C is for Collaboration

Ken BeattyDr. Ken Beatty

It’s your first day of work at a new office and, because you’re eager, you arrive early and locate your cubicle. Looking around to make sure you’re alone, you race around madly to each desk, snatching up everyone’s stapler so you can hide them all in your filing cabinet. As other workers trickle in, mystified conversations erupt about the missing staplers only to be silenced by your ominously evil “Bwahahahaha!” cry of triumph.

Seriously? No. In office environments and most other work environments, we mostly stress cooperation and collaboration, which make it all the more mystifying why our classrooms so often stress competition.

Competition is normal and healthy but it is not the only way to meet objectives or to educate students. Imagine suddenly informing your language class students that they have one minute to prepare for a long-distance foot race. What would be their reactions? Most would claim that they were not properly prepared, having worn the wrong clothes and shoes. Some would immediately eye the other students and size up the chances of success. Those who were most able might welcome the challenge, thinking their chances of winning were good; competition tends to reaffirm current abilities. Those who were least able would rebel at the task, refusing to participate, not bothering to make an effort, or adopting a tactical approach, such as by finishing the race but only just—perhaps walking instead of running. Continue reading