In this edition we reconnect with Dr. Carol Dweck as she continues her research on the effects of praise on children.
For many years, educators, coaches and parents alike have been relying on praise to encourage and motivate children to work harder, to build confidence and approach challenges with vigor. As an educator and coach, I myself have fell into this trap of constant praise and often wondered whether it had a positive, neutral or negative impact on performance. Was there a way I could improve my praise? Was there a way I could make my praise more specific? The answer is yes, one can always improve, but there are small changes that could be made to deliver more effective praise.
Psychologist Carol Dweck has been studying the power of mindset for decades. She has specifically looked at the effects of praise on mindset, particularly whether praise encourages a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. A growth mindset refers to the belief that abilities such as athleticism or intelligence are plastic and can always be improved. Conversely, a fixed mindset refers to the belief that those same abilities are innate, and cannot or will not change.
In the video below, Dweck and her team test the effect of praise on mindset. They ask 5th graders to do a series of puzzles beginning with a set of easier puzzles then issuing a more difficult, nearly impossible set of puzzles. When the first puzzle is complete half of the group is praised for their intelligence, “Wow, you must be really smart”, while the other half is praised for effort, “Wow, you must have worked hard on this”. Check out what happens when the “smart” kids and “hard-working” kids approach the second, more difficult puzzle!
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