Carol Dweck's article, "The Perils and Promise of Praise"
in Educational Leadership is about the "right ways" and the "wrong ways" to praise students. Dweck discusses what she considers the potentially vast difference between praising a student for "being smart" ("you're good at that," "you are so talented") vs. praising a student for effort put in ("you took immense care with that project", "you kept going when things were really hard", "you are such an active learner"). Dweck's recent book Mindset
provides a more in-depth look at what's summarized in the article.
From "The Perils and Promise of Praise":
"Praise is intricately connected to how students view their intelligence. Some students believe that their intellectual ability is a fixed trait. They have a certain amount of intelligence, and that's that. Students with this fixed mind-set become excessively concerned with how smart they are, seeking tasks that will prove their intelligence and avoiding ones that might not (Dweck, 1999, 2006). The desire to learn takes a backseat."
"The fixed and growth mind-sets create two different psychological worlds. In the fixed mind-set, students care first and foremost about how they'll be judged: smart or not smart. Repeatedly, students with this mind-set reject opportunities to learn if they might make mistakes (Hong, Chiu, Dweck, Lin, & Wan, 1999; Mueller & Dweck, 1998). When they do make mistakes or reveal deficiencies, rather than correct them, they try to hide them (Nussbaum & Dweck, 2007)."
"They are also afraid of effort because effort makes them feel dumb. They believe that if you have the ability, you shouldn't need effort (Blackwell, Trzesniewski, & Dweck, 2007), that ability should bring success all by itself. This is one of the worst beliefs that students can hold. It can cause many bright students to stop working in school when the curriculum becomes challenging."
Dweck provides a lot of research to back up her claims. At the end of the article she discusses an intervention performed at first one and then 20 New York City schools.
"If students learned a growth mind-set, we reasoned, they might be able to meet this challenge with increased, rather than decreased, effort. We therefore developed an eight-session workshop in which both the control group and the growth-mind-set group learned study skills, time management techniques, and memory strategies (Blackwell et al., 2007). However, in the growth-mind-set intervention, students also learned about their brains and what they could do to make their intelligence grow."
"They learned that the brain is like a muscle—the more they exercise it, the stronger it becomes. They learned that every time they try hard and learn something new, their brain forms new connections that, over time, make them smarter. They learned that intellectual development is not the natural unfolding of intelligence, but rather the formation of new connections brought about through effort and learning."
"Students were riveted by this information. The idea that their intellectual growth was largely in their hands fascinated them. In fact, even the most disruptive students suddenly sat still and took notice, with the most unruly boy of the lot looking up at us and saying, 'You mean I don't have to be dumb?'"
"Indeed, the growth-mind-set message appeared to unleash students' motivation. Although both groups had experienced a steep decline in their math grades during their first months of junior high, those receiving the growth-mind-set intervention showed a significant rebound. Their math grades improved. Those in the control group, despite their excellent study skills intervention, continued their decline."
All of the above are quotes from Dweck's article. Reactions? Do you think the ways we praise students (and teachers, others, even ourselves) makes all that much difference? Do you buy this difference between "fixed mindset" and "active mindset"? (Another possible question for reaction: how much is the "active mindset" required for web 2.0 work, and if it is, how do we get into--and encourage-- that mindset?)