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Education

The power of competition: the impact of social motivation on learning

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Introduction

WE know that competition is a powerful driving force in physical activities. Competition is what motivates athletes to do better and achieve higher results. Thanks to scientific research, we know that kids aim to do a better job at tests and quizzes when they know there’s a prize waiting for impressive results. However, how does competition influence students’ ability to learn? Is there a correlation between competition and the human learning process?

We did some research and came up with some intriguing findings. In this article, we are going to discuss the influence of social motivation on students’ ability to learn.

Competition drives effort

In recent scientific research, a group of undergraduate students took part in a series of tests to show the impact of competition on long-term memory. The participants went through the testing process in different conditions. This was necessary to assure the validity of the results. The final results showed that there was no significant direct influence of competition on long-term memory. Yet, competitive conditions had a significant influence on students’ efforts to complete tasks.

This means that students placed more effort to achieve higher academic performance. Furthermore, the research results showed no significant difference between male and female students. This means that the influence of competition on our desire to learn more and achieve a higher academic result is not related to gender.

Coping with competition in college

While competition has a positive effect on our desire to win, a series of poor results could lead to a loss of self-confidence. Some students react poorly when their results can’t match those of other students, which can lead to a drop in academic performance. To avoid reduced scores or even failing a class, students often seek help with essay writing tasks online. This helps them focus on more pressing tasks and the high-quality essays they receive, increase their level of confidence.

It’s important to consider competition as a driving force instead of a measure of your worth. If someone scores higher than us at a certain point, that doesn’t mean our effort was worthless.

Some students experience anxiety issues when faced with competition. This can lead to poor results in a competitive environment. It’s known that anxiety harms working memory and recall. If students see their competitors as a threat, they would most probably experience anxiety which would hinder memory.

Is there a cultural influence of a competitive environment?

In many countries, there is a long tradition of keeping a competitive atmosphere in classrooms. In countries like Japan, a competitive learning environment is customary. Students experience a competitive classroom atmosphere from an early age. In the USA, students are not used to competing with others in the classroom, so it’s reasonable to expect a negative reaction from some students.

Therefore, it’s safe to assume that the impact of competition on education also depends on the cultural background. Students used to a competitive learning environment will use competition as a driving force. On the other side, in countries where competition in the classroom is not cultivated from the start, students could experience anxiety. Also, they could show low performance when placed under the pressure of competition.

While quizzes and tests are part of every educational system in the world, these academic activities are not a social motivator to their full extent. Test and quiz results show how we stand against ourselves, it’s up to students individually to choose whether they will compare their scores with how other students in the class performed.

Moreover, in most countries nowadays, tests are often individualised, so students don’t even get the same tests. Therefore, students can’t even compare their test results with the scores of their peers since they answer different questions.

Conclusion

While athletes consider the competitive environment as their natural habitat and the driving force behind their activities, with learning things are not that uniform. There are many ways in which students’ view of the competitive environment differs. Some people thrive in harsh competition, while others block. We saw that there is also a cultural influence, or better said the difference in educative systems that plays a role.

It’s up to teachers to create a competitive classroom environment that would help students feel good and achieve higher results. Still, humans are different and there will always be among us those that react well when faced against a competitor and those that freeze when they are being compared with their peers.

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Education

Wales’s education performance falls to lowest-ever level

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THE ORGANISATION of Economically Developed Countries (OECD) published its latest report on educational attainment (PISA) on Tuesday, December 5.

It shows students in Wales have slipped even further behind the other UK nations in a worst-ever set of results.

In Mathematics, the fall in attainment is the equivalent of a whole year’s education in the subject. Test marks also fell sharply in science and English.

Jeremy Miles, Wales’s Education Minister, said the results showed how the hangover from the pandemic affected students’ education.

His observation had clear merit, as PISA results fell worldwide, with attainment falling in all but ten of eighty-one OECD members.

Wales’s results put its education at the same level as Norway and the USA, and the nation’s results fell the same number of points in England and Scotland.

WHAT IS PISA?

