Sunday, July 30, 2006


Thoughts on competition vs. cooperation. First, a good book on this is Alfie Kohn's "No Contest: The Case Against Competition", a very thoughtful, well researched book on the topic. Alfie's claim is that competition is not only not good, but bad for society. He cites volumes of research showing the benefits of such things as cooperative learning, the "New Biology", and other support for cooperative behaviors over competitive ones. Competition causes people to worry more about how many points, dollars, rewards, or other measures one has and has them motivated more by external, rather than internal forces. He thinks that we should be motivated by internal mechanisms - doing things because they're the right thing to do, not because we'll get something for doing it (i.e. the points, dollars, rewards, etc.).

I used to value competition so highly - I'd do almost anything to win. Now my attitude has changed 180 degrees. I see the value of cooperation, having researched much on this topic for my dissertation. Cooperative learning benefits students so highly, when implemented appropriately and there's a huge volume of literature supporting this. See some of the work by Johnson and Johnson out of the University of Minnesota in the 1980's and beyond. Students will learn for the sake of learning, rather than to be #1 in class if the classroom culture is set up appropriately. They love teaching one another, helping one another learn.

This theme connects with Daniel Pink's book called "A Whole New Mind" when he claims that we should be moving toward a more right-brained culture valuing the following attributes: design, empathy, story, symphony, play, and meaning. We should still value left-brained, serial/linear, problem-solving, rational thinking, but we should also focus on developing the right-side aspects in order to balance our lives, culture, world. Left-brained jobs are being sent over seas; jobs that can be automated are being snapped up by computers and machines. The jobs of the future will involve right-brained skill sets and traits. Affective domain issues will be increasingly valued. Makes sense to me and resonates with something I've known and felt for a long time. The folks at UCSB doing work on confluent education had it right a long time ago - they were way ahead of their time. Maybe they'll end up having the last laugh - I probably shouldn't say that since it sounds so competitive...


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home