Tag Archives: Alfie Kohn

Protect Your Kids From Failure
In a typical experiment, children are asked to solve problems that are rigged to ensure failure. After that, they’re asked to solve problems that are clearly within their capabilities. What happens? Even the latter problems now tend to paralyze them because a spiral of failure has been set into motion.
A kid who doesn’t do well assumes that if he does succeed, he must have just gotten lucky—or that the task was easy. And he assumes that if he fails again, which he regards as more likely, it’s because he doesn’t have what it takes: intelligence, athletic ability, musical talent, whatever.
Failure often leads kids to engage in something that psychologists call “self-handicapping”: They deliberately make less of an effort in order to create an excuse for not succeeding. This lets them preserve the idea that they have high aptitude. They’re able to tell themselves that if they had tried, they might have done much better.
The Atlantic

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The Case Against Grades
Grades create a preference for the easiest possible task. Impress upon students that what they’re doing will count toward their grade, and their response will likely be to avoid taking any unnecessary intellectual risks. They’ll choose a shorter book, or a project on a familiar topic, in order to minimize the chance of doing poorly — not because they’re “unmotivated” but because they’re rational. They’re responding to adults who, by telling them the goal is to get a good mark, have sent the message that success matters more than learning.
Alfie Kohn