To appreciate how passionate some kids are about student academic competitions, you need only watch the National Spelling Bee on ESPN. Those boys and girls in that competition are engaged 100 percent in what they are doing. Other academic events, such as the Siemens-sponsored science competition,, showcase some of the most motivated students in the nation.
A colleague recently passed along an article that asks an important question: How might such competitions better inform educators and policymakers about how classroom learning should be designed and education policy crafted to maximize student motivation?
The article--which was written for the Education/Evolving Initiative, which seeks to connect the needs of today's students with education policy leaders--says that the universe of academic competitions "begs the attention of anyone interested in how to motivate students."
Yet the article points out that there are few studies, if any, that examine how the lessons learned from academic competitions might be used to better understand how students learn, what motivates them (intrinsically and extrinsically), and what real world experiences would benefit them the most.
Some education researcher (if one hasn't already) needs to tackle this topic and then spread the word about his or her findings. More than anything, the findings could provide major lessons for how schools can raise student motivation, and, in turn, achievement.