Partial Book Review: Feel-Bad Education

FBEcoverFeel-Bad Education (by Alfie Kohn) is a discussion on different educational issues that stem from Alfie’s philosophy of teaching.  The book covers many topics including: what students learn, creating non-readers, motivating students, rubrics, student feelings, competition, national standards, cash incentives, etc.  I will only highlight a few of the ideas in this post.

On the topic of student motivation, students enthusiasm and likelihood of learning are positively linked to student interest and choice in what and how they are learning.  On the negative side, students become less interested in things they are forced to do.

Here’s the tricky thing about motivation in education: you can only truly motivate yourself.  However, you can support or help revive the intrinsic motivation within your students.  This concept is of great interest to me, and I feel like the answer to creating a motivation-friendly environment is of great worth.  On the flip side, you can quite easily destroy your student’s motivation.

On the topic of grades, students “tend to think less deeply, avoid taking risks, and lose interest in the learning itself” (p.100) when they are subject to grades.  I have found this to be generally true over my 22 years (13 in school, 9 in post secondary) of learning as a student.  I would just add that “good” students figure out the “game” that is our educational system.  Eventually, you can learn to be a good note taker, essay writer, studier, and test taker, and lose the real joy of learning.  Being good at school sometimes means giving up at getting good at learning.  I hope to help change that.

(Picture of book cover from


About danieljatkins

I learn better without grades!
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One Response to Partial Book Review: Feel-Bad Education

  1. Much of my grading philosophy is based on Kohn’s work and this notion of grading as non motivating factor for learning. I hope this course was a way to experience learning without a grade as a carrot. I know I don’t have a perfect system but feel strong I’m in the right ballpark.

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