Oil and water don’t mix.

The world is a competitive place … right?

Well, to a point, yes it is.  But perhaps paradoxically, more than ever in human history, your students will need to collaborate with one another effectively in order to do that competing in the big, bad world out there.

It begs the question, “Should a classroom be competitive or collaborative?”. When the argument is reduced so simply, I think most reading this would answer with the latter option.  And I’d agree.

This isn’t to say that I have a problem with competition.  For example, sporting environments are fabulous for developing resilience and learning even old concepts like gallantry and sportsmanship.  Many would agree that today’s kids would do well to learn how to both win and lose a little better.  

Learning how to compete well is important.  Yet we in schools compromise this learning by introducing collaborative features that have no place in competitive environments.  Everyone getting a ribbon and turning off scoreboards are surefire ways to ensure that our children don’t know how to win or lose properly … because they never really do!

Equally, collaborative environments such as classrooms, need to be protected from incompatible competitive mechanisms.  Any time your students can see each other ranked against others, such as with the insidious concept of Class Dojo but also in concepts like tables points and other achievement based charts, they compete.

Once competition is the basis of your classroom climate, you invite competitive behaviours in too.  In 2020, you don’t need elements of the tall poppy syndrome, of point jealousy, of perceived favouritism, of poor decisions (leading us to perhaps need a cricketing version of the player review system for the classroom!)or the cockiness of being atop a learning ladder for little other reason than a gift you were born with.

Classroom = collaborative.

Sporting field = competitive.

Like oil and water … they don’t mix.