Collaboration vs Competition
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Implications for Language Learning Look at the Handout. Play the game. Look at your results. What do they tell us about collaboration? Look at the Handout. What does this activity tell us about collaboration/cooperation? Online Prisoners’ Dilemma: http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/playground/pd.html Cooperative, as compared to competitive, systems of distributing rewards … have more favorable effects on individual and group productivity, individual learning, social relations, self-esteem, task attitudes, and a sense of responsibility to other group members. This is a well-established finding, even though it is counter to widely held ideologies about the relative benefits of competition. (Deutsch, 1985, p. 196) Cooperative learning situations, compared with competitive and individual situations, promote higher levels of self-esteem and healthier processes for deriving conclusions about one’s self-worth. (Johnson, et al., 1983, p. 35) Cooperative learning … gives students an active role in deciding about, planning, directing and controlling the content and pace of their learning activities. It changes the students’ role from recipients of information to seekers, analyzers and synthesizers of information. It transforms pupils from listeners into talkers and doers, from powerless pawns into participant citizens empowered to influence decisions about what they must do in school. (Sharan, 1986, p. 4) The truth is that the vast majority of human interaction … is not competitive but cooperative interaction. (Johnson & Johnson, 1974, pp. 213) All the evidence says that cooperative learning is natural and effective and competitive learning is destructive. If we examine the benefits of collaboration, we find that: encouragement is given; encouragement is received; sensitivity is promoted; the focus is on others (interpersonal responsibility); perspective-taking is promoted; communication and collective decision-making is promoted; and trust is promoted. These are desirable goals of education. In contrast, trust is almost absent under competition. Working together gives students benefits in terms of achievement as well as enhancing self-esteem and the quality of relationships. The fact that working on a common goal together produces higher achievement and greater productivity than working alone is one of the strongest principles of social and organizational psychology (Johnson & Johnson, 1991, p. 40). Cooperative Learning (CL) is not just a set of teaching techniques. It reflects an ethical orientation to life and involves a completely different approach to learning. (Clark, 1991, p. 3) CL can transform education and society through letting students experience the achievement of goals in cooperation with others instead of against them. Control, Curriculum, Community, the 3 Cs of CL. (Kohn, 1992, p. 220) We should not be worrying about how well CL fits in with society’s institutions. Rather, our institutions should be judged on how well they conform to the principles behind CL. As things stand, our schools are much too competitive, which helps to explain why so little learning is taking place. If we want to truly educate students, the literature tells us that the teacher’s role is to stimulate a child’s curiosity, to facilitate the process of playing with ideas and constructing meaning, and to aid in the development of intellectual and social skills. People do wonderful work: when they are inspired, challenged, and excited by what they are doing; and when they receive social support and are able to exchange ideas and collaborate effectively with each other. Competition makes both less likely. A model of teaching and learning that might arise out of a collaborative approach is ‘Group Investigation.’ Students decide what they want to know, make inquiry groups, and then decide how to divide up the work and conduct their investigation. Each group collects information and analyzes it, then prepares and shares a final report or presentation about what has been learned. Finally, each group contributes to the evaluation process, perhaps making up questions that will be included in a class test. The purpose is to incorporate the evaluation into the learning process (Sharan, 1990, p. 158). This is a sort of focused project approach that builds on the Montessori approach. Students work together, finding out what they want to learn and then reporting on that learning to the other students. It is up to educators to identify sound principles and to insist on employing them. It is imperative that collaboration be recognized and used in classrooms as an efficient means of achieving the goals of the 7th National Curriculum. It can be done. There are a number of successful models of cooperative learning in the USA and Scandinavia (for example). Education, trade and international relations are not zero-sum games. Everyone can benefit through cooperation and collaboration. Everyone can lose out through competition and distrust. Clark, J. (1991). The hidden treasure of co-operative learning. Cooperative Learning, 2/3. Deutsch, M. (1985). Distributive justice: A socio-psychological perspective. New Haven: Yale University Press. Johnson, D. W. & Johnson, R. T. (1974) Instructional goal structure: Cooperative, competitive, or individualistic. Review of educational research, 44, 213-240. Johnson, D. W. & Johnson, R. T. (1983). The Socialization and achievement crisis: Are cooperative learning experiences the solution? In Bickman, B. (Ed.). Applied social psychology annual 4. Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage. Johnson, D. W. & Johnson, R. T. (1991). Learning together and alone: Cooperative, competitive, and individualistic learning. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall. Kohn, A. (1992) No contest: The case against competition. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. Sharan, S. (1986). Cooperative learning: Problems and promise. The international association for the study of cooperation in education newsletter, December issue, 3-4. Sharan, S. (1990). Cooperative learning and helping behavior in the multi-ethnic classroom. In Foot, H. C., Morgan, M. J., & Shute, R. H. (Eds.) Children helping children. Chichester, England: John Wiley and Sons.