#RFBookClub Author Spotlight - Alfie Kohn

August 11, 2019

 

 

For August, #RFBookClub has chosen to highlight the collective works of Alfie Kohn.  As teachers and students prepare to go back into the classrooms next month, Kohn invites teachers to rethink ideas surrounding discipline, punishments and rewards.   His educational philosophy is closely connected with the tenets of Restorative Justice Education and putting relationships first.

 

Kohn insists that intrinsic motivation is the key predictor for achievement of excellence. The author argues that extrinsic motivations, such as rewards and punishments, undermine this progress and discourage empathy, kindness and sharing.  Moreover, these types of seduction are ultimately just manipulative systems of control which are incompatible with intrinsic motivation.  Competitiveness, praise seeking, and self-centred goals unduly influence motivations.

 

Kohn believes that reward systems, performance appraisals and competitiveness are systems of top-down control that do not really empower people and are counterproductive to teamwork, building healthy relationships, and truly understanding and accepting others for who they are.   We need to "work with" and "meet" others as they are, rather than try to manipulate and change them for our own purposes.  As he attests, "Punishment and reward proceed from basically the same psychological model, one that conceives of motivation as nothing more than the manipulation of behavior." (Kohn, 2018, 51).

 

 

Kohn believes that the psychological theories behind behaviourism provide only surface level understandings and ignore underlying motivations, value systems and emotional needs.   To quote the author, "The value of any book, article, or presentation intended for teachers (or parents) is inversely related to the number of times the word “behavior” appears in it.   The more our attention is fixed on the surface, the more we slight students’ underlying motives, values, and needs." (Kohn, 2018).   Kohn insists that an effective educational policy means "attending less to students’ behaviors and more to the students themselves" (Kohn, 2018).

 

Restorative Justice Education is focused on addressing these underlying needs.  Schools that adopt RJE approaches emphasize "power with" rather than "power over" approaches between all members of the learning community (Evans & Vaandering, 52).  In Beyond Discipline: From Compliance to Community, Kohn seeks to replace top-down teacher-constructed expectations with a cooperative caring approach that meets the underlying needs of all and respects their inherent worth and belonging.

 

 

Kohn understands that parenting and guiding children should be attuned to their needs; and working with them to meet those needs, rather than trying to control and manipulate those needs.  This is central to Restorative Justice Education.  As Evans and Vaandering point out, "stemming from the belief that people are worthy and interconnected, restorative educators do not manage or control their students, but they become facilitators who create space and opportunities where students can engage (2016, 67)."

 

One of the greatest needs of children is unconditional love.  And they may not always get it at home.  Kohn argues to replace praise and rewards with the unconditional support that children need to know that they are always loved and truly belong just by being themselves.  It is so important to their healthy development and construction of self.   

 

Alfie Kohn's collective library has made valuable contributions to child psychology, education and parenting.  His recommendations are in line with Restorative Justice Education and the idea of honouring, not changing people.    

 

You can purchase his collective works by following the links below...

 

 

 

Get it at Indigo Chapters here.

 

Get it at Amazon here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get it at Indigo Chapters here.

 

Get it at Amazon here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get it at Indigo Chapters here.

 

Get it at Amazon here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get it at Indigo Chapters here.

 

Get it at Amazon here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get it at Indigo Chapters here.

 

Get it at Amazon here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get it at Indigo Chapters here.

 

Get it at Amazon here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Follow #RFBookClub for more author spotlights, book reviews and recommendations.

 

 

 

 

References

 

Evans, K., & Vaandering, D. (2016). The little book of restorative justice in education: Fostering responsibility, healing, and hope in schools.

 

Kohn, Alfie.  (2018). "It's Not About Behavior" Education Week (September 5, 2018),  Retrieved from: https://www.alfiekohn.org/article/behavior/

 

Kohn, Alfie. (2018). Punished by rewards: The trouble with gold stars, incentive plans, A's, praise, and other bribes.

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