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Previous research has suggested that competitive classroom environments can play a role in perpetuating race and class inequalities. However, classroom competition can also promote learning, and eliminating it could do students a disservice. This paper draws on research literature and data from a qualitative study by Konstantinos Alexakos, Jayson K. Jones, and Victor H. Rodriguez on fictive kinship in order to explore the conditions under which classroom competition could benefit students from non-dominant groups. Based on their data, I argue that competition can support the learning of students from non-dominant groups, provided that it takes place in the context of strong emotional ties and successful interaction rituals. I also discuss the role of competition in facilitating reciprocal mentoring, as students seek knowledge and skills from each other in order to participate in solidarity-building classroom interactions. In addition, I show how their study challenges a perceived dichotomy between competition and cultural orientations towards communalism.


This is the accepted version of Olitsky, S. (2011). The role of fictive kinship relationships in mediating classroom competition and supporting reciprocal mentoring. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 6(4), 883-894. The original publication is available at: 9363-1