Competition vs. Cooperation in the Classroom

Competition vs Cooperation in the Classroom.JPG

Some teachers swear that competition is evil, and only use cooperation in class.  Others regularly use competition, get great results and wonder what on earth 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 both 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 with that is newer teachers usually only use competition, as it’s easier to set up and run.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Competition and Cooperation?

To review the arguments on both sides, check out this handy guide:

Competition vs Cooperation Advantages Disadvantages

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’.

If you follow this, you’ll hit the advantages and avoid the disadvantages of both competition and cooperation 90% of the time.

OK, so I just made up that percentage, but as a guiding principle you could do a lot worse :-).

How do you use competition and cooperation in the classroom? Did I miss any advantages or disadvantages? Let me know in the comments below.