The effects of competition on achievement motivation in Chinese classrooms

Br J Educ Psychol. 2004 Jun;74(Pt 2):281-96. doi: 10.1348/000709904773839888.


Background: Laboratory studies have consistently found that competition induces performance goals and affects learning motivation. However, the ecological validity of these results is yet to be established. There is a need for investigation of whether the results hold in both the classroom context and non-Western culture.

Aim: The study investigated the effects of competition on learning motivation among Chinese students in an authentic classroom setting.

Sample: The participants were 52 students of grade 7 from two Hong Kong secondary schools.

Method: They were randomly assigned to either competitive or non-competitive conditions in a 2-hour Chinese typewriting course.

Results: Students in the competitive condition performed better in easy tasks than their counterparts in the non-competitive condition. However, they were more performance-oriented and more likely to sacrifice learning opportunities for better performance. They were also prone to have worse self-evaluation after failure. Although there were no statistically significant differences between the two conditions in task enjoyment and achievement attribution, the direction of the differences was consistently unfavourable to students in the competitive condition.

Conclusion: The findings were consistent with the predictions of goal theory. Competitiveness induces performance goals and worse self-evaluation after failure among Chinese students in a classroom setting, as was found with Western students in a laboratory setting.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • China
  • Competitive Behavior*
  • Culture*
  • Educational Measurement
  • Educational Status*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Teaching / methods*