Competition and Collaboration in Translation Education: The Motivational Impact of Translation Contests

Competition and Collaboration in Translation Education: The Motivational Impact of Translation Contests

Tarek Shamma (Hamad Bin Khalifa University, Qatar)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6615-3.ch001


This chapter discusses the results of a pilot study that explored the use of contests in translation pedagogy, proposing methods for designing classroom and extracurricular contests. Three translation contests (two in-class and one extracurricular) were conducted for undergraduate students at United Arab Emirates University. Student questionnaires were used to examine the potential role of contests in translator education and, in particular, the positive and negative effects of competition on students' motivation. The use of group work was also examined as a method of minimizing the potential negative effects of competition, as described in the literature. The study indicates that contests can be useful in stimulating student motivation, especially on the basic levels of education. On the other hand, it is suggested that, while group work is seen as effective and desirable by most students, there are caveats to be considered when planning and implementing this type of activity.
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Competition In Education: An Ongoing Debate

The value of competition in the classroom has been the subject of heated debate in research on education over the last three decades. Proponents of “cooperative learning,” an approach that has become a major force in pedagogical research since the 1980s, condemn competition as undermining self-esteem, marginalizing social skills, creating negative feelings among students, and shifting the focus of the educational process from personal development to a struggle for grades and the teacher’s approval (Deci & Ryan, 1985; Johnson & Johnson, 1974, 1989, 1999; Kohn, 1986/1992). Cooperation, on the other hand, is argued to enhance students’ interpersonal skills and self-esteem, and to promote a positive attitude about the topic of study, as well as the instructor. In contrast with “individualistic” and “competitive” learning (Johnson & Johnson, 1974, 1999), collaborative learning is argued to be more productive, not only in the affective, but also in the cognitive domain.2 For example, Wentzel argues that cooperation is “instrumental in the acquisition of knowledge and the development of cognitive abilities” (1991, p. 1). According to Kohn (1986/1992), 65 studies he examined demonstrated that cooperation leads to higher levels of achievement than competition, while 36 studies did not indicate any statistical difference. A study conducted by Johnson and Johnson (1982) also shows that collaboration is more effective in promoting achievement than other interaction patterns in the classroom.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Bloom’s Taxonomy: A method of classifying educational objectives. It identifies three “domains” of learning: cognitive, affective, and psycho-motor. Each domain is divided into further sub-categories.

Competitive Learning: A method of education that relies on competition among students (for grades or other rewards) as a way of enhancing motivation.

Collaborative Learning: A method of education that relies on students’ collaboration in joint activities toward achieving common educational goals.

Group Work: A form of collaborative learning where students work in groups to achieve common goals.

Formative Assessment: A form of assessment intended to help the students improve their learning by identifying and overcoming their weaknesses, rather than to evaluate their achievement. It may be graded or not.

Summative Assessment: A form of assessment whose purpose is to measure the student’s attainment against a standard scale. It is usually graded.

Individualistic Learning: A form of education where each student works on their own, separately from the rest of the class.

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