Relationships between cooperative and competitive orientations and five self-reported competencies were explored. Empirical evidence from the present study suggests that providing more Cooperative Learning experiences to grades 3-5 than Competitive Learning experiences is associated with higher scores in Behavioral Conduct, Physical Appearance, Scholastic Competence, and Social Acceptance--all of which are associated with children's perceived personal competencies. The more competent children see themselves, the greater the likelihood that they will feel positive self-esteem and that they will behave in socially desirable ways. Females preferred non-competitive activities, while males preferred competitive activities.
4-H stakeholders have argued for years about the merits of individual competition versus team cooperation. Although a 1988 National 4-H Competition Task Force Report called for more research on competition and cooperation, our Journal of Extension search found only two articles with children's empirical data from 1975 to 2001. In this, the first apparent research-based comparison with a large sample of 4-H and non-4-H members in a mountain state, children preferred both cooperation and competition. Furthermore, cooperation rather than competition was the way to build self-worth. Eight practical recommendations are offered to 4-H/youth development program leaders, specialists, volunteers, and parents.
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A comparison of 4-H club participants and non-members found that both groups defined themselves as having Unconditional Parental Support, and both genders scored similarly. Both groups also scored similarly on Cooperative Learning Orientation. On average, 4-H members scored lower on Competitive Learning Orientation than non-4-H-members scored ( (1, 769) = 12.66,
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Parents, 4-H agents/club leaders, teachers, coaches, administrators, and youth educators have strong opinions about how competition affects children. Often, fiery debates occur over strongly held beliefs about peer competition, its place in 4-H, and its contributions to youth growth and development. Proponents of competition claim that it contributes to learning democratic values, combats juvenile delinquency, and promotes physical fitness and learning (Martens, 1978 [p. 65]). Opponents argue that competition decreases self-esteem and fosters individualism rather than cooperation--"the increasing complexity of social conditions in our local communities, states, nation, and world demand that we learn to live cooperatively" (Allen, et al., 1988a, p. 2).
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In the literature on competition and cooperation, two reports are outstanding. The first is a meta-analysis of 122 studies of the effects of cooperative, competitive, and individualistic goal structures on achievement (Johnson, Maruyama, Johnson, Nelson, & Skon, 1981). The researchers found that:
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Those with non-cooperative natures would have verylow survival rates, as would those who cooperated so much thatthey did not look out after their own self-interests in a competitiveworld.
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The national report (Allen et al., 1988b) recommended that 4-H'ers first be taught cooperative skills before they are involved in competitive and individualistic learning experiences. It also recommended that 4-H day-to-day competitive events be modified to conform to current research information with young people. Allen et al. (1988a) called for more research on all three components of 4-H competition--cooperative (competing against standards of excellence), competitive (competing against one's peers), and individualistic (competing against one's best effort)--to determine which learning experiences help 4-H'ers the most to achieve goals based on the 4-H mission.