Does the Use of Inter-Group Competition Enhance Performance in Short-Term Summative Testing?

Article excerpt

Research has been undertaken in business studies and economics departments of schools in North London to investigate whether inter-group competition, as opposed to collaboration, enhances or detracts from assessment performance. The tentative conclusion reached is that inter-group competition, relative to collaboration, improves assessment performance and related learning. This paper represents our collective findings and conclusions.

Our intention was to investigate whether inter-group competition, compared to collaborative or co-operative inter-group work, enhances or detracts from written assessment performance in business and economics education (BEE). We focused on the objective output, namely actual test results on AVCE/Applied, GCSE and A level courses. Our hypothesis was that using inter-group competition enhances performance in short-term summative testing.

The research was undertaken within business studies and economics departments of various mixed, girls-only and boys-only schools, including comprehensives, sixth form colleges and independent schools. We met regularly to discuss research strategy and implementation, and contributed to each other's work. We all undertook primary research in two schools, staying three months in each school.

PREVIOUS RESEARCH

There is little in the educational research literature on the effects of inter-group competition in this subject area. However, there is an abundance of literature, supported by psychological, educational and motivational research, addressing the value of collaborative group work compared to individually competitive work, which, though fun, purportedly diminishes performance.

We argue that results from collaborative learning may be impressive in their own right, and compared to individual learning, but are not necessarily more impressive than the product of inter-group competition. Our investigation compares the products of intragroup and inter-group collaboration (group members and groups completing tasks together) with intra-group collaboration and intergroup competition (group members working together but competing against other groups).

METHODOLOGY

In each school, we ran at least one experimental pair of lessons (involving competitive and collaborative techniques) with a class of students. The students took a written test - designed for the last 10 minutes of each lesson - with five multiple-choice questions and five corresponding one or two sentence answer questions. The tests from each pair of lessons form the basis of comparison in our analysis, with 17 sets of data involving 224 students from nine different schools. Altogether 96 females and 128 males were involved. There were 133 A level students, 9 AVCE students and 82 GCSE students.

Numerous variables impinge on the success of group work. We attempted to hold these variables constant as far as possible by using the pair of lessons with the same classes.

We ensured that competition was as explicit as possible. The goal of winning in inter-group competition is less hostile than in individually competitive scenarios. However, students understood that they were competing as a group, their relative success was shown to them, and the winning group got a prize. All competitive lessons were established with this dynamic and run on similar lines.

Competitive activities involved quizzes and competitive presentations, where groups were judged and winners given prizes. Examples of collaborative activities included groups working toward and delivering a presentation to peers and role plays to demonstrate a particular scenario. The research group made use of Paul Ginnis' book The Teachers Toolkit (Crown House Publishing), as it is a useful source of ideas, especially for group work.

Our lack of exact replication in classroom activities could be considered a design weakness. Practical considerations aside, we believe that a "one size fits all approach" to the lessons would have been restrictive and possibly counter-productive. …