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.
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