PISA is a worldwide study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in member and non-member nations intended to evaluate educational systems by measuring 15-year-old school pupils’ academic performance in mathematics, science, and reading in PISA.

The PISA assessment is regarded, with some misgivings among educational experts, as a guide to the performance of education policies across 79 participating countries.

When the OECD last published the PISA report in 2020, Wales had caught up with the international average in all subjects.

In the new report, all home nations’ attainment fell, but Wales’s fell further than others.

MINISTER BLAMES PANDEMIC

Education Minister Jeremy Miles said: “Before the pandemic, we saw a strong improvement in literacy and numeracy standards in Wales. Sadly, it is clear that the pandemic has derailed some of this improvement.

“We have already started on a path of driving up standards in reading and maths, and we won’t let these results knock us off track.

“At the end of November (see this week’s Education section), we launched literacy and numeracy plans to help support learning and raise standards in these key areas. 

“I have also published the first national report on our children’s reading and numeracy performance. I will do this annually to track recovery. 

“We supported our schools and learners through the pandemic. We will stand together and support them now.” 

Since 2022, schools in Wales have started implementing major long-term reforms, with the new Curriculum for Wales being taught and rolled out sequentially to reach all learners in all schools from 2026/27.

Jeremy Miles continued: “Our long-term education reforms have started after years of planning and, as the OECD says, improvement to education takes time.

“We have taken a once-in-a-generation opportunity to revolutionise the quality of education in Wales and I’m confident we will deliver huge benefits for our young people.”

CONSERVATIVES CRITICISE “WIDENING GAP”

Following the usual hackneyed jibe at the Welsh Government’s plans to increase the number of Senedd members, the Welsh Conservative Shadow Education Minister Laura Anne Jones MS said: “The results are not a shock when we have a Labour Government which has so little regard for our children’s future that they cut the education budget this year. All governments should give pupils and teachers the tools to do their best and thrive.

“After 25 years of Labour running Welsh schools, we have a widening attainment gap. Sadly, again, Wales languishes at the bottom of international league tables.

“The Labour Education Minister needs to get a grip of his department and give our young people the start in life they deserve. He can start by getting 5,000 more teachers back into our classrooms after years of declining numbers and the desperately needed money to support growing ALN numbers in mainstream education.”

PLAID HIGHLIGHTS CHILD POVERTY

Plaid Cymru has criticised the handling of child poverty rates in Wales, which it says has contributed to the results, leading to high absenteeism in Welsh schools.

Plaid Cymru’s education spokesperson, Heledd Fychan MS, said: “The PISA results published should be a wakeup call for the Welsh Government.

“Too many young people in Wales are living in poverty, pupil absences are unacceptably high, and many schools are facing a significant deficit in their budgets. Despite the hard work and dedication of an overstretched workforce, the pupil attainment gap is widening, and we cannot ignore the link between poverty and today’s disappointing results.

“Every child, no matter their background, should have an equal chance of success.

“We need more than platitudes and excuses from the Minister for Education in response to these results. 

“Wales had a pre-Covid recruitment crisis in the education sector, the magnitude of which Ministers failed to grasp. 

“Continuing and entrenching cuts to education will do nothing to put Wales on a path towards a turnaround in our PISA results.”

EDUCATION UNION UNSURPRISED

Emma Forrest, NEU’s Assistant General Secretary Regions, Wales, and Legal Strategy, said: “NEU Cymru members won’t be shocked by the OECD’s PISA results. They don’t tell us anything the education workforce doesn’t know – that across most OECD countries, schools need support in a post-pandemic situation.

“Comparison is difficult. We are particularly concerned that these results do not represent many countries’ full cohort of learners. Whilst this is understandable, it makes comparisons less meaningful in the context of the pandemic.

“Here in Wales, we have the new Curriculum for Wales, which none of the cohort tested in PISA have been taking. 

“Suppose the Welsh Government wants to take anything from these results. In that case, it is an opportunity to ensure that they have a qualifications system which does not focus on tests and time-limited exams but gives young people a real chance to show what they can do.

