Modelling a Co-operative Ethos
The School aims to model a co-operative ethos, where every child is valued and we don’t just laud a few high achievers. At SOTE every person is considered important just because he or she is a human being.
Our experience over many years has shown that students can achieve excellence without the motivation of competition. Instead the School emphasises cooperation and intrinsic motivation.
Co-operation is modelled by the teachers working together for the good of the children. The teachers meet regularly to discuss the children’s progress and will often discuss an individual child and work out how they can support his or her growth and blossoming.
Students experience co-operation through being given tasks to work on together, whether it be helping around the school, activities at the Outdoor Education Centre, cross-grade projects or school camps. Older students also model a co-operative ethos through their approach to school plays, science expos or the weekly “Big Game” activity.
Intrinsic motivation is motivation that comes from within a person. It is quite different from external motivation, which is imposed from the outside, often by someone else.
Intrinsic motivations — such as interest, enjoyment, curiosity, challenge and a desire for excellence — are within the individual’s control. Intrinsic motivation is more robust and far more sustainable in adult life.
External motivation is beyond the individual’s locus of control. Once it is removed, the reason for trying is no longer there. External motivation is fragile and cannot sustain the individual in the long term.
At SOTE we encourage intrinsic motivation rather than external motivation from prizes, awards and other artefacts of the competitive approach.
A Broader Approach to Health and Physical Education
Although sport is often seen as synonymous with competition, at SOTE we don’t place a lot of emphasis on winning and losing. These are simply the outcome of a game.
More important is: How well did I play the game? Did I improve? Did I play as a good team member?
Consistent with this emphasis, the school does not participate in competitive inter-school sport. Instead we look for opportunities for interaction with other schools on a non-competitive basis.
Health and Physical Education is seen as much broader than simply sport. Diet, routines, confidence and enjoyment of physical activity are seen as important as physical prowess in a particular game. A program of daily physical education classes and an extended weekly session ensures all children develop confidence and enjoyment of physical activity.
Nevertheless, children are free to participate in community sporting activity outside school hours and students can nominate for district representation from Year 10 if they have a particular passion for sport.
Academic Excellence Without Competition
At SOTE, students are encouraged to see their academic achievement relative to their own progress rather than in comparison with others.
School reports give parents feedback on a child’s effort in their academic work, and their achievement relative to expectations for their grade level.
At primary level, SOTE parents have agreed not to participate in national “A–E” or relative achievement reporting as this system encourages simplistic comparisons at a stage when developmental differences are greatest. This applies especially to areas such as Physical Education and the Arts.
This non-competitive approach frees children to pursue excellence in their academic learning without external expectations.
In Queensland terms, 100% of SOTE Year 12 students consistently achieve an Overall Position (OP) of 1–15. According to research by Queensland University of Technology, the School is one of only one or two schools statewide where this occurs. We attribute this achievement to dedicated teachers, small classes and an ethos of excellence.
I have observed in the school on many occasions how the finished product or the final performance is not given priority over the individual child. Each child, regardless of ability, is included and given the opportunity to participate. They are encouraged to find the enjoyment in the activity. This then shows in the end result perhaps more than when emphasis is on outcome.