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Classroom Competition vs Collaboration
Which one is best for learning, and why?
Some teachers swear that competition is evil and only use cooperation in class. Others regularly use competition, get great results and wonder what all the fuss is about. So which is better?
Wrong question — they’re both just tools to be used appropriately. Just like teacher talking time isn’t necessarily bad, competition in the classroom has its place.
Cooperation is usually good; competition can be good and bad, depending on how it’s used.
So should newer teachers only use cooperation, with more experienced teachers using competition as appropriate? The problem is that newer teachers usually only use competition, as it’s easier to set up and run.
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Advantages and Disadvantages of Competition and Cooperation
To review the arguments on both sides, check out this handy guide:
Healthy and Unhealthy Cooperation
Healthy Competition — is fun, the prize isn’t ‘real’ or valuable, it’s short, it’s high-energy, and there’re no long-term ramifications from the competition.
Unhealthy Competition — feels real for the participants. There are real consequences (grades, valuable prizes, bragging rights), rewards the ‘naturally stronger’ students, and develops a consistent competitive way of thinking.
The Golden Rule of Competition & Cooperation
There’s a lot to get your head around, and when you’re a newer teacher, it can be hard to know when to apply this knowledge. So to help cut through the confusion, here’s my rule of thumb:
“Use cooperation to learn, and competition to review” - David Weller
If you follow this, you’ll hit the advantages and avoid the disadvantages of competition and cooperation 90% of the time.
OK, so I just made up that percentage, but you could do much worse as a guiding principle.
See you again in two weeks.
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