Competition in Education

Nelson and Dawson’s paper “Competition, education, and assessment: connecting history with recent scholarship” seeks to examine the role of competition in education. Specifically, the paper looks at the history of competition in education to see if competition’s role in schooling has changed at all over the years. The paper mentions “philological methods”, with “philology” meaning the branch of learning that handles the growth and history of language, as well as “pedagogical research”, with “pedagogical” meaning in relation to teaching.  The paper doesn’t define these terms, most likely assuming the intended audience would know their meanings. They point out that higher education is competitive on all levels, from admission into higher education to professor jobs. They point out that the balance of competition in education results in a win-lose situation – for example, if students are doing too well teachers worry that they aren’t sufficiently motivated. Thus, the cycle of competition prevails. 

            Nelson and Dawson look at competition as something inseparable from education. When compared to Caroline Pulfrey and Fabrizio Butera’s paper “Why Neoliberal Values of Self-Enhancement Lead to Cheating in Higher Education: A Motivational Account”, both papers view competition in education as a negative. However, Nelson and Dawson don’t go much into the empirical results of competition in education. They look at competition in education with a focus on its internal mechanisms. For example, the way competition can motivate or decrease motivation in students. Pulfrey and Butera look directly at cheating, one of the possible outcomes of intense competition within the education sphere. It is interesting to look at competition through Nelson and Dawson’s lens – as something inseparable from education – when taking a look at Pulfrey and Butera’s study on cheating in education. When combining the two points of view, it would stand to reason that cheating in the schooling system is an intrinsic part of education that cannot be removed entirely. However, Pulfrey and Butera’s experiment showed that cheating behaviours can be manipulated through verbal conditioning. They also mentioned that students in honour system schooling are less likely to cheat than those who are not. Pulfrey and Butera look at the effect of personal values – specifically, neoliberal values – on cheating and competition within the education system. As Nelson and Dawson look at the history and evolution of competition’s role in education, it would be interesting to study the effects of differing personal values throughout time. Is it that competition or education specifically has changed, or is it that our values and ideologies as a society have been altered throughout time?

            As mentioned here, Nelson and Dawson’s article uses the same rhetorical device as Hutcheon’s. They return to the Greek roots of terms. This brings a modern issue into a historical and universal context rather than relying simply on modern ideas and methods. 


  1. I really enjoyed reading your response. I thought it was straightforwards and engaging. I really liked how you talked about some things you would be interested in knowing after reading their article. I was wondering what your opinion was on the idea that if students are doing too well, they won’t be motivated to continue doing well in school. Do you agree that this could be a possibility, or do you believe that students will always be motivated to do well.


  2. Your reading response was interesting and straightforward, with a compelling suggestion for future research regarding the topic matter. I enjoyed your connection of this article to Pulfrey and Butera’s study! Their approach is very interesting – looking at the effects of personal values on cheating and competition within the education system is something that was definitely worth investigating. I agree with you that it would be interesting to study the effects of changing personal values over time. In thinking about this, I personally see the relationship between personal values and the evolution of competition as being cyclical in their influences on one another. I think it would be really interesting to look at both aspects as they evolved together!


  3. I really like your reading response.The impact of competition in education has always been a hot topic of discussion. Intense competition can lead to cheating, but without competition, it can lead to backwardness in academics. Is there a way to find the balance between the two so that there is no excessive competition or loss of learning motivation? Or can schools and teachers advocate self-competition rather than competition among classmates, so that they can improve themselves without hurting others?


  4. I really enjoy reading your reading response. It is clear to understand and you articulate the terms well. Do you think competition is the absolute and main reason that students tend to cheat? I think there are still many factors, such as situation as well as disposition.


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