Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Alfie Kohn (1957-?)

Alfie Kohn’s theory analyzes human behavior from the perspective of intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivations.

► Intrinsic Motivation: where the task itself is experienced as appealing
► Extrinsic Motivation: where the task is seen as a means to an end, a prerequisite for receiving a reward or avoiding a punishment.[1]

“It is not the amount of motivation that matters, but the type.”
He is an outspoken critic of the education fixation on grades and test scores. The education system and the workplace are created based on a reward and punishment system in which human development is limited. The objective is to figure out how to succeed and beat the system instead of consciously learn and value knowledge in a practical way. Alphie Cohn challenges teachers, parents and managers to think “What is the motivation?” instead of thinking “How do I motivate?”

► The difference between a good educator and a great educator is that the former figures out how to work within the constraints of traditional policies and accepted assumptions, whereas the latter figures out how to change whatever gets in the way of doing right by kids.[2]
► The negative effects of homework are well known. They include children’s frustration and exhaustion, lack of time for other activities, and possible loss of interest in learning.
► Specifically, the evidence suggests that five disturbing consequences are likely to accompany an obsession with standards and achievement: 1) Students come to regard learning as a chore, 2) Students try to avoid challenging tasks, 3) Students tend to think less deeply, 4) Students may fall apart when they fail, and 5) Students value ability more than effort.[3]
► Most of the time students are in school, particularly younger students but arguably older ones too, they should be able to think and write and explore without worrying about how good they are. Only now and then does it make sense for the teacher to help them attend to how successful they’ve been and how they can improve.
► The more you use rewards to "motivate" people, the more they tend to lose interest in whatever they had to do to get the rewards.
► Are our reactions helping the child to feel a sense of control over her life or to constantly look to us for approval? Are they helping her to become more excited about what she’s doing in its own right – or turning it into something she just wants to get through in order to receive a pat on the head or avoid punishment. [4]

[1] Challenging Behaviorist Dogma: Myths About Money and Motivation
[2] "Changing the Homework Default," Independent School, Winter 2007
[3] "The Costs of Overemphasizing Achievement" School Administrator, November 1999
[4] "Five Reasons to Stop Saying 'Good Job!,'", Young Children, September 2001

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