I have been thinking about trying to shift the focus of my classes a bit recently.  Reflecting, in part on the last year and on one of my groups in particular, I feel as though I would prefer my lessons to be more focused on collaboration going forwards.  Not perhaps to remove competitive activities entirely, but just to shift the focus.

Last week, a piece I wrote for the British Council Voices magazine was published, called “Six collaborative games for competitive English language classrooms.”  It does pretty much what it says on the tin….   🙂

In the Voices article, I talk about putting points in a common pot, using common goals, info-gap activities, “building” tasks, and problem-solving tasks; and I give an example activity for each (though not necessarily in that order).

While doing some background reading for the piece, I looked at John Shindler’s “Transformational Classroom Management” and his chapter on using competition.  The chapter doesn’t specifically look at collaboration, just on how to maximise the effectiveness of competition and on how to prevent the competition from becoming unhealthy.

Having looked at that, and looked around a bit at why we should be moving towards more collaborative classes (nicely described in Laal & Ghodsi’s 2011 paper “Benefits of collaborative learning”), and based on my own observations of my classes, I have summarised the differences in this table:

Competitive Activities & Games Collaborative Activities & Games
There is one winner and many losers


There are many winners
Individual achievement is prized Group achievement is prized
Students tend to work more alone There is more peer teaching
Stronger students tend to dominate and weaker students tend to yield Stronger students tend to support weaker students
There is more frustration at getting it wrong, and fear of failure Getting it wrong is seen as part of the learning process and viewed more positively
There is a “product” focus – the result is most important There is a “process” focus, how you get the result matters more.
The game becomes more important than the learning The learning is more important than the game (or at least, as important)
Students are more extrinsically motivated Students are more intrinsically motivated
There is more of an emotional rollercoaster with successes and failures There is more of a steadily built satisfaction


Now I fully appreciate that there are a number of assertions there that are (a) untested and (b) disputable.  I would be interested in readers sharing their own experiences, perhaps to build some anecdotal evidence either way.

So as part of moving my thinking towards a more collaborative classroom, I have outlined activities to try and move that way in the British Council Voices piece.  Take a look and let me know what you think!  (Also if you have any additional collaborative activities to share, please do so!)