The Role of Competition in Motivating Achievement


  The Role of Competition in Motivating Achievement

The Role of Competition in Motolving Achievement

In recent decades, researchers have found that achieving at the highest levels can be very rewarding for some students while creating an obstacle for others. It is likely human nature to find traveling a lonely road challenging and motivating; we often push ourselves harder to see how far we can go. When working towards our own personal best, competition becomes a powerful driver of achievement. What happens when the someone gains an advantage over their counterparts? The best way to keep up with the Joneses is to work harder and try even harder than they do.

A student's motivation to achieve in a certain area is influenced by the level of competition in that area, which can be another person or a self-imposed set of expectations. This level can be either high or low; both levels have shown to have benefits as well as negative effects on achievement.

High levels of competition lead to higher rates of motivation and achievement because the student is always looking over their shoulder for those who may eventually overtake them. A common example of this form of competition would be two students who are both great football players vying for the starting position at quarterback on their high school team. They work hard on a daily basis knowing the starting quarterback gets all the glory, but also a large amount of pressure and stress. There is a considerable amount of pressure on them from their peers and the school itself to perform.

Low levels of competition lead to lower rates of motivation and achievement because there is little or no one constantly pushing the student out of their comfort zone. An example of this would be two students in a chemistry class, neither of them striving for a higher grade because they are perfectly satisfied receiving an 80 on every test or quiz. They do not feel the need to put in any extra effort because they know that grades do not matter and they are "good enough" to get by in this class. They do not have to work as hard because they are not aware of the standard of performance that is required to perform well in this class.

Motivating factors play a role in the equation as well. It would be foolish for everyone in a math class to strive for an A on every test, as it will undoubtedly hurt the class's overall motivation level. On the other hand, if every student receives an A on every test, there is likely going to be a considerable amount of peer pressure to perform against and also pressure from educators and parents. This adds another source of motivation which could motivate higher achievement levels among students.

All these working pieces together create a recipe for motivation driving achievement between levels of competitive drive.

Although there may be a higher rate of achievement between high and low levels of competition, there are also disadvantages. The students who are motivated to achieve high levels are those who have the skills and talent that will enable them to get all the glory or recognition for themselves when they finally accomplish their goal. However, this same level of motivation could easily lead to burn out or failure if the student does not prepare properly for each year's lesson plan.

The students who have very low expectations for their achievement level are simply satisfied with an 80% on every test without any real push or stress from peers or schools. However, this is only going to last for a short period of time before another academic challenge is thrown at them. If they do not prepare properly they are likely to face failure when they have to work against the competition.

It is not all sunshine and roses even when both levels of competition and motivation exist together. It has been found that a moderate level of competition leads to higher rates of achievement because students are being challenged by peers as well as the academic material itself. This could be due to the fact that students who fall in this category tend to work harder than their counterparts on top or below them in order keep up with them and their study habits. This creates a situation where both groups are continuously competing which leads to improvement across the board.

The most recent research in achievement motivation is occurring in the field of education because educators are constantly trying to find ways to improve levels of learning and achievement. It is a common goal to motivate all students at all levels, but it is also a common dilemma because there can be negative consequences or unintended effects on motivation and achievement. This may be due to either level of competition leading to burn out in some students or simply a lack of effort and preparation for both the high and low competitive students.

It is most likely impossible or impractical for educators to make all their students equal. It is human nature to want to be the best or one of the best at something, and educators should embrace this and use it as a driving force for achievement and motivation. For those students who are not motivated to achieve at higher levels, educators need to focus on developing intrinsic motivation.


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The nature of competition is both beneficial and detrimental to motivation. Competition may act as an inhibitor or stimulant based on the individual's level of competitiveness and situation at the time.

It has been shown that competition can lead to a variety of emotions, but it is most likely successful when there is a balance between competition and motivation. It has also been shown that students who are motivated to achieve higher levels in academics are the ones who are less competitive than those who have higher achievement levels based on their test scores alone. It appears that it is more effective for teachers to help those students with lower rates of achievement by focusing on these students' intrinsic motivation because this will provide better learning results overall.

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