“We will continue to work with the Welsh Government on the critical aspects of workload and professional development for the workforce, and how we can best support the wellbeing and expertise of staff, to ensure they are able to focus on children and their learning.”

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Education

New Director joins the Open University in Wales

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ON NOVEMBER 27, The Open University in Wales welcomed Ben Lewis as its new Director.

Ben joins the OU in Wales from Cardiff University where he was Director of Student Life. He succeeds Louise Casella who retired in June.

David Price had been the OU in Wales’ Interim Director until Ben’s arrival.

Ben Lewis said: “The Open University is synonymous with the idea of lifelong learning. At its heart is the belief that education should be available to people wherever they are, and whatever their circumstances. It’s an exciting time to be joining the OU in Wales – our student numbers have never been higher, with government and decision makers recognising the value of part-time flexible higher education.

“I thank David Price for his stewardship during the interim period, and for the welcome I’ve received from colleagues, students and stakeholders. It’s a privilege to be joining this team, and I look forward to playing my part in the next steps of the university’s future.”

President of The Open University Student’s Association (OUSA), Swansea-based Margaret Greenaway added:

“We want students to have a say in how their university is run, regardless of their background or where they live. We’re proud of the positive relationship OUSA has with the OU in Wales, and we’re sure this will continue during Ben’s time as Director. A big welcome to him to the OU family!”

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Education

Pembrokeshire school devastated by fire unlikely to reopen before September 2025

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A PEMBROKESHIRE school, devastated by fire just over a year ago, is unlikely to see pupils back at their desks before September 2025, councillors heard.

Manorbier Church in Wales VC School and its adjoining schoolhouse was severely damaged by a fire on October 11 of last year, which broke out in the school roof space.

Pupils and staff were successfully evacuated with no injuries, and a ‘school from school’ was set up in Jameston Village Hall, after a brief period of sanctuary at the nearby Buttyland caravan site.

Members of the council’s schools and learning overview and scrutiny committee, meeting on November 23, heard an update on works to rebuild the school and adjoining schoolhouse.

Director of Education Steven Richards-Downes said works to reinstate the building had commenced after ‘in principle’ decisions by the council’s Cabinet, hampered by “the complexities of ownership around the building and adjoining school house,” both owned by the Diocese of St Davids.

He said a phased approach to reinstate the buildings started with preliminary works – now completed – starting in early October, with second phase works, through the diocese and its insurers, expected to be finished by the end of the year, before being handed back to the council for the third phase.

Councillor Alistair Cameron asked when the pupils could return to the rebuilt school, a September 2024 date having previously been mooted, Mr Richard-Downes saying it was “unlikely to be September 2024”.

Councillor David Howlett said an item from an earlier committee report, which stated surplus spaces at the school had risen from just under 55 per cent to 72 per cent from 2022-’23, describing the figures as “stark,” adding: “If that continues it paints a very worrying picture”.

He was told there was no evidence of any significant change as a result of the fire; with families moving in as a result of a nearby housing development expected to increase numbers.

Local member, Cllr Phil Kidney thanked officers for their work, adding he hoped two new housing developments in the area would bolster school numbers.

On the subject of the school reopening, he said: “It’s not going to be 2024 to be honest, we’re looking more like September 2025; I cannot impress enough the importance that the school has in the community, we’ve lost a shop and one of the pubs is closed in the winter.

“The staff there are so devoted, there’s no question about the level of teaching the children are receiving, they go to Greenhill [comprehensive] they flourish.”

He said it was important the school was kept to the fore: “If we can just ask you to keep this on the agenda and keep it in the headlines so Manorbier is not forgotten.”

Manorbier and Penally county councillor Cllr Phil Kidney

Rev John Cecil of the diocese said the school, due to be inspected next week, was “exceptionally well run under very difficult circumstances,” adding there was “certainly a desire to work with [the council] and see that school reopened”.

Cllr Kidney was the last to speak on the update, saying parents were “obviously anxious” about the timescale for works, adding: “But now there is some scaffolding coming out of the ground they’re confident something is going to happen, it all seems to be going the right way.”

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