To Praise or Not to Praise?

By: Allysa Ikeda

When I first began my student teaching, I recall thinking to myself, “Is this a time when I should praise a student or would that be too excessive?” As I progressed through my master’s program, credentialing program, and then into my own classroom, I realized that I had been asking the wrong question. The question was not when should I be praising students, but how should I praise students. This realization came when I started to study the idea of “growth mindset.” The more I learned about growth mindset, the more I appreciated it and tried to implement it in my own classroom.

What is Growth Mindset?

Growth mindset is a term coined by Carol Dweck Ph.D who is a leading researcher in the field of motivation at Stanford University. Growth mindset is when students believe their intelligence can be developed over time and that they can increase their intellectual abilities. This is in contrast to a fixed mindset in which students believe that their intelligence is simply an inborn trait of which they have a certain amount.

How does praise influence growth mindset?

Dweck and her colleagues have produced numerous studies looking at the effects of growth mindset on students. In one study, Dweck had a group of over 400 5th grade students work on a set of easy IQ problems. The teacher praised some of the students for their intelligence by telling them, “You must be smart for completing these problems.” The teacher praised other students for their effort by telling them, “You must have worked hard at these problems.” Now although these two praises are subtly different, the impact they had was huge.

The researchers then gave the same students an option for the next test. One version of the test was a harder version in which the researchers said the students would have the opportunity to learn and grow. The second option was an easy test similar to the first and the researchers told the students that they would surely do well on it. Just 33% of the students who had been praised for their intelligence chose the harder test. Contrastingly, 92% of the students who had been praised for their effort, chose the harder test.

In the next part of the experiment, they gave all the students an impossibly difficult test to see how the students would respond to adversity. The students who had been praised for effort worked harder, worked longer, and enjoyed it more than the students who had been praised for their intelligence. The group praised for their intelligence tended to be more frustrated and gave up earlier. In the final part of the experiment, students were given a final test that was equivalent in difficulty to the first test. The students who had been praised for their intelligence had a 20% drop in their average score. In contrast, the students who had been praised for effort had a 30% increase in their average score.

So what?

The research shows just how significant praise is and what an impact it can have on the growth of our students. Dweck’s research shows that we should praise students for their effort and the strategies they implement. Our praise should keep students focused on the process of learning. When we do this, we are creating a growth mindset in which students are encouraged to challenge themselves and create an environment where it is safe to make mistakes.

Here are some examples of praise that fosters growth mindset that you can implement in your own class or home:

  • “You really studied for your reading test and your improvement shows it. The way you read the material over several times and took notes really worked!”
  • “I like the way you tried different ways to solve the math problem and didn’t give up on it. I’m proud that you stuck with it to find the answer!”
  • “I like the way you took on the challenging project for science. It is going to take a lot of work to plan and research, but you are going to learn so much while you work on it.”

References and Additional Resources

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/09/23/carol-dweck-revisits-the-growth-mindset.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWv1VdDeoRY

https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=QDwqACGdf0IC&oi=fnd&pg=PA57&dq=growth+mindset&ots=9rkj5mnhRg&sig=xM40iy1aMI_zNHfJUS040hBuLIc#v=onepage&q=growth%20mindset&f=false

http://pal.rcdsb.on.ca/en/ourschool/resources/Newsletters/Article_Dweck_Boosting_Achievement_With_Messages_That_Motivate.pdf

http://www.mrscullen.com/images/wd_hw_evengenuisesworkshard.pdf

https://www.mindsetworks.com/webnav/whatismindset.aspx

Making Homework Work for Your Child

By: Sally Robinette

Homework . . . Did I get your attention? It often times is the one word that’s dreaded by students and parents alike. It doesn’t have to be this way. Homework is a necessary task done by the student to show that he/she has independently mastered a skill and comprehended what was taught in class. But it can also be an amazing opportunity for your child to show you just how much they have learned. There has been a lot of press recently about homework and it is important to use homework as a means to supplement learning, not to add stress to your child or family. We have included some tips to help foster a healthy work habit.

1. Always provide your child with a clean, well-lit, and quiet place to work. This should be where distractions are kept to a minimum. The place could be in the kitchen where a parent is preparing dinner, so that if there are questions, they can be addressed.

2. Have an agreed upon schedule to follow so that your child always knows when it is study/ homework time. Allow your child to help in deciding the schedule, thus giving him/her some control. Once your child is invested in the decision making process of the schedule, it becomes easier to abide by the agreed upon “homework time”. With consistency, children develop a sense of security when they know what to expect. It is paramount for your sanity, and for the development of self-confidence in your child that he/she develops his/her own homework habit, as this skill transfers into good time management and self-discipline skills later. You want your child to be self motivated and not dependent on you to push to get the work done. If you feel that your child is taking too much time on homework, re-examine the homework environment, and if it continues, it may be time to check in with your child’s teacher for suggestions.

3. Remember, it is your child’s homework. Homework is familiar work that a student has already been introduced to at school. If the parent “helps” by giving the answers, the teacher will assume that the student has mastered the skill and can successfully move to the next concept. This is how the student can quickly get left behind, and that can create a fearful environment with that subject for the student. Making sure that the work is neat and complete, especially in the lower grades, is an important task of a parent. This shows to your child that you think that homework is important.

As you can imagine, in kindergarten, I hear countless questions. At this age, children are used to asking others for answers instead of figuring out what to do on their own. In my kindergarten class, when a student asks a question, quite often I turn it around and I ask the student, “How can you solve your problem?” I give the students the tools to think through their dilemma in order to make wise choices. I want to instill autonomy, competency, and critical thinking in my class. Sometimes parents need to let go of a little control so that their children can learn independently and succeed in efficiently completing their own homework.

Most importantly, by being overly involved in your child’s homework you are telling them they are not capable. They are learning and need an opportunity to shine. As teachers we give assignments to challenge and grow our students, trust us to know what they can handle. Sit back and be amazed by how extraordinary your child is!

4. Give them ownership. Make it clear to your child that the more effectively the study time is used, the more free/play time your child will have afterwards. Put the time management into his/her lap. Remember, it is his/her job to get the homework done . . . not yours. Don’t accept whining; pretend that it is a language that you don’t understand. Remind your child that the more he/she complains, the longer it is taking to finish his/her work and therefore the free time is lessened. Remember, it is your child’s homework and it is his/her free time. Put that control and consequence of your child’s actions squarely in your child’s lap. This will give your child a sense of confidence and control in his/her life. Your daily life will be easier, and the time management skills, prioritizing tasks, and independence your child develops will be life skills that he/she will take throughout the school years and beyond.

Here at Kids Connection, we strive to create leaders and strong, independent learners. When our students graduate from Kids Connection, with the parents help, they should be well on their way to being inner motivated and self disciplined. Remember, homework doesn’t have to be the dreaded word. This homework habit may take a bit of time, so please be patient. With consistency and guidance, you can help your child become more proficient in time management skills, and help him/her be a competent and independent learner.