Constructive competition can be defined as a social and cultural phenomenon. The constructive competition can enhance learner’s abilities, develops their ambitions and encourages their learning. It can motivate individuals to stretch beyond their own expected abilities (1).
Competition Can Frustrate and Demotivate
By the same token, it can frustrate and demotivate some. But as all work is, in a sense competitive – businesses even talk of their competitors – it would seem sensible to assume that competitive approaches should form part of any blend of vocational teaching methods.
The heat of competition can help refine learners’ developing skills. In Skills for Sustainable Growth, the Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS, 2) suggested that ‘skills competitions and awards can provide an excellent opportunity to raise the profile of the vocational skills across the UK and inspire young people to develop their skills’. The UK hosted the WorldSkills International competition in London in 2011, where young people from 51 countries competed in skills areas from aircraft engineering to floristry. BIS hoped that this would encourage young people to consider gaining vocational skills as a route to a worthwhile career.
Competition Can be Constructive or Destructive
Competition can either be constructive, or destructive, however, and the manner in which competition occurs impacts upon its usefulness to the learning process. In an empirical study, Pia Williams and Sonja Sheridan (1) found that the ways in which competition develops in school contexts tend to be a question of chance rather than being the result of conscious choice on the part of the teacher or learners. Although it has been remarkably difficult in the world of research to pin down the conditions for constructive competition, Williams and Sheridan’s study highlights the importance of learners and teachers who are involved in competitions:
- Understanding their own competences.
- Being able to share their knowledge.
- Understanding the meaning of learning.
Developing an attitude that holds collaboration and competition as tools for learning in the long term, rather than focusing on the short term ‘win’ only.
Having the opportunity to collaborate and compete in an ‘open’, ‘permissive’ learning environment where the teacher focuses attention on the collective knowledge of the group rather than individual competence alone (1).
- Williams, P. & Sheridan, S. (2010). Conditions for Collaborative Learning and Constructive Competition in School. Educational Research, 52(4), 335-350.
- (2010). Skills for Sustainable Growth: Strategy document. Retrieved on Jun. 25, 2012, from http://www.bis.gov.uk/assets/biscore/further-education-skills/docs/s/10-1274-skillsfor-sustainable-growth-strategy.pdf
Lucubrate Magazine September 2019
The picture on the top of the article: vitaliy_melnik at Adobe Stock
The article is from the report “How to teach vocational education: A theory of vocational pedagogy” by Bill Lucas, Ellen Spencer and Guy Claxton, The City & Guilds Centre for Skills Development (December 2012)