Can Collaboration and Competition Work Together? Part 1

collaboration (n.)

1. The action of working with someone to produce something
It’s not difficult to find the benefits of students working together. If nothing else, when students watch each other displaying grit in challenges and achieving goals [known as vicarious experience], it improves their ability to see themselves achieving their own goals (Bandura, 2004, cited in Usher & Pajares, 2008). As discussed in my previous blog, when students achieve well-set goals, their motivation improves.
In addition, for those students who have base knowledge of concepts, their understanding is strengthened by explaining concepts to their peers (Webb, Farivar, and Mastergeorge, 2002). Interestingly, Smith et al., (2009) discovered that when students are working in a collaborative group to solve a problem (even when no one is certain of a given concept), accuracy and learning are both increased. But what does this all have to do with motivation?
In more that 1200 studies (including those of Prince 2004 and Johnson & Johnson, 2009), collaborative learning, especially when it’s problem-based, not only improved student relations and confidence, but also showed increase in intrinsic motivation.
NB: According to the meta-analysis the most effective sized groups are 3-4 members with mixed gender and mixed ability.
Anyway, I’d like to write more but my 28 minutes is up… I’ll focus on the Competition-aspect tomorrow.

3 Ways To Relinquish Control

Students + Control = Motivation = Teacher – Control?

Here’s the thing about control… It’s difficult to share. I actually don’t know if it can be shared. It can definitely be distributed though.

When I learned to drive, my instructor had one of those cars that had a brake and a clutch on the passenger’s side as well as the driver’s side. If and when she felt I was not in control, she could take control of the situation by bringing the car to a stop. Either I was in control or she was.

Control is one of the 5 factors of student motivation according to Malone and Lepper (1987). Hattie (2009) has also acknowledged the link between  student control of the learning and high motivation. It makes sense, doesn’t it; no one likes being dictated to nor do we like having our skills/talents/dispositions ignored.

In order to give our students control, we’re going to have to give up some control. How do we do that without ending up with a Lord of the Flies scenario on our hands?

1. Be a ‘Yes’ person – This point acknowledges @Stephen_H and his “Yes, and…” quote. What if we applauded student innovation and initiative  when they choose to do something differently with “Yes, and…“? As I’m visualising doing this with my students, especially certain students, I can already see the engagement, the excitement and the enthusiasm. And, we all know that enthusiasm is contagious. Here’s a great article about the power of ‘yes’.

2. Ask Students Stuff – Don’t just quiz your students about content that you’ve taught; start by asking them what they’d like to learn about. Involve them in designing the inquiry and learning experiences. Ask them how they like to learn and how they learn best. Allow them to make decisions about their learning space and about the school.

I love that when NBCS began the new process of developing a positive learning framework, we began by discussing it with our students. When developing a new integrated inquiry unit last year, I gave some Year 3/4 students the outcomes, showed them some of the activities that the teachers had developed and then I pooled their lesson ideas… man, their ideas were GOLD! They suggested that a good assessment of whether they understood how different cultures celebrate the New Year would be to have a #MysterySkype session with a class in another country and ask them to describe their New Year celebrations – if the students guessed correctly, they’ve demonstrated the outcome… and without any marking or paper!

3. Just Start – What’s The Worst That Could Happen?- What if, tomorrow, when you get into the learning space, you let the students choose their best place to learn? What if you said to your students “I don’t mind how you demonstrate that you understand ____________”? What if you told your students that they can learn that outcome how ever they want? Sure, you might have to jump in… but, you might not. I predict that the worst that could happen is that 1 or 2 students may not demonstrate that outcome and who’s to say they would have demonstrated it anyway.

I’m handing the reins to you now… when will you hand them over to your students?

BTW – when searching for “control memes”, I saw some very interesting ideas….

Did Curiosity Kill The Cat?

Science is fun. Science is curiosity. We all have natural curiosity. Science is a process of investigating. It’s posing questions and coming up with a method. It’s delving in.

Sally Ride

If you’ve been following my #28daysofwriting, you’ll know that my theme for this week is Student Motivation. Last blog, I wrote about challenge. In this entry, I’ll focus on ‘curiosity’.

