Competition in classrooms

Different people have very different views about competition in education: is it something that helps or hinders learning? Some people hold the view that human beings are naturally competitive, that competition helps people strive for excellence, that competition is what drives our modern world - so that the sooner schoolchildren learn to compete with each other, and understand the difference between winning and losing the better. Other people consider that competition hinders learning - making students tense and nervous and over-concerned about marks and scores and whether they’ve done better than their classmates in tests. Such people regard teamwork and collaboration as the key element of successful workplaces – and consider that it’s the role of teachers to encourage the students in their classes to be supportive of one another and to study collaboratively.

Where do I stand? My personal view is that classrooms should be places where students feel comfortable enough to practise their skills without fear of failure, or the ever-present dread of being laughed at by their classmates. So no, I don’t believe that teachers should actively promote inter-student competition in their classrooms. At the same time I appreciate that students can run out of steam - and that classes can benefit from a sudden energy boost – particularly at the end of a long school day. With this thought in mind I’ve written an article on how teachers can use games, and particularly competitive team games, as a way of boosting the energy levels of their classes.

Read the attached article and see what you think. If you think it introduces some useful ideas, print it off and share it with your colleagues (there are some questions for reflection and discussion at the end). And of course leave a comment if you feel so inclined - particularly if you wish to share with others competitive activities that you've used successfully with your own classes.

Download the article: Competitive games in the language classroom

About the Author

Dr. Rose Senior is a language teaching expert with an MA in Modern Languages from St Andrews University, and an award-winning PhD from Edith Cowan University in Western Australia. Rose is currently a senior honorary research fellow in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Western Australia. She presents at conferences on a range of topics and gives customized professional development workshops for language teachers around the world. Her socio-pedagogic theory of classroom practice, with its accompanying term 'class-centred teaching', provides a basis for understanding why certain language teachers are far more successful than others.

For more information on Rose's publications and her class-centred teaching framework, please visit her website.


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