Sunday, September 25, 2011

Education at its Best

Annotation by Melissa Han

Kohn, Alfie. (1999) Education at its Best. The Schools Our Children Deserve: Moving Beyond Traditional Classrooms and “Tougher Standards”. (pp131-158). New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin.


In the chapter of Education at its Best, Kohn distinguishes the characteristics that facilitate active and interactive learning. The characteristics stated by Kohn involve posing problems that draw the students in, ask questions to guide student thinking, spark deep thinking through covering less content in more in-depth ways, provide valuable opportunities to create authentic decision-making, and cooperative learning.

Kohn states that in schools who actively engage with the above mentioned characteristics with students, take “kids seriously” or set up a learner-centered classroom. (131) He goes further to explain that this model of learning is not what traditionalists argue as “undemanding progressive schooling, based on leftover hippie idealism.” (132) Instead, research has shown that humans are meaning makers. Constructivists argue that people interact with the new information learned and make sense of any conflicts that arise between new learned and old information held.

With all that said, Kohn reminds the reader that education has an opportunity to enable students to experience being in a democracy instead of making them follow directions. Too often in American schools learning involves instruction being “done to students instead of working with students.”(150) It is implied that the barrier of a traditionalist way of learning involves fear of dealing with the messiness of deep thinking. Kohn argues that engaging student thinking with questions and having students turn to one another for discovery instead of reliance on the teacher provides the teacher valuable information on what the student is thinking and how they arrived to their ideas. Thus, the learning for the student has purpose and relevance.

Relevant Quotes/Concepts

~”…it takes a lot more skill to help children think for themselves than it does just to give them answers” (134)

~”…[teacher’s] task is to pose questions that will lead through-rather than around. [Such teaching] cannot be scripted; rather, it depends on one’s capacity to respond spontaneously to students’ perplexities and discoveries” (135)

~”Teachers who want to encourage intellectual growth give students time to be confused and create a climate where it’s perfectly acceptable to fall on your face.” (137)

~”The more informal the learning environment , the greater the teacher’s access to the learner’s representations, understandings, and misunderstandings.” (140)

1 comment:

Stacey Caillier said...

I love the quotes you pulled from this - leading through rather that around, learning how to think rather than learning answers. Thanks for highlighting these!

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