The Science of Academic Competitions – what we learned in 2017
Posted December 26, 2017 by Joshua neubert
2017 has been a wild roller-coaster of a year on so many front's it's almost hard to imagine that it's about to come to an end. As we think back on the past 12 months, we realized something great. We've learned a whole lot about the science of competitions. Of course there is much more to learn and many unanswered questions, but for this year end post, we thought it could be beneficial to examine some of the over-arching results of our literature reviews and analysis of academic competitions from the past year.
For anyone thinking about getting into student competitions, or just curious about how competitions benefit students, schools, or our communities, here are some key findings from our research over the past 12 months:
The Science of Competitions:
- Let them celebrate! We found some interesting research about celebrations after a victory in a competitive situation. In short the research says, celebrating is natural, and good, but we should focus our celebrations on being a recognition of excellence, rather than a demonstration of dominance over other participants. Read more in this article about the details and differences in good versus bad celebrations.
- Positive Thinking can be good and bad! There are generally two ways to do positive thinking. One of this is good for us and leads to increased performance, while the other can actually be detrimental to performance. Make sure you understand the difference before you get to your next competition!
- Maintaining a Challenge Mindset can be the difference between winning and losing. When we look at a competition as a challenge it helps us make the calculated risks we need to win. On the other hand, when we look at the competition as a threat, we step back, become unsure of ourselves, and often make more mistakes causing us to lose what should have been a sure win. The good thing is there are ways to help enter and maintain a challenge mindset. Learn more about this in this article.
- Performance anxiety can be good or bad and there are ways we can harness good performance anxiety. Ways we can turn it into a performance booster. We explored the science of how to make sure to benefit from your performance anxiety instead of freezing up.
- Choking in high stress situations can be avoided (to an extent). We learned from other research that there are training exercises that coaches and competition participants can use to minimize the chances of choking when we get into high stress situations in our competitions. Learn more about these here.
- The benefits of competitions extend to communities as well as their student participants. We explored some of the community related benefits from academic competitions in this article. It's not just about the participants, competitions can bring great benefits to community cohesiveness and much more.
- The way we practice can have a big impact on how well we do in a competition. Not all practice is the same. Modified Practice has become the term du jour for how to change your practice routines in ways that maximize their benefits.
- Multitasking does not exist, and we shouldn't try to force it. In any competition, we may be tempted to encourage students to multitask. Our brains actually cannot do this, and trying hurts performance. Learn more about this affect in this article.
- Collaborating in Competitions is actually the best for performance and motivational boosts. Research found that it's not really about collaboration versus competition. The best way to encourage better performance and boost student motivation is to have the collaborate on teams inside of a competition against others. Learn more about the research on this topic here.
All in all, 2017 has been an amazing year of research, studies, and experiments at the Institute of Competition Sciences. In addition to the literature reviews and research topics on the impacts of academic competitions mentioned above, we also explored a number of areas about the competitions themselves. We looked at data from some of our competition partners to see how we can pull out some exciting statistics, trends, and other analysis to help see where academic competitions could be going in the future, and who is standing out in each program. Here are a few of the key articles we put together from some of the big academic competitions in 2017.
Analysis from Academic Competitions:
- One state is dominating Future Problem Solving! It's always exciting to see when a dominant player comes out in a competition. Maybe next year will be the underdog's year!
- Global Change-making interest is on the rise in unexpected areas. We analyzed data from the World of 7 Billion environmental video competition to explore if we could learn a little bit about where in the US students are standing out in creating new sustainability ideas.
- The US has some catching up to do in Youth Entrepreneurship. We explored global entrepreneurship competitions and looked at one amazing new program backed by one of the biggest governments in the world. The numbers are staggering!
- Some states shine in the big robotics competitions. There are trends across the main high school robotics competitions. We analyzed data from several of the main competitions to see who is standing out over the last few years.
- Solar Car engineering has been dominated by one college. It's not something every student takes on when they get to college, but over the last decade, one school has dominated solar car racing. Maybe 2018 will be the year a new upstart takes the stage!
- A few mathematics competitions stand out from a pack of "exam-based" challenges. We asked ourselves why? And explored a few shining star alternatives to these exams for students to really connect math with real-world scenarios.
We explored many more topics over the course of the last 12 months, and have a huge list of new areas we want to dive even deeper into for 2018. The research on academic competitions is very slim, but after a little digging, we can start to see some really interesting information in the literature. We're all excited to see what 2018 will bring. We're going to be taking on many more research projects of our own, working with our partners to analyze even more data from academic competitions, and explore new ways to improve the system of academic competitions for everyone involved. We couldn't have done what we did in 2017 without some amazing partners, colleagues, and a slew of great researchers who aren't directly affiliated with ICS actually doing the research studies. We hope everyone has had a wonderful year, and wish the best of 2018 to all who have been and will be in our world this coming year!
If you want to help out in any of our research efforts, or have other ideas or questions in the field of academic competitions, please send us a note! We'd love to hear from you.