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PISA in Focus

PISA in Focus is a series of monthly education policy-oriented notes designed to describe a PISA topic in a concise, user-friendly way.

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Do students learn in co-operative or competitive environments

The benefits of co-operative behaviours have been broadly documented in various social contexts, including neighbourhoods, hospitals, companies and in education. In education, when students, teachers, parents and the school principal know and trust each other, work together, and share information, ideas and goals, students – particularly disadvantaged students – can benefit. However, co-operation and teamwork come with potential drawbacks too. Tasks might not be divided fairly and efficiently; team members sometimes work on tasks for which they are unsuited or that they dislike; some group members may freeride on their teammates’ efforts; and co-ordinating tasks may be too complex and time-consuming. Evidence also suggests that competition can improve academic performance and speed in learning, if only because competition can be thrilling and enjoyable.

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