloaded, reproduced, and distributed without permission as long as each copy includes this notice along with citation information (i.e., name of the periodical in which it originally appeared, date of publication, and author's name). Permission must be obtained in order to reprint this article in a published work or in order to offer it for sale in any form. We can be reached through the Contact Us page.