am 2. November 1999
The author introduces a view of extrinsic rewards that is totally different from what most people have known. Kohn suggest that competition and reward are unhealthy and will deter motivation. He contends that rewards are bribes and used as a method to control people. To substantiate his stand against pop-behaviorism, Kohn examines the reward systems in the classroom. He offers many references and support in his aim to prove that the use of rewards is counterproductive in the classroom, workplace and at home. Kohn's ideas differ greatly from "mainstream" thinking about education. Devoting chapter 6 to the praise problem, Kohn suggests that praise benefits the giver rather the recipent, causing an imbalance in power. Most classroom teachers have been taught to be in control of their students. This chapter goes against the praise-and-ignore approach that Brophy views as helpful in classroom management. Also, inclusive classrooms are a fast-growing concept in education. Many approaches that Kohn suggest in this book may not apply to the children with behavior problems that are in our classrooms now. These students need praise and some form of a reward system. Futhermore, I strongly disagree with Kohn's attitude on the Book-It program. The most important journey that my first graders embark upon is "learning to read". During their journey, they participate in the Book-It program. Kohn is opposed to this literacy awareness program that offers a pizza slip to each child that reaches his/her goal each month. Contrary to Kohn's belief that the child will stop reading once the pizza slips stop, this program actually intensifies their desire to become readers. Another dominate practice in schools that Kohn opposes is the grading system. He indicates that report cards and grades alter a students' performance, citing that when you grade students, their interest in what they are doing declines. Ask a teacher how beneficial a grading system is in keeping track of a childs' performance. As a college student returning to school for licensure, grades are an important motivating factor for me. Although I do oppose most of Kohn's beliefs, I recommend this book to all people that work with children. Kohn provides an alternative approach that we may not have ever considered. The reader is given a controversial look at the system of rewards that is so familiar to us. His references of interesting experiments analyze how we should approach and react to different situations, such as competition. While we consider some competition to be healthy for a child, Kohn discourages competing due to the consequences of losing. But in the real world, sometimes losing is inevitable. However, we should all agree with Kohn's stance on collaborative learning. He emphasizes the success of cooperative grouping in the classroom, which is a fairly new concept. American education is flowing with diverse prospectives that reflect a growing, changing world. The more open-minded an educator is to new ideas, the more valuable that person will be to our society. One should never be so comfortable with his/her own view to the point that creativity is threatened. Beverly E. Smith, 10/23/99
am 9. Mai 2000
Alfie Kohn uses a cute, marketable saying "the three C's" to refute decades of empirically validated evidence supporting behaviorism. Although behaviorism in itself is not infallible, it does offer a built-in method of evaluating its results. All Kohn offers is "theoretical evidence" to support his findings. This is vastly different from empirical evidence. It means that theory is all it is based on. Armchair evidence has no room in the arena of education, where behaviorist insight has clearly improved educational opportunity and outcomes for students demonstrating difficulties in learning. Alfie, we need more than just your word, especially when our childrens' futures are at stake. The three C's may fit Kohn's agenda (and vocabulary), but until he produces some empirical evidence, this book will have to hit the 99 cent rack. Kohn gets one star for actively challenging an accepted behaviorist body of science, but does not follow through on the principle of parsimony, and falls short in evidence. As Paul Simon sings in "The Obvious Child", "proof is the bottom line for everyone." Get some evidence, and better luck next time, Alfie.
am 20. März 2000
As quoted by the classic textbook "Behavior Modification: What It Is And How To Do It" by Garry Martin and Joseph Pear -- "Not infrequently, one meets the objection that presenting reinforcement to someone for 'doing what he ought to do anyway' is 'downright bribery.' In a verbal exchange with a teacher, Roger Ulrich (1970, p. 337)...suggested that the teacher look up 'bribery' in the dictionary. Complying, the teacher said, 'Okay, the dictionary says that bribe means "any gift of emolument, used corruptly to influence public or official action, anything that seduces or allures, an allurement. Also any valuable consideration given or promised for corrupt behavior in the performance of official or public duties."' Ulrich then remarked, 'It's quite common for people to refer to reinforcement as bribing, especially when we use it for children. According to the dictionary definition, however, it doesn't seem to fit. It wouldn't seem that our efforts to get Billy to write his numbers better is really an example of trying to get him to do something illegal or something which goes against what is generally looked upon as being acceptable by our culture. Besides, Billy isn't a public official. Actually, writing numbers seems to be a good thing to be able to do and when you do good things, you often get rewarded for them.' Related to the bribery criticism is the frequently voiced criticism that extrinsic reinforcement for a behavior that a person finds (or should find) instrinsically reinforcing will undermine his motivation to engage in that behavior when the extrinsic reinforcement is no longer provided. In discussing this criticism, Kazdin (1975, pp. 50-52) concluded that 'reinforcing individuals for particular behaviors in a given situation rarely leads to a deterioration of those behaviors in other situations' (p. 52). Feingold and Mahoney (1975) provided additional evidence countering the criticism. Five normal second-grade children were given two play activities, one of which was a follow-the-dots book. The number of dots each child connected was recorded over several daily fifteen-minute sessions. The number of dots [connected] was large for each child, even though no extrinsic reinforcement was given for this behavior. Then, reinforcement in the form of points exchangeable for candies, toys, and small books was given for connecting the dots. As a result, all the children showed substantial increases in their dot-connecting behavior. Next, extrinsic reinforcement was discontinued, and, as we would expect from the principle of extinction, the behavior decreased. But it did not decrease below its high level that had occurred prior to the introduction of extrinsic reinforcement, as would evidently be expected by those who argue that extrinsic reinforcement undermines intrinsic reinforcement." It is for this reason, Skinner insisted that 'reinforcement' must be used as a technical term...so it would be confused with 'bribery' 'rewards' etc. The person who wrote this book obviously didn't read up on the most elementary points of behavior modification. Be wary.