Posts Tagged ‘Atletics’

Is Competition in the Classroom a Good Thing?

December 10, 2010

I have the least competitive class on the planet.  My class clearly struggle when pitted against each other.  They are a naturally tight class, with no discernible popular figure and no outcast.  It is a credit to them that they are so close.  Similarly, they deserve kudos for being committed to continuous improvement, not out of a desire to be better than their classmates, but simply because they want to achieve to their maximum.

But then comes the annual Sports Carnival, and all of a sudden, things change.  The kids just couldn’t cope with coming third, fourth and especially last.  They felt they let themselves down as well as their team.  Some of them were justifiably upset that they were put in the same heat as much faster runners and were therefore not even given a chance to win.

Part of me feels responsible.  I noticed at the beginning of the year that this group hated competition, and I tried to ensure that I steered clear from competitive activities and tests.  When testing the kids, I don’t give them a letter or number grade, instead I chose to give them clear feedback on skills they performed well in and found challenging.  This not only prevents students from comparing themselves to others, but also provides clear feedback on what they can do and what skills require further practise.

Some say that competition is good.  It is character building, it prepares the child for the competitiveness of the real world and motivates the child.  I am skeptical when it comes to competition in the classroom.  My experience tells me that many teachers resort to grades and levels in elementary level when the content of what they are teaching isn’t particularly interesting and requires a bit of superficial stimulus.

Am I doing more damage than good, by protecting my students from competing against each other?  Even though my students are motivated and have a natural enjoyment of learning in the current setup, am I doing a disservice by not preparing them for the realities of not winning, getting beaten and dealing with the joy of doing better than others?


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