Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
Europe & Africa meet the Americas
Friday, 05/Nov/2021:
4pm CET - 8am PT

Location: Plenary

Main Zoom room

External Resource:

Manipulative Methods and Grim Goals: Recognizing the Risks of Behaviorism

Alfie Kohn


When an appealing adjective like "open" is applied to badges or recognition, we ought to examine the nouns carefully -- particularly if they may be influenced by the psychological theory known as behaviorism. That theory has disturbing implications for our goals as well as our methods, as Alfie Kohn will explain in his keynote address. If our goals -- the criteria for receiving a badge or recognition -- involve meeting certain standards or attaining a given level of "competence," then behaviorism may flatten and standardize those outcomes and reduce them to numbers. (Even a refreshingly open process will become destructive if the goal is flawed.) At the same time, behaviorism may frame recognition as a reward, which will likely undermine people's interest in whatever they had to do to be recognized. (Even a valuable product will be poisoned if the method is experienced as controlling.)

Alfie Kohn is the American author of 14 books, including PUNISHED BY REWARDS, THE SCHOOLS OUR CHILDREN DESERVE, UNCONDITIONAL PARENTING, THE HOMEWORK MYTH, THE MYTH OF THE SPOILED CHILD, and, most recently, SCHOOLING BEYOND MEASURE. He has been described by Time magazine as the U.S.'s "most outspoken critic of education’s fixation on grades [and] test scores.” Kohn lives (actually) in Boston and (virtually) at