The Value of Competition in the Classroom

Updated on March 1, 2018
Joyette  Fabien profile image

Joyette taught English & Literature at high school for many years. Her writing and education articles come from her classroom experience.

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Competition Among Students

Competition in any form brings out the best in people and pushes them to excel. In schools, if used effectively, it can enhance learning significantly.

Certainly, competition in the classroom is quite healthy; it should, in fact, be encouraged. It allows students to extend themselves, to exploit their real capabilities and maximize their true potential. It is most productive when it occurs among students of similar abilities.

Traditionally, schools have fostered competition among students by assigning positions at the end of the term/semester. Each student is assigned a position based on the average score obtained from an aggregate of tests and assignment scores. In fact, some schools give positions by subject as well as overall class position so a student may have come in the third position, but might have gained first place in Math.

Usually, the diligent student is concerned about the position that he/she acquires and no good student wants to move from a high position in the class, to a lower one. This keeps competition alive and well in the classroom. Students are able to match their abilities against that of their classmates and easily determine who their rivals are. In other words, they evaluate their own competencies and recognize who their competitors are.They can then decide how much effort they need to put into their work in order to remain at the top. Over time, they might also acknowledge that there are certain students whom they cannot match and to whom they must concede defeat

Different Levels of Competition Within the Classroom

Competition can exist among different groups and at different levels in the same class.

  • Among the top students - For e.g. in the case of students who usually come in the top three positions, competition exists among them for the first place position. While each will concede defeat to the other two as worthy adversaries, if someone from outside of that trio were to come into one of these positions then this outsider would become a threat to the other three. On the other hand, the newcomer would have scored a huge victory which he/she would not be willing to relinquish. The competition would, therefore, have expanded to include four, rather than three persons. Each must now strive considerably harder to avoid falling to the fourth position. One possible, positive outcome of this situation would be improved grades for all four students and a higher overall class average.
  • Among other groups - Competition will also exist among other clusters apart from the top three or even between individuals. However, motivation to compete decreases as one gets closer to the bottom of the class. This means that while students who place in the top and even perhaps the middle positions may be motivated to compete with those whom they perceive as close rivals, there is hardly any motivation for those who constantly come at the bottom of the class.
  • In subject areas - Competition can also exist in particular subject areas so that even the top three performers overall may recognize that in a specific subject area, there is a particular student whom no one can touch. Efforts will be made to beat him/her and this student who experiences profound gratification for being best in his/her area and for beating the top three, will do all in his/her power to hold on to the position.

Competition Defeats Complacency

Competition is good in the sense that it discourages complacency and raises students’ consciousness of the value of good grades. As a result, the keener the competition, the higher the output among students. This is manifested not only in high individual averages, but in overall high class averages. It is, therefore, a very effective tool to keep your high achievers achieving.

To Students

Are you motivated to work harder when there is competition in the classroom?

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© 2011 Joyette Helen Fabien


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    • Joyette  Fabien profile imageAUTHOR

      Joyette Helen Fabien 

      11 months ago from Dominica

      Thank you :)

    • profile image

      Marcus Andy 

      11 months ago


    • Joyette  Fabien profile imageAUTHOR

      Joyette Helen Fabien 

      2 years ago from Dominica


    • Joyette  Fabien profile imageAUTHOR

      Joyette Helen Fabien 

      4 years ago from Dominica

      I agree, livetech!

    • livetech profile image

      Paul Levy 

      4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Every student needs the basic foundation that starts at home. With this basic needs catered for, every student has a chance to excel in school, of which I believe competition is essential

    • Joyette  Fabien profile imageAUTHOR

      Joyette Helen Fabien 

      4 years ago from Dominica

      Thank you for your support, aesta1

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Totally agree with you that competition is healthy.

    • Joyette  Fabien profile imageAUTHOR

      Joyette Helen Fabien 

      5 years ago from Dominica

      Thanks, Chriswillman90. We should certainly encourage them to do so!

    • Chriswillman90 profile image

      Krzysztof Willman 

      5 years ago from Parlin, New Jersey

      I agree with healthy competition and it is necessary. There's potential in all of us so students should feel the need to reach beyond their boundaries and become all they can be. Great read.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Thanks for a very good summary. There is so much cnooradicttry information out there, and people are inclined to think they have to focus on this year's one big thing' and forget the rest. It seems to me that if people simply take part in discussions and just be part of the web and participate in the places that suit their personalities they will not only build up links back to their sites but it will be more natural, less likely to crash and burn with the next algorithm change, and they will enjoy themselves, instead of trying to outsmart everyone else and second-guess the search engines.Tony recently posted..

    • Joyette  Fabien profile imageAUTHOR

      Joyette Helen Fabien 

      7 years ago from Dominica

      StegTo Differ, thanks for reading and for your comment.

    • StegToDiffer profile image

      Spunk Nellie 

      7 years ago from New York, NY

      Grades are overrated for most, but for the top 3-4 in a class they are far from trivial. Good Hub.

    • Joyette  Fabien profile imageAUTHOR

      Joyette Helen Fabien 

      8 years ago from Dominica

      Thanks for reading, Gloria.

    • profile image

      Gloria McLawrence 

      8 years ago from St. Maarten

      So true.

    • profile image

      Professor Jaisome 

      9 years ago

      Muy Excelente


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