Did you know school competitions are more than just a helpful vehicle for teachers to highlight the talent and potential of participating students? The students themselves feel the benefits of academic competitions every bit as much. They’re great motivators, spurring students to do and be more in their life journeys.
If you’re on the fence regarding the need for extra-curricular academic competitions, these five ways in which they boost students’ motivation might persuade you to see things differently.
1. School competitions challenge learners
Certain types of K-12 assessment, particularly extra-curricular examinations, encourage higher order thinking, which is often accompanied by a sense of personal accomplishment. Most students actually like feeling challenged positively, and school competitions craft experiences to stretch them beyond what they think they can do.
“The thing I love most… is getting to try challenging questions that I wouldn’t normally get to try in school,” says Sasha, from South Australia, who took part in Year 11 ICAS English.
Mary-Anne Houlden, former specialist primary science teacher and ICAS Assessments customer experience manager, says of her own achievements as a school student: “I keep my ICAS certificates because they remind me that I had a go at something challenging, which, inch by inch over my childhood years, stood me in good stead for accepting bigger challenges as an adult.”
2. School competitions stretch the imagination
There’s something incredibly satisfying about thinking outside the box or exploring possibilities that others may not have thought of. Our minds were designed to stretch to come up with new ideas and academic competitions provide students with opportunities to approach problems from different angles.
Reflecting on one of the most memorable writing papers she’d seen in decades of managing the ICAS Writing competition, Janelle Ho, literacy expert, says: “Out of all the medal-winning scripts I’ve read over the years the one that stood out most is where a test asked the students to write a book review, and a girl from Tasmania wrote a review of a dictionary. I mean – how do you review a dictionary? It was such an amazing text, we pinned it up in the marking centre… just the sheer imagination, it was amazing.”
3. Academic competitions can improve overall course performance
Students who are motivated by the head-to-head nature of academic competitions can often actually see their ordinary course marks rise as a result. That’s what typically happens within competitive environments, states this article in the National Library of Medicine Journal:
“Participants completed a physical effort task in which they were rewarded for winning an overall percentage, or for winning a competition they believed was against another player. We found that, in the physical effort task, participants demonstrated faster reaction times – a previous indicator of increased attention – in the competitive environment.”
It means that the sense of competition makes us dig a little deeper, stretch a little further. And even that’s rewarding in itself.
4. Academic competitions celebrate achievement
One of the greatest benefits of academic competitions is an overwhelming sense of pride. “I feel proud about winning the medal because it represents my love and capabilities of maths,” says Jungwoo, Year 4 ICAS Mathematics winner from New South Wales.
5. Your participation (or award!) in school competitions elevates your CV
Extra-curricular achievements show potential employers that you’re ambitious and committed to self-improvement. Participation in highly regarded competitions stands out on a student’s CV, especially if they don’t yet have formal work experience. Many employers of first-job candidates are looking for solid proof of strong work ethic and resilience.
One of the biggest benefits of academic competitions is that they can mean the difference between clinching a job or not by standing out among other candidates and can certainly put a fire under students’ efforts to be their best.
In their capacity to challenge and feed the imaginations of learners, elevate academic performance, reward achievements and improve students’ career outlooks, school competitions provide much more than a means for teachers to assess their students. And these are only five ways academic competitions boost student motivation. No doubt there are plenty more.
Learn more about ICAS school competitions here.