How far is competition necessary in regards to the learning process?
In a creative discipline such as Graphic Design, the subject-related learning process is usually somewhat of a surprise to the new learner. Most of our intake have not had the opportunity to study art and design related subjects at high school, therefore to discover that there’s a very different learning process to what they’ve previously encountered comes as a welcome surprise. It takes time to adjust to it - to learn its language and grammar so to speak - and to learn to walk with it before they can run.
In a creative environment such as graphic design, we find that competitiveness varies in prevalence depending on the cohort. Some groups passively support each other in terms of peer review and critical feedback on the work being produced, other groups work better when individuals are given space and time to produce what’s required. It’s that mix of ability, talent, personality and ambition in a group that determines how competitive they will be amongst each other.
Our current cohort of first year design students - one semester into the programme - are at the stage where they’re recognising when a fellow learner’s work is more appropriate or visually appealing or visually communicative than their own, and it’s starting to bring out a competitive edge in them. They’re that kind of group - vocal, ambitious, keen as mustard - happy to make the mistake and learn from it, yet wanting to succeed and get the grade. Learners, in the main, want to achieve - they want to improve, want to be better. They want better grades.
A healthy, competitive environment created by students and managed well by them, can lead to producing highly creative design work that inspires and motivates fellow learners to try to be better in themselves. In strikingly strong groups where the personalities gel but the level of ability varies, that sense of competition can help lift those learners who need to put extra effort in to get the desired result. Competition in the learning process is a healthy, motivating thing when it is student-led, well managed and its benefits are clearly understood by the cohort it occurs in.