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The Theory of Alfie Kohn. Danielle Appel Kim Desilets Kerri Martin. Definition. Kohn’s model is based on the idea of classrooms and schools promoting caring and supporting environments for learning.

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the theory of alfie kohn

The Theory of Alfie Kohn

Danielle Appel

Kim Desilets

Kerri Martin

  • Kohn’s model is based on the idea of classrooms and schools promoting caring and supporting environments for learning.
  • Children succeed when they are exposed to a home with unconditional acceptance and therefore, our school and classrooms should exhibit the same value to assist our students in success.
according to kohn
According to Kohn…
  • Kids require unconditional acceptance to flourish
    • “Although it is most critical that they experience that kind of acceptance at home, what happens at school matters too” (Kohn, 2005, 21)
  • Kohn urges for instruction that is notably different from traditional teaching.
  • Students should be taken seriously, meaning that teachers must honour them as individuals and seek to determine what they need and enjoy.

(Charles, 2011, 76)

learning communities
Learning Communities

Place[s] in which students feel cared about and are encouraged to care about each other. They experience a sense of being valued and respected; the children matter to one another and to the teacher. They have come to think in the plural: they feel connected to each other; they are part of an “us”. And, as a result of all this, they feel safe in their classes, not only physically but emotionally. (2001, 101-102) (Charles, 2011, 77)

strategies to create learning communities
Strategies to create Learning Communities

Show respect for students

Help students connect

Use classroom meetings

Provide classwide and schoolwide activities

Reflect on academic instruction


Creating respectful and responsible citizens in our community.

A sense of value for every individual within the classroom, the school, the community and society.

A sense of self-value

When students choose what they are learning they are more inclined to explore the topic themselves. They become self-motivated learners.


Time: if we are spending the time teaching kindness and respect, how are we able to teach the curriculum outcomes?

It may never be possible to have every individual intrinsically motivated to show kindness and respect.

If students have so much choice in what they learn, how does a teacher keep track of each student’s progress.


  • Children learn how to make good decisions by making decisions, not by following directions.

The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing (Da Capo Books, 2006)


Do you agree with Kohn’s approach?

Do you see this implemented in the classroom/schools?

  • What are you currently doing in your classroom that may support/reflect Kohn’s theory?
  • What does this:
      • Look like?
      • Sound like?
      • Feel like?

Charles, C. (2011). Building Classroom Discipline (10th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Kohn, A. (2005). Unconditional Teaching. Educational Leadership, 63(1), 20-24.