Growth Mindsets Using Praise

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It is fascinating that often those who start with talent (but have a fixed mindset) will plateau whilst others go past them. My daughter who had great early success as an artist has struggled with this and has largely refused to take on new techniques or materials as she is less successful with these and therefore feels like a failure.

I find it terrifying the influence of my praise on this situation and wonder to what extent I have caused this problem.

Very gifted people, they win and they win, and they are told that they win because they are a winner. That seems like a positive thing to tell children, but ultimately, what that means is when they lose, it must make them a loser.
Joshua Waitzkin

Some thoughts instead:

Do’s:

  • Notice students’ good efforts and strategies and praise them.
  • Be specific about the praised behaviors and reinforce this behavior with your feedback.
  • Use praise to link the outcomes of an assignment to students’ efforts.
  • Talk explicitly and in detail about the strategies a student has used. Comment on which strategies were helpful, and which were not.
  • Ask a student to explain his or her work to you.
Don’ts:
  • Don’t offer praise for trivial accomplishments or weak efforts.
  • Don’t let a student feel ashamed of learning difficulties. Instead, treat each challenge as an opportunity for learning.
  • Don’t ever say, “You are so smart.” in response to good work. Instead, praise the work a student has done, (e.g., “Your argument is very clear;” or “Your homework is very accurate.”)