Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Competition, Education, and the Scientific Method

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Competition, Education, and the Scientific Method

Article excerpt

Many years ago, I was invited by Bob Ridkey to travel to Washington to sit on a National Science Foundation CCLI panel. The chance to meet such a well respected advocate of Geoscience Education was a great thrill, as was the chance to interact with other faculty from across the country. While many aspects of the discussions and decisions that occurred during that weekend are lost to my memory, there is one event that has continued to stand out for me throughout the ensuing years. One of the grant applications considered by the panel described an upper division environmental geology course that simulated the business world by pitting teams of students against each other in the development of proposals for remediation projects designed by the instructor. Team proposals were assessed based upon the quality of the science as well as the quality of the presentation with the best proposal ' winning' the contract.

During the panel discussion of the grant application I noted to the group that some of my best learning experiences as an undergraduate occurred when there was an element of competition to the exercise. I was immediately taken to task by another panel member concerning the value of competition in learning, especially as it relates to differences in the ways in which males and females learn. I have often reflected on that rather heated conversation as I have considered how to maximize student learning.

Without question competition is a major component of the academic world. Faculty positions are filled on a competitive basis, manuscripts compete for space in academic journals, and of course funding agencies run competitions for the distribution of support, such as the NSF panel I described above. …

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