Competition in Academics. Motivation or discouragement to do better?

I believe most people reading this article has gone to school or is attending school as of now. Whether being in elementary school, middle school, high school, or university, in all cases, you have experienced some sort of competition. In the article “Competition, education and assessment: connecting history with recent scholarship” by Robert Nelson and Phillip Dawson, they have discussed if competition is good or bad and if competition is an old tradition or something we should change in academics. As of most questions we have discussed in class, there is no definite answer. Two possible results are that competition in an academic setting may motivate students to better than other, or it may discourage others to do better.

In the article by Nelson and Dawson, similar to Garcia, they have separated main ideas and different discussion points using headings. This allows them to focus on a specific point in each section and helps readers to know before each section what the main focus or topic of that section will be.

Competition can be seen differently by each individual, either being constructive, where competitors heighten each other or being destructive, where at least one competitor will result in a loss like a zero-sum game. For example, as written in Nelson and Dawson’s article as well as Worrell’s article, they have both described how in sports, competition is almost necessary to be recognized by others as a good player. Nelson and Dawson connect this back to how it is also important in academics as just doing what you are told to do will not necessarily allow students to improve and become a more “educated” person. However with reference to Worrell’s article, he discusses how it is not whether competition is important or not, but the context and situation in where the competition takes place. For example, if a normal middle school student had to compete with other high school students for a better grade, the big difference in their ability will most likely result in the “loss” of the middle school student and potentially discouraging him or her to continue. The student may not try his best even before the competition. This is same in sports such where we do not see amateurs fighting against pros as it would lead to a one-sided game and is both not fun for the audience and demotivating for the amateurs.

However, when competing with people or groups around the same level as each other, it tends to result in a more constructive competition. Because if all competitors were in a similar level as each other, each competitor will most likely believe that they will have a chance to “win” the competition. Thus motivating competitors or groups to do their best. Even if a competitor or a competitive group loses, it can result in them being motivated for next time, again assuming that the difference in skill between the competitors is not as big.

In academic settings, I believe there will always be competition whether good or bad. As stated in garlandbr’s blog post, even if schools try to limit competition, students tend to find a way and compete with each other in many ways whether a letter grade or a percentage on a test. Recently, many schools have adopted a system of grouping people within a class depending on their academic knowledge and skill. For example, people with a better understanding of mathematics are grouped and separated from their other classmates and learn math that is recognized to be harder. Though this allows students with a similar level of skills to compete with each other, which tend to result in a more positive competition, it can both motivate students to study harder to join the more advanced class or may demotivate them making them think they are inferior compared to others.


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