Collaboration Improves Learning

In my books, on my blog, and in my speaking, I advocate collaboration rather than public competition to increase student learning. A prime reason is that the number of winners in competition is severely restricted—usually to one. This means that competition in learning produces more losers than winners.

A major advancement in learning would be to desist from the nearly imperceptible yet continual demoralization of K-12 students by fostering competition between students as a way to increase learning. Competition is a marvelous motivator to increase performance but is devastating to young people who feel that they never stand in the winner’s circle. This very significant yet unintended consequence of academic competition contributes to the reduction of intrinsic motivation for learning of many students. To protect themselves, they will drop out rather than submit to the lower status of losing.

Motivation is a fundamental factor in learning. Every action taken to increase learning should be considered in terms of “motivation for what?” If the desired answer is to improve learning so that no child will be left behind, then one approach to accomplish this goal is to replace competition with collaboration.