Alfie Kohn at CMK08

Some notable thoughts of Alfie Kohn’s

Constructivism is concerned with how learning occurs which informs teaching.

Giving children brick after brick [of knowledge] does not mean that they have a house; what they have in the end is a pile of bricks.

Grades lead to

  • students choosing the easier task when they are given a choice of tasks
  • students performing more superficial tasks
  • less questioning for understanding and less making connections

We don’t need to fix kids but rather to fix the system so that we can keep the kids

Essential question: What does it mean to be well educated?

Resources mentioned

“Rethinking Rubrics”, Alfie Kohn

Linda McNiel (MET Schools)

My thoughts

I think that being well educated means being exposed to a range of opportunity from a variety of disciplines in a creative, exploratory, safe environment. It means having the ability to analyze, think, query, research to find answers to the challenges of the varied areas of life. I believe that people should be able to thrive individually and within the collective. To be well educated means to have the skills, knowledge, understanding, attitude and habits of minds to be able to meet our goals through individual effort and collaboration.

I had a conversation with a family member as to which of two independent schools is better. One school focuses on arithmetic and reading in the elementary program while the other school provides opportunities for elementary aged children to learn a second language and to participate in music and art experiences. I instinctively think that the latter model is a better educational system than the former. However, the whole concept of student-centered approaches leads me to concede there are children who will thrive best in each of the two systems.

As such, the process of becoming well educated may look different depending on the child, both logistically and structurally. The standard of being well educated will also vary from person to person, as surely the education required of a person depends on the role(s) that they want to inhabit during the various periods of their life.

Advice worth considering …

Peter Taylor, co-creator of FableVision

July 28, 2008

“Art should be part of the experience every single day.”

“Inspire imagination and creative thinking in your school and in your life.”

Help kids find their dot (re: “The Dot”, Shel Silverstein) and to connect their dots to other dots. His dot was art which he connected to storytelling and to math.

What’s your mission?


I like the idea of helping kids find their dot. I think that we often try to fit kids into courses and into ways of thinking, even while talking about child centered learning and constructivism. It’s a real challenge to take the time to know each student well enough to recognize his/her specialty and to help him/her use that specialty to understand, explore and experience the world. This idea challenges me to re-evaluate how I deal with student behavior in the classroom.

Such a simple idea that causes a whole paradigm shift. “What’s your mission?” That encompasses so much more than simply saying what’s your job. It begins to get to the reason for doing that job. It requires reflection, self-awareness, a purpose. I’ve been pondering on my mission since then and thinking about how to align my actions more closely with my theoretical mission.