A Feature in the The New York Times, By Po Bronson.
Thanks to Kris from Wandering Ink who sent me this link.
I will let the article speak for itself:
Why just a single line of praise? “We wanted to see how sensitive children were,” Dweck explained. “We had a hunch that one line might be enough to see an effect.”
Then the students were given a choice of test for the second round. One choice was a test that would be more difficult than the first, but the researchers told the kids that they’d learn a lot from attempting the puzzles. The other choice, Dweck’s team explained, was an easy test, just like the first. Of those praised for their effort, 90 percent chose the harder set of puzzles. Of those praised for their intelligence, a majority chose the easy test. The “smart” kids took the cop-out.
Later, when given a much more difficult test, these results were magnified. It really is worth reading the whole article, but here is a key point about the research above:
More food for thought from the article:
In the opinion of cognitive scientist Daniel T. Willingham, a teacher who praises a child may be unwittingly sending the message that the student reached the limit of his innate ability, while a teacher who criticizes a pupil conveys the message that he can improve his performance even further.
In a nutshell, praise effort rather than intelligence. The article goes on to mention the value this has on developing persistence when faced with failure, while praising intelligence increases the stress and reduces the desire to face such challenges.
I will be thinking about this a lot over the next few days both at school with my students and at home with my own kids.
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“A common praise technique that people use (I know I did it with my tutoring kids… up til a few weeks ago, that is….) is to use a present success to control future performance. For example, if a typically-sloppy child writes an essay that’s atypically legible, a parent or teacher may say, “That’s very neat: you should write all of your papers like this.” Even if it’s meant as sincere praise and encouragement, the research shows that’s not only an ineffective way to praise. In fact, like praising for intelligence – it can actually damage a child’s performance.
Here’s what is going on…”
Originally posted: February 13th, 2007
Reflection upon re-reading and re-posting:
Last year I cleaned up this post (just used the text, and no reference/sidebar of my blog), and sent this to staff via e-mail. I’ve never been thanked so much for passing on information!
On a more personal note, my wife and I struggle with this, especially when our kids come home feeling proud about what they did/created. A year later I can tell you that this approach takes practice. Part of the difficulty is that praise of intelligence and ability so pervasive in our society… it is almost expected.
“Daddy look what I made!”
‘Wow, look at the detail on that, you really put a great effort into it, didn’t you?’
“Yes. Do you like it?”