Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Counterexample to the N-effect

According to the reading about the N-effect, people actually feel less competitive when they are competing against more people. The reading quiz for this got me thinking when it asked how we could motivate students to be more competitive, which according to the reading, would be to reduce class sizes. After this reading, I started to reflect back on how competitive I felt in all of my classes, and  then compared the competitiveness and class sizes. I came to the realization that I, personally, actually experience the opposite of the N-effect. In my large lecture classes, I actually feel more competitive and am more motivated to study because I am competing and comparing myself against more people; I feel a stronger need to push myself to do well because there are more people that can outcompete me and I therefore need to get an even higher score on an exam or a paper in order to be closer to the top of the class. In my smaller seminar classes, I actually felt less competitive because the number of students that I am competing against to do well is smaller, so there is actually less motivation for me to compete because I need to do less work in order to stand out and do well; there are less people who can outcompete me. can, however, see how the N-effect can be prevalent in these classes. In large lectures students who are not incredibily smart may feel that they will just end up in the middle of the pack anyway. In smaller classes, competition can be increased because just as it is easier to stand out at the top in a smaller class, it is also easier to stand out at the bottom, and most people do not want to be seen as one of the worst students in his or her class. In my situation, however, I find that when comparing smaller and larger classes, I feel more competitive in the larger ones. I am not significantly less motivated to compete in smaller classes, but the difference is noticable.

1 comment:

  1. This is a really interesting idea that you brought up. I actually tend to feel the same way because in a smaller class, I can better gage my knowledge compared to the rest of the class. Like you, in a large lecture I feel like there are so many other people who could be smarter and I need to out-compete them. This post reminded me of a similar of a debate I had in one of my classes last semester about whether or not classes should be graded on a curve. I think that grading on a curve does increase competition which potentially could benefit the top 50% of class, but it discourages teamwork and collaboration among students. This could harm the students because they are trying to our compete each other and will not help each other, simply so everyone else does worse than them, and they can be at the top of the curve. Assigning a set summer of students to recieve A's, B's, C's, etc. could prevent someone from getting a grade they deserve. For example, even if a student gets a grade of 90/100 on a test, they may receive a letter grade of a B or lower because that many people got even more than 90 points. Relating this back to your post about class size, in a smaller class students can better judge if they will fall at the top, middle or bottom of the curve, whereas in a larger lecture, they may not. Therefore, they would feel that much more compelled to do better than everyone else in their class because their grade is not only dependent on their own knowledge. Their grade also depends on who their knowledge ranks compared to the numerous other students' knowledge.

    -Alexa Levitz