Any Aussies remember this classic 80’s show? I loved The Curiosity Show. I was a fiend for random facts. In fact (pun intended), I drove my parents mad for most of 1987 with a fact book I bought with my pocket money. I’m pretty sure that fact book “went missing” quite soon after a long family road trip in which I insisted on reading every fact aloud to the entire car.

This term, our Integrated Inquiry unit for Stage 3 is entitled the Ministry of Science. You can read about the ins and the outs of this inquiry here.

One aspect that I love about this inquiry is that we incorporate Christian Studies into our chats about science. Often, these two learning areas are in conflict but our team welcomed the challenge of finding some sort of harmony between the two. I’ve found that when students are encouraged to question the universe’s beginning and size, it fuels a deep curiosity.

One way we’ve been doing this is through the work of Louie Giglio and his Indescribable series. I played a 7-minute clip from this in class yesterday and the curious response was… well… indescribable. Students couldn’t wait to ask about how big the universe is and whether there’s life on other planets and the speed of light, etc.

Then, this is my favourite part, my students then continued this discussion on Edmodo.

How do you know that you’ve developed curiosity in your students?

They can’t stop talking/researching/writing about that “thing”.

BTW If you want to read a rad post about researching, here’s a helpful link.

How Much Challenge is Enough?

Yesterday, I blogged about student motivation. I listed 5 factors that Malone and Lepper (1987) suggest to increase intrinsic motivation in students; challenge, curiosity, control, cooperation vs competition and recognition. Today’s blog will centre on CHALLENGE.

“If we are not allowed to deal with small problems, we will be destroyed by slightly larger ones. When we come to understand this, we live our lives not avoiding problems, but welcoming them them as challenges that will strengthen us so that we can be victorious in the future.”
Jim Stovall, The Ultimate Gift

So, how much challenge is the right amount for our students? How can we design challenges so that students don’t become dis-empowered? How can we design challenges so that students feed off these challenges and are excited to achieve more?

Here are a few tips I pilfered from and trialed in my own context…

Focus on goals

At the beginning of each term, I ask students the following question “If you could improve on any aspect of (insert subject area here) that would make the biggest difference for your learning, what would it be?”

Once we’ve established this, I guide students through the SMART goals process which helps them to drill down into the steps required to achieve each goal. If you haven’t used SMART, click on the link here.

Level of Certainty

I ensure that students choose goals that they actually have control over. A goal such as, “I’d like to make it into the school representative team for swimming,” is unhelpful as the decision for team members lays in the hands of someone else. Whereas, a goal such as, “I will learn my 6, 7 and 8 times tables in 3 weeks,” allows the locus of control to be in the hands of the student.

Goals also need to be achievable. If there is not a degree of certainty about achieving the goal, students will feel overwhelmed and disengage with the goal. I encourage students to begin with easier goals and build up to more difficult goals.

Effective Feedback

Students are motivated by feedback when it occurs frequently and is clear, constructive and encouraging. Comments such as, “Good work!” are encouraging but vague.  Additionally, “Try harder!” is clear but lacks encouragement. Whereas, comments such as, “You really seem to understand Place Value to the Ten Thousands. Your examples are all accurate- well done. Are you able to explain how to round to Ten Thousands?”


It’s helpful to encourage students to complete their goals but explaining the effect on their self-esteem. Comments such as, “Imagine how good you’ll feel when you…” are helpful for students to understand what intrinsic motivation is and how it feels.

Which of these challenge tips will you implement tomorrow?

Meanwhile, if you read my PBL blog the other day, here’s a link to designing right-sized PBL challenges.

Student Motivation 101

“He who does not move, does not notice his chains.” Rosa Luxemburg

This morning, I was listening to a TED podcast on the Seven Deadly Sins. When I was recalling this podcast, I found it difficult to recall what the 7 deadly sins actually are – wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. One segment of this podcast suggested that, interestingly, other than sloth (obviously), each of these “sins” are actually high motivators for humans. I consider that theory to have some, albeit sad, truth to it. However, I don’t believe those are the only things that motivate people.

You’ve probably come across the terms ‘intrinsic’ and ‘extrinsic’ motivation before. Intrinsic motivation arises by an individual’s desire to be gratified from simply completing the task (ie. feeling a sense of achievement through increasing the distance of your run each week) and is more effective and long-lasting. Whereas, Extrinsic motivation is based on external rewards, such as, trophies and badges (ie. being motivated to run further in order to lose weight).

My question at this point is obvious – how do I increase the intrinsic motivation for my students?

With the current focus on “leveling up” and badges in education, I find it interesting to note that when external rewards are offered for an activity that one already finds intrinsically motivating, motivation is actually reduced (see overjustification effect).

According to Malone and Lepper (1987), there are five factors that increase intrinsic motivation:

1. Challenge – students need to pursue goals that have meaning to them and in which they can receive feedback on their performance.

2. Curiosity – this is two-fold: sensory and cognitive curiosity.

3. Control – students want some control over their environment and their learning.

4. Cooperation vs Competition – there needs to be opportunities for both of these factors in learning.

5. Recognition – when we can recognise people’s efforts, they are more likely to increase their internal motivation (which could be construed as Extrinsic motivation).

I intend to spend my next 5 blog entries drilling down further into how these factors apply in modern learning environments.

But in the meantime, how do you use these factors in the learning situations that you create?

Radical Relationship

[rad-i-kuh l]
1. of or going to the root or origin; fundamental
2. thoroughgoing or extreme, especially as regards change from accepted or traditional forms
3. favouring drastic political, economic, or social reforms
4. forming a basis or foundation.
5. existing inherently in a thing or person

Radical Relationship is a huge focus for Northern Beaches Christian School in 2015. As a Christian community, relationship is integral not only to what we do, but who we are (not that we’re better at it than anyone else). What I love about the word ‘radical’ preceding the word ‘relationship’ is that it makes relationship core and organic to the person AND it also assumes that the reformation of relationships is a conscious choice.

I’ve made several goals around developing the Radical Relationships in my sphere of influence. Each day, I ask myself a question –

“What would make the biggest positive difference for __________ in this moment?”

I’ve been finding that, for the most part, people want to be a) heard and b) understood. When I’ve facilitated opportunities for that to happen, I notice a sense of peace come upon people.

My immediate boss is a master of relationships. His heart for others challenges me every day and he constantly talks about (and demonstrates) loving others. This week, he has encouraged us to phone the parents of any new students in our classes.

Today, I took an hour out of my day to call a few wonderful women whose beloved children are in my class. I stood on the end of the phone and asked them recall their child’s responses to starting school in a new place. I didn’t rush. Rather, I paused and listened and asked “Would you please tell me more about that?” At the end of each call, every person was unbelievably grateful.

I’d like to think that, today, I was a little closer to being a relationship radical. Having said that, there’s still a long way to go.

How do you do radical relationship?

Which Personalities Are More Open To Change?

Working in an organisation that embraces innovation and change, I have begun to notice those people who thrive on change and those who panic with change.

I believe that there are a plethora of reasons behind these responses, but I have been wondering what part one’s personality plays in an individual’s response to change, if any.

There are a range of personality theories and types. In today’s blog, I’m going to be focusing on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personalities. If you aren’t sure what your MBTI is, you can do an online test here. Having already completed this test, I’ve discovered that I’m an ENTJ type. In short, I’m extroverted (over introverted), I’m intuitive (over sensing), I’m a thinker (rather than a feeler) and I make judgments (before perceiving). I’m known as ‘The Executive’. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but, anyway.

I think that I deal with change well… I actually enjoy change. Let’s see what the experts think…

According to the “[ENTJs] are assertive, innovative, long-range thinkers with an excellent ability to translate theories and possibilities into solid plans of action.” Does that mean I deal with change well? According to, I thrive on challenges, too.

Interestingly, says that the INTJ personality is the most open to change and “Because of their frustration with inefficiency, and their ability to clearly visualize a more optimal state and the strategic steps necessary to achieve it, the INTJ may, when functioning within an ineffective system, be extremely eager for change. This eagerness may lead them to expect or demand immediate change. When others around them are open to that change, this attitude can expedite improvements. However, the INTJ often fails to recognize when circumstances call for a more incremental approach to change.”

Interesting… What about you? How do you deal